Can I get an STD during dry humping from someone's skin rubbing on mine?

Lesbian couple on bed
Lesbian couple on bed. Tony Garcia/Image Source/Getty Images

Question: Can I get an STD during dry humping from someone's skin rubbing on mine?

Frottage is the technical name for what two people are doing when they rub their bodies against each other for sexual pleasure. It's also known by such colorful terms as "pants burning" and "dry humping." (Although I hope no one's pants actually end up on fire during sex. That's the opposite of safe!)

When you engage in frottage while wearing clothing, it is very safe sex.

The only significant risk is falling off the bed.  If you take off your clothing, dry humping is still relatively safe, but it is possible to pass on certain diseases that are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact.

Answer: Although frottage is a relatively safe form of sex, it is possible to get an STD when you are dry humping someone if their infected skin rubs against yours.

To understand the risks of dry humping, it helps to know that STDs can be broken down into two groups:

  1. Diseases that are spread by bodily fluids -- such as blood, vaginal secretions, and semen.
  2. Diseases that are spread by skin-to-skin contact

HIV, chlamydia, and gonorrhea can only be spread by infected bodily fluids, and so there is basically no risk of getting any of them when you're dry humping someone -- bodily fluids are not involved. However, there are many other diseases that can be spread by infected skin rubbing on uninfected skin.

These diseases include:

These types of diseases can be transmitted with various levels of ease during frottage where someone's infected skin is rubbing on yours. However, such diseases require skin-to-skin contact for transmission. That is why frottage while wearing clothing is generally considered to be safe.

Theoretically, it is possible for an open sore to seep through fabric and transmit diseases. It's not likely, but it's still a good idea to avoid aggressive contact with sores. Even if the infected person doesn't transmit the disease to their partner, they might make their own situation worse. Clothing rubbing on a lesion can irritate it -- risking either a secondary infection or the disease spreading through self-inoculation.

Note: Frottage refers to the act of sexual rubbing, and there's nothing unusual or unhealthy about it as a sexual activity. Many couples engage in it on a regular basis. In contrast, frotteurism refers to either having unhealthy fantasies about dry humping and similar activities or engaging in nonconsensual frottage.

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