There’s a short answer to the question of whether it’s always “safe” to have sex with a virgin: no.
The longer answer explains that the definition surrounding “virgin” can mean a lot of things to different people. These answers also make it clear that sexual activity is also expressed in multiple ways. That’s why you may still be at risk for a sexually transmitted infection (STI).
This article details how STI can happen even if you and/or your partner think virginity protects you. It will help you limit risk with information you can trust.
Different Definitions of Virginity
Usually, the term “virgin” describes anyone who has not had sexual intercourse. If their sexuality didn’t involve so-called penetration, people would think they were virgins.
This definition only considers sex where the penis is placed inside the vagina or anus. However, oral sex or skin-to-skin genital contact may have become part of their sexual experience.
Others may think virginity means never having any sexual contact. This might even be true for you, but it’s not at all how everyone thinks about virginity.
The definition of a virgin can vary by social or cultural group. This is especially true if the assumption is a heterosexual norm, where heterosexuality is considered normal, and a failure to account for same-sex or other encounters in all experiences.
What is heteronormativeness?
In fact, sexual activity varies in interaction and possible STI exposure. Body parts and objects during any sexual contact may include:
- sex toys
Sexual activity may also vary by female-male, male-male, or female-female. All of these encounters involve risk factors that can lead to sexually transmitted infections.
All of this means that there are many variables that influence how people categorize what it means to be virgin. Just being told by a partner that they are alone doesn’t tell you their true risk profile.
Virginity is not a medical definition. It can change according to social or cultural norms – and often even within them. Even with contact with someone who has never had penetrative sex, it is possible to be exposed to an STI. All sexual encounters require the use of safer sex.
Sexually transmitted infections are spread from person to person in a number of ways. Many are common.
Spread by blood or birth
Some people are exposed to STIs from their mothers during pregnancy or childbirth. It is also possible to contract diseases such as human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) through non-sexual risk behaviors. For example, injecting drug use is a risk factor for most blood-borne diseases.
genital skin contact
Intimacy usually involves genital skin-to-skin contact. This contact can spread genital herpes, syphilisand human papillomavirus (HPV). Even if a person has no symptoms, the microbes that cause these infections can be present in sores or warts on the skin. They may also be present in fluid from the penis or vagina.
Oral herpes infects many people through casual contact. It may appear in the saliva in the mouth after kissing family members or sharing utensils. The infection can then spread to the genitals through oral sex.
If someone with oral herpes gives you oral sex, they can spread it even if they don’t have symptoms. That’s why you can get genital herpes, even if you’ve never had penetrative sex, and by this standard, you’re still a virgin.
Other STDs that can be transmitted through oral sex when you are not using a condom include:
The route of transmission is two-way. People with anal or genital infections can spread the infection to their partner’s mouth or throat during oral sex. If left untreated, the same infection can spread again, or even back into the same person’s genitals.
STIs can be sexually transmitted without using a condom. Viruses, bacteria, and parasites that cause sexually transmitted infections can infect anal and rectal tissues just as they do through vaginal intercourse.
Blood-borne STIs, such as HIV and hepatitis, are also a risk when sex is unprotected.
shared object or finger transfer
Contact between fingers or hands and the anus or genitals can spread HPV. In fact, many STIs can also be spread by sharing inserted sex toys or objects without good cleaning between the user and the partner.
STIs that can be spread in this way include:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- Bacterial vaginosis (BV)
Many types of STIs can be spread through other sexual acts that do not involve the penis and the anus or vagina. They include genital herpes and HPV, as well as HIV and hepatitis. No matter what kind of sex you have, always practice safe sex.
Do you have to be a virgin to get the HPV vaccine?
Contrary to popular myth, people can get pregnant the first time they have sex. Penile-vaginal intercourse without the use of contraception, even once, can lead to pregnancy.
Sexual activity is not limited to penetrative sex, and virginity is defined differently. There are many possible sexual encounters that increase the risk of exposure to STIs.
One of the most common ways STIs are spread is through oral sex. But anal sex, the use of sex toys, and even simple skin-to-skin contact can lead to STIs if the partner doesn’t take protective measures.
Remember that pregnancy is possible even if the partner is a virgin and has penetrative sex for the first time.
When it comes to sex, it’s better to be safe than sorry. It’s safer to assume you’re at risk for an STI or pregnancy. Take steps to protect yourself, even if you think it’s two virgins having sex.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I reduce the risk of contracting an STD from a virgin?
You can practice the same safe sex measures that everyone else:
- Ask them to share their sexual history with you and share yours with them.
- If any of you are allergic to latex, use an outer (or inner) latex condom or a polyurethane condom.
- Use a tooth dam for oral sex.
- Do not have sex while drinking alcohol or using recreational drugs that may inhibit your judgment.
Are my partner and I at risk for an STI if this is the first time the two of us have had sex?
If you’ve had penetrative sex of any kind, even if it’s your first time, you probably are. Note that some STIs may occur through other types of exposure. One or both of you may develop an asymptomatic infection without knowing it. Use safer sex.
Which STIs should I be most concerned about when having sex with a virgin?
If you’re using the most common definition of “virgin”—that is, never having vaginal penile intercourse—you’re most at risk of contracting an STI through other types of sexual activity. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, and hepatitis B are all easily spread through oral sex.
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