Can You Get an STD From Masturbating?

According to Planned Parenthood, masturbation is the safest form of sexual activity. If you don't have a sexually transmitted disease (STD), also referred to as a sexually transmitted infection (STI), you can't get one from masturbating yourself.

However, if you masturbate someone or someone masturbates you, certain STIs can be passed, particularly through skin-to-skin contact. You can also pass certain STIs from one part of your body to another, such as from your genitals to your mouth or eyes.

There are even certain non-sexually transmitted infections that can theoretically be passed during masturbation.

Verywell / Nusha Ashjaee

The article explores the risks of getting or passing sexually transmitted diseases (and certain non-sexually transmitted ones) during masturbation. It also looks that ways to reduce the risk both to yourself and your sexual partners.

STIs Caused by Skin-to-Skin Contact

The STIs with the greatest potential for transmission during masturbation are those that are passed through skin-to-skin contact. STIs spread by skin-to-skin contact include oral and genital herpes, human papillomavirus (HPV), and syphilis.

The STDs with the greatest potential for transmission during masturbation are those that are passed through skin-to-skin contact. By touching a sore or lesion caused by these STIs, you can transmit the infection to someone else. You can even spread an STI from one part of your body to another, a process called autoinoculation.

Examples of Autoinoculation

Autoinoculation of syphilis or herpes in the eyes can lead to ocular syphilis or ocular herpes, respectively.

Autoinoculation of oral herpes (cold sores) to the genitals, such as touching a cold sore on your lip and then your penis, is another example of autoinoculation.

Bacterial STIs

Except for syphilis, bacterial STIs are far less likely to be passed through masturbation than viral ones like HPV and herpes.

Transmission of these STIs requires infected bodily fluids to reach mucus-secreting tissues deep within the vagina, anus, mouth, throat, or urethra (a tube through which urine exits the body). Moreover, there must be ample exposure to the bacteria, such as through ejaculation of semen or exposure to vaginal or anal secretions.

Bacterial STIs that are not transmitted by skin-to-skin contact include:

Despite the low risk of transmission through masturbation, there is a risk of eye infections from hand-to-eye contact. These include chlamydial conjunctivitis caused by chlamydia and gonococcal conjunctivitis caused by gonorrhea.

HIV and Hepatitis

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis B are viral diseases that can be passed through sexual contact. With that said, the risk of passing HIV or hepatitis B through masturbation is unlikely.

HIV is primarily transmitted through anal or vaginal sex, shared injecting needles, and occupational blood exposure. It can also be passed from a mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding. The risk of HIV from masturbation and even shared sex toys is considered to be "negligible."

Hepatitis B, a virus found in blood, semen, and other bodily fluids, is transmitted in much the same way as HIV.

Hepatitis A, on the other hand, can also be passed during masturbation if you touch your partner's anus and put your fingers into your mouth. It can also be passed during masturbation if you touch your partner's anus and put your fingers into your mouth. Hepatitis A virus is found in feces (stool) and is readily passed through oral sex involving mouth-to-anus contact.

Bacterial Vaginosis and Yeast Infections

Several non-sexually transmitted genital infections can be passed through masturbation, but the risk is considered low. These include bacterial vaginosis (BV) and yeast infections.

There is some weak evidence that vaginal yeast infections (vaginal candidiasis) can be passed by masturbating a partner's vagina with saliva. But, it remains unclear if the fungus was actually "passed" from the partner or if there were other factors that contributed to the imbalance of microorganisms in the vagina (referred to as the vaginal flora).

Masturbation is less likely to cause BV given that the condition arises from a decline in protective lactobacillus bacteria. Douching presents a clear risk as it can strip away lactobacilli, but masturbation, even with saliva, is less likely to cause the imbalance that gives rise to BV. Still, some experts consider mutual masturbation to be a risk factor in younger females.

Making Masturbation Safer

People don't always know when they have an STI. Therefore, you need to take precautions if engaging in mutual masturbation, especially if you have multiple sex partners.

There are several ways to reduce the risk of STIs during masturbation, particularly those transmitted by skin-to-skin contact:

  • Wash your hands: Wash your hands thoroughly before and after touching your partner's genitals (and vice versa).
  • Keep your hands to yourself: If you masturbate yourself, avoid touching your partner afterward. If you masturbate your partner, avoid touching yourself afterward.
  • Using gloves: Latex or polyurethane gloves provided an added layer of protection. Put on a new pair when switching from yourself to your partner (and vice versa).
Do's
  • Wash your hands before and after masturbation.

  • Keep your nails trimmed to avoid cuts or abrasions that can promote infection.

  • Use gloves for extra protection, stripping them off and using a new pair when switching from one partner to the next.

  • Share your sexual history with sexual partners, including STIs screenings and vaccinations.

Don'ts
  • Do not touch yourself after masturbating your partner.

  • Do not touch your or your partner's eyes while masturbating.

  • Do not put your fingers in your mouth while masturbating yourself or your partner.

  • Do not douche before engaging in mutual masturbation.

If you think you might have an STI, see your healthcare provider or visit a clinic for screening.

Summary

Masturbation generally poses a lower risk of sexually transmitted diseases compared to anal or vaginal sex, but there are still risks. This is especially true with herpes, HPV, and syphilis, which can be passed through skin-to-skin contact.

Gonorrhea and chlamydia pose lesser risks but can cause eye infection if you touch genital secretions and then the eyes.

While HIV and hepatitis B are unlikely to be passed during masturbation, hepatitis A can be passed through hand-to-mouth contact if stool from one partner is accidentally transferred to the mouth of the other partner.

You can reduce the risk of infection (and autoinoculation) by washing your hands before and after masturbation, avoiding touching your or your partner's eyes, using gloves, and keeping your hands to yourself when masturbating yourself or your partner.

A Word From Verywell

Masturbation does carry certain risks but is generally safe if you take certain precautions.

One precaution you should not avoid is sharing your sexual history with your sex partners (and vice versa). This includes any recent HIV and STI screenings you've had or vaccinations you've received for things like HPV or hepatitis A and B.

Open and honest communication is arguably as important a tool for STI prevention as condoms.

Was this page helpful?
9 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines, 2021MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7004a1

  2. American Academy of Ophthalmology. How sexual activity can affect your vision.

  3. Workowski KA, Bachmann LH, Chan PA, et al. Sexually transmitted infections treatment guidelines, 2021MMWR Recomm Rep. 2021;70(4):1-187. doi:10.15585/mmwr.rr7004a1

  4. Linton E, Hardman L, Welburn L, Rahman I, Chidambaram JD. Adult conjunctivitis secondary to dual infection with Chlamydia trachomatis and Neisseria gonorrhoeae - a case report. Am J Ophthalmol Case Rep. 2019;13:6–8. doi:10.1016/j.ajoc.2018.11.009

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV risk behaviors.

  6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Hepatitis B.

  7. New York State Department of Health. The A, B, Cs of viral hepatitis.

  8. Verstraelen H, Verhelst R, Vaneechoutte M, Temmerman M. The epidemiology of bacterial vaginosis in relation to sexual behaviour. BMC Infect Dis. 2010;10:81. doi:10.1186/1471-2334-10-81

  9. Mitchell CM, Fredricks DN, Winer RL, Koutsky L. Effect of sexual debut on vaginal microbiota in a cohort of young women. Obstet Gynecol. 2012;120(6):1306-1313. doi:10.1097/aog.0b013e31827075ac