Savage Love Letters of the Day: Dammed If You Don't


One thing I'd add is that if you're concerned about STIs but don't want to use barriers, get to know your partners and have them get tested regularly too. It'll take away the option of an entirely spontaneous fling, but you'll be able to avoid the taste of latex while still keeping a relatively low risk of *ahem* applause.

I generally agree with your response to PITCH and BI, but here's the rub (tee hee): there isn't a test currently for men for HPV (except a visual one for warts) and many physicians don't order an HSV test unless the patient (woman or man) asks for it or there is reason to. The HPV-DNA test for women is location-specific, since it relies on a cervical smear, and there is no corollary oral test. Even then, it only tests for about 20 of the known cancer-causing HPV strains and identifies specifically only 2 of the ones that cause ~70% of cervical cancers. The HSV blood-test won't divulge the location of the infection, unless of course sores are actively present. So, folks often don't fully know their overall STI status... especially since it can take several weeks for either class of viruses to become detectable through whatever limited testing is available.

No, I'm not a physician, but learned all this the hard way. I welcome corrections, if you can offer them.

Thanks for all the good work you do.
Re testing, don't forget there's a window before the STDs show up. Test OFTEN, AND don't forget now we also have Zika, and several strains of antibiotics-resistant bacteria &viruses that are transmitted via bodily fluids. Take the antivirals that are available and get the vaccinated too. Hepatitis also suck!
Part of understanding the risk is understanding the mechanics of it.

Vaginal tissue and the colon are fairly elastic, porous, and absorbent. And during vaginal or anal sex, there can be a lot of friction which can cause tiny micro-tears. This makes it pretty easy to pass an infection to the person on the receiving end.

The inside of your mouth, throat, and stomach are made of much heartier tissue. And your saliva and gastric fluids are quite acidic. And most oral sex doesn't involve enough friction to cause micro-tears. While it is still possible to transmit an infection through oral, it's far less likely.

I'm roughly the same age as Dan, and lived through the bad old days of HIV. I religiously used condoms for anal sex, 100% of the time. Oral? Never. I just could not get into sucking a plastic-wrapped cock. Back then there were occasional reports of HIV transmission through oral sex, but a vast majority of people infected got it through anal sex (without a condom).

Unprotected oral is never zero-risk, but it's pretty low risk. YMMV.
"The OTHER way?" Time to break out the lorgnette.
@4: Saliva isn't acidic (it's very mildly alkaline) but gastric juice certainly is and will kill practically any pathogen not specifically adapted to live in the stomach. Also, the anus is significantly more susceptible to micro-tears than is the vagina because it's not self-lubricating. (Post-op trans women should bear in mind that the neovagina produced by SRS isn't self-lubricating either...but you already knew that.)
Now, HIV transmission through oral sex is relatively rare...but there are plenty of other STIs that don't need to get into the bloodstream to ruin your day. Gonorrhea in particular can hang around the mucous membranes of the mouth and throat with mild symptoms (and still be contagious), and of course most kinds of herpesvirus found in humans can readily set up shop in your mouth.
OK, @5, first, I had to look up lorgnette. I love how educated most SLOGgers are. Cool word! Then, I had to go back to the original letter to see "swing the other way" in context. But I still don't get it -- what's the connection between him swinging the other way and "swinging" the handle of some old style opera glasses over your nose and squinting?

@2 right on @4 both +1. Low risk, but nonzero, and hard to test for. Also HSV blood titers are low accuracy (not like HIV tests which are really, really accurate these days).
@ myself -- I believe the antigen testing (blood titer) sensitivity for HSV (herpes, 1 and 2) is only 90%. So 10% of the time, you've been infected and it misses it. Specificity is much better (if it says you have antibodies -- you've been infected, you have.)…

Sensitivity for the test that measures tissue from a potential sore is even worse though. HIV tests have gotten really, really high, like 99.9% or better sensitivity AND specificity. That is really difficult from a medical standpoint, a real breakthrough in testing.
And in other columns Dan has said he knows 2 friends who ONLY sucked cock unprotected, NEVER anal unprotected NEVER broken condoms and they did get HIV from oral. It's considered less than one in a million odds I think, but then again winning the lottery is 1 in 153 million, and every year someone buys just one ticket once and wins.

Here's hoping every faithful SLOGger wins the lottery lotto, and doesn't lose the cock sucking lotto.

While BI may not be the first one on SL to point to a real or imagined connection between patriarchy and shit, she should get an honorary mention for doing so repeatedly in regards to a 100% penis-free environment.
@5 / @7: I think Venn was querying the use of the word "other" to describe same-sex rather than opposite-sex, which is the wrong way round, from his perspective as well as from the perspective of Homocentric August, now in its dog days.
CMD @10: Right? I too wondered what patriarchy had to do with the issue at hand.
@7: my take was that "swing the other way" is a very old-fashioned way of describing same-sex relationships, like a lorgnette is an old-fashioned type of glasses.
@14 thank you! My abstract analogy skills are clearly a bit rusty.

Guys, she said she was vaccinated against HPV. Yeah, okay, not every single fucking strain is covered by the vaccine but just about all the oncogenic ones are (and also the wart-causing ones). Therefore whether she's the giver or the receiver of oral she's protected against both cervical and laryngeal cancer (throat cancer is caused by the same HPV strains as cervical cancer).

So let's not get carried away here. Oral sex between women is pretty freakin' safe. Your biggest risk is probably herpes from which you're not entirely protected by dental dams anyway. Also IMHO the bi dude should get his HPV vaccine if he hasn't yet.
LWs should also be aware that, at least for intercourse, condoms are better at protecting against some STIs than others. For example, condoms only partially protect against transmission of HSV and HPV. Furthermore, roughly half of all new genital herpes cases are caused by HSV1, transmitted primarily through oral sex. And most people who have HSV and HPV don't know it, or they falsely believe they've tested negative because they are unaware standard STI tests do not include HSV and HPV. And btw, most sexually active adults have at least one type of HSV and at least one type of HPV. In any case, people who really want to minimize STI transmission risk as much as possible should opt to use condoms, but eliminating risk entirely is not a realistic goal outside of celibacy.
@ 9 - "Dan has said he knows 2 friends who ONLY sucked cock unprotected, NEVER anal unprotected NEVER broken condoms and they did get HIV from oral."

And people have been known to lie about how they got HIV, even to their best friends. I would take that huge statistic improbability with a grain of salt.
Oh Dan, you jokester…

"Not even a monogamous relationship can eliminates the risk of contracting an STI:" ?

A relationship in which one or both partners is cheating is not monogamous.

Silly boy.

Perhaps we can invent a new word for such a relationship.

Monogamish, maybe?
@18 I think the point is that unless you're dating your conjoined twin, there is no way of knowing whether you're in a "monogamous" relationship or not. And judging from the study, odds are decent you're not.
Dan and some commenters seem to be behind the current data regarding oral cancer and STDs.

In the old days oral cancer was overwhelmingly a disease of older males, caused by tobacco (and alcohol) use.

But the demographic face of the disease is changing rapidly, becoming younger and more female.

Por Quoi?

According to the CDC recent studies show that about THREE FOURTHS of cancers of the oropharynx may be linked to HPV.

Mon Dieu!

Now you know.
@18: Oh look, Alleged finally signed up for an account. Ah, nobody shitposts quite the way you do...
@ 18 I thought the exact same thing.

Well, read them fast.

Our accounts usually get deleted about six hours after we register.

Speaking Truth to Power really isn't appreciated (or, tolerated) in some circles...
There's more to risk than just the odds that you get something. There's also the amount of harm.

In the grand scheme of STDs, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis are take some antibiotics and you're done. For most people, having herpes is so little of a problem they don't even know they have it. If you and herpes don't get along, that first outbreak can really suck, then you do antiviral therapy and subsequent outbreaks suck less and happen less and less often, so your big cost there is having to tell people you have herpes. HPV can cause harmless although unsightly warts that generally eventually go away on their own (or you can accelerate the process with treatment sometimes), and sometimes way down the road they can cause cancers... But that's fairly well eliminated if you have the vaccine, and we do all sorts of things to detect those cancers early now.

Which leaves us with HIV. That one you're currently stuck with for life, and treating it is expensive, and there can be side effects, so you really don't want it.

But if you maintain good dental health, you're more likely to die driving to suck a cock than you are sucking the cock (or vagina).

STDs are manageable diseases. The worst part about most is the stigma of getting them.
So, in summary, bury your face in the crotch, latex involved or not, and don't worry about it. Make sure you buckle your seat belt on the way home though.
@ 24 - There are now antibiotic-resistant strains of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamidia.

This was published today by the WHO.…
sorry, chlamydia.
@24 and @25, good summary. It's been my opinion for a while (based somewhat on experience AND somewhat on bookish research) that kissing is more risky than sucking cock.
Ms Fan - Correct; I'd give "other way" a very long stare even if it weren't August. The one possible caveat is that a reference to LW's having been exclusively with women for many years may have been edited out. As the letter is phrased, LW manifests a heterosupremacist world view.
@24 25

This is how we make a Gay Plague

Please don't act so surprised and butthurt next time around...
Commentator @18: A monogamous relationship is defined as one where the partners are not allowed to have sex with other people.
Just because they aren't allowed doesn't mean a lot of people don't do it anyway.
Only in a monogamous relationship can people cheat. If it's allowed, it's not cheating.
Silly troll.

When we google monogamous relationship the first thing that pops up is:

"Sexual monogamy refers to two partners remaining sexually exclusive with each other and having no outside sex partners."

The second thing that popped up was:

monogamy (redirected from Monogamous relationship)
mo·nog·a·my (mə-nŏg′ə-mē)
1. The practice or condition of having a single sexual partner during a period of time.

Then came the wiki definition:

Monogamy - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Sexual monogamy refers to two partners remaining sexually exclusive with each other and having no outside sex partners

So, sorry; but we're going to have to call Bullshit on your Bullshit
Well, here's my anecdote.

I'm female. My husband and I are in an open relationship. My husband and I were virgins together, so we know neither of us has STI before this. He uses condoms for sex, I get my partners to use condoms.

I do prefer men to wear a condom for oral if they are going to come -- if it's just foreplay, I'll allow the risk w/ precum.

But, what I didn't really think about was receiving oral. I don't usually like receiving it myself anyway, and tend to pass. But my recent partner really likes going down, so I let him. No dental dam or anything, because why? (I also trusted him at this point to disclose if he had any STDs worth mentioning).

And... a week later I have an outbreak, go to the doctor for swabbing, and it comes back positive for HSV1 aka oral herpes aka cold sores (but on my vagina, of course).

After doing further research after my diagnosis, I come to find that an estimated 80% of the population has HSV1, or has been exposed to it, usually as children. And they may never have symptoms. I liken it to chicken pox -- you got it when you were a kid, and then it doesn't matter anymore.

But I'm one of the "lucky" few who probably never got exposed (I've never had a cold sore, though apparently that's not proof, and even exposure may not 100% inoculate you). Which made me susceptible to catching it. On top of all things, the research says it's rare enough to get HSV1 genitally because it's not it's "favorite" place (prefers the mouth, obviously), but it does happen. I've also read that the occurrence of genital HSV1 is on the rise, assumed to be because of the increase in popularity of oral and lack of use of protection when doing it.

And, in general, being a woman makes you much more likely to catch anything, because of how the vagina is practically a sponge.

Yes, I'm only one woman and one is not a statistic. But, if you're wondering what the risks are well, I'm evidence that it does happen. I don't consider my HSV1 to be the end of all things -- it's fairly manageable, and if anything can be an upside it's that HSV1 has a very low recurrence rate, so chances are I will never have to worry about another outbreak. It also appears to have a very low shedding rate genital to genital (about 3-5%, though no official studies) without protection, assuming you're not having sex during an outbreak.

BUT, it does mean my husband and I now have to assess our risk, etc, which is no fun with someone you've enjoyed unprotected sex with for a decade. I will also note, I don't blame my partner at all because A) I doubt he even knows he has HSV1 (have yet to have the talk with him, the diagnosis was recent) and B) it's my body and my responsibility to protect it, which I did not do.

So my answer to you, LW: The chance certainly exists, but if you hate condoms/dams that much, you're just going to have to decide if it's worth it.