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Risky Sex

Evaluating the Risk of Sexual Behaviors


Most of us want clear answers to questions like, how risky is oral sex, how risky is sex without a condom, etc... The truth is that we don't have clear or easy answers to questions like this because there are so many other variables to consider (when you had oral sex were you the receiver or giver? what kind of sex did you have without a condom? do you or the person you had sex with currently have an STD? the list goes on...)

But sexual health educators and public health workers are nothing if not obliging, and so many organizations divide sexual behaviors into levels of risk to offer at least some guidelines for the curious and concerned.

The thing to remember before looking at these categories is that they can change over time, and can even be different from one country to another. There are very few absolutes when it comes to sex. This is why learning about how to define sexual risk and how to assess sexual riskin a given situation is just as important as knowing which behavior is defined as safe, risky, or somewhere in between.

Here is a list of some common sexual behaviors, and their general risk levels.

Considered to be Safe

  • sexual fantasy (including phone sex and cyber sex)
  • masturbation (including mutual masturbation without any penetration)
  • sexual touching without penetration (e.g. massage, rubbing bodies while clothed)
  • kissing
  • using sex toys (with condoms if sharing)

Considered to be Possibly Safe

  • oral sex with barrier protection (condoms for a man, dental dams for a woman)
  • vaginal intercourse with a condom
  • anal intercourse with a condom
  • oral/anal contact with barrier protection
  • hand/genital contact (e.g. fingering, fisting) with barrier protection like gloves

Considered to be Possibly Unsafe

  • oral sex without protection
  • hand/genital contact (e.g. fingering, fisting) without barrier like gloves
  • sharing sex toys without properly cleaning them or using condoms

Considered to be Unsafe

  • vaginal intercourse without a condom
  • anal intercourse without a condom
  • cunnilingus without barrier protection during menstruation
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