Like all human beings, gay men engage in many different kinds of sexual activity. Individual gay men are all different. Some might have lots of sex, some might not. Some might enjoy many different types of sexual activities while others might just prefer a few. Some find that sex is a really important part of their lives while for others it might not be.
Kissing is a fairly universal practice and is completely safe for HIV transmission as saliva doesn’t transmit HIV. Some STIs, such as herpes, can potentially be transmitted through kissing. It’s best to avoid kissing someone if he has a visible coldsore.
It’s been said that 90% of men the world over masturbate and that the other 10% are lying. While this is only a joke, it’s not far from the truth. Masturbation (i.e. wanking) is a very common sexual activity among gay men with 98.5% of gay men reporting they’ve masturbated in the past year. And it is 100% safe for HIV and STIs!
Mutual masturbation is when guys wank each other by touching or rubbing each other’s cocks. Just about every sexual encounter between men involves at least a little bit of mutual masturbation. Some guys do it as a warm up to, or cool down from, other things while others like to wank each other to orgasm. Mutual masturbation is considered a safe activity for HIV although using each other’s cum or pre-cum as lubricant does present a risk.
Safer Sex is any sexual behaviour that avoids any of the risk factors, and it’s really simple to do: Using condoms and water-based lube every time when fucking will prevent HIV transmission. That’s the basic safer-sex message, but there’s more to sex than fucking, and many people are uncertain about the risks involved in other sexual practices. There are also many STIs besides HIV to be wary of. Below is a list of some practices which leave some people uncertain and some guidelines about minimising any risks involved.
HIV can be transmitted from an HIV+ person to an HIV- person in a number of ways:
Anal sex is often thought of as fucking and nothing else. Anal sex is when a cock is inserted into an arse. This is also known as anal intercourse or fucking. The person inserting their penis is known as the ‘top’ or the ‘insertive’ partner; while the one who receives into his arse is known as the ‘bottom’ or ‘receptive ’ partner. But the anus can be stimulated in other ways – by touching, licking, and fingering. None of these is automatically foreplay for fucking – they can be arousing on their own. If you enjoy being finger-fucked, for instance, that doesn’t mean you then have to fuck or use sex toys. We all have limits – there’s no ‘automatic’ progression from one sexual act to another.
You are in control of what happens next. Safely explore your own limits – solo or with someone you trust.
Being the active or inserting partner when fucking does not protect you from HIV. The skin of the penis, especially under the foreskin and inside the ‘eye’ is extremely thin and can suffer micro tears during sex. These tears provide a route by which HIV can move from the anal mucus or vaginal fluids of the ‘bottom’ into the bloodstream of the ‘top’. Topping without wearing a condom also puts your partner at risk of infection with an STI from you (which you may not know you have). Always use condoms and water-based lube when fucking in order to prevent HIV transmission.
If you’re not sure that your arse is something that you want to explore sexually, one way to begin is to experiment alone. Here’s a suggestion: after a shower or bath explore your body. When you’re wanking touch the area between your legs (behind your balls) and arse cheeks. Put lots of lube on your fingers and begin to feel the outside of your arse hole. Take your time. If it feels good, slowly slide a finger in. If your anus suddenly tightens, don’t be alarmed. It’s just an automatic response by a muscle called the sphincter.
The way to work around this is to penetrate the opening slowly with your well-lubed finger and then let the sphincter tighten. As soon as it tightens, pull your finger out again. Wait 30 seconds and then begin to finger your arse again – this time you’ll find it a lot easier.
If you liked a finger inside you, try something bigger – two or even three fingers, or maybe a dildo (start out small). Remember when you’re playing with your arse not to push objects all the way in – it can be extremely difficult to get them out again!
Also it’s important not to share sex toys (dildos, vibrators). If you enjoy finger-fucking that doesn’t mean that you have to fuck or start using toys. Every one of us has his own limits – there’s no ‘natural progression’ from one step to the next. Find your limits safely, on your own or with someone you trust completely.
The one thing that most men who have sex with men really enjoy doing is sucking cock.
Using your tongue on the underside of the dick head is a good tip. Use plenty of spit and a good rhythm. Don’t forget about his balls – they love being played with as well. Tell him if you like what he’s doing. If you want him to do something else – tell him.
It isn’t a high risk activity for HIV because the lining of the mouth is strong, and saliva (spit) also contains protective properties. It’s hard to infect the skin inside your mouth.
Avoiding getting cum in the mouth will reduce the risk of infection. If semen does get in the mouth, swallowing is safer than spitting as swallowing avoids swirling the semen back through the mouth as it’s the length of time the cum is in your mouth that’s the risky part, and HIV cannot survive in the acidic environment of the stomach.
Having a healthy mouth reduces the risk of getting HIV. The mouth is a hostile environment for HIV and so long as there are no cuts or lesions in the mouth or throat, it is very unlikely that HIV will be transmitted through oral sex. Bleeding gums, mouth ulcers, and throat infections make it easier for HIV and STIs to be transmitted. Flossing or vigorous brushing is better after the big date – not before – because it can break the skin on the gums, and who knows, you might get lucky! For fresh breath to impress try chewing gum, mints or mouthwash instead.
Men who have lots of oral sex with multiple partners should get regular (3 to 6 monthly) check-ups for STIs like gonorrhoea, Chlamydia (throat and anal) and syphilis (lips, tongue). You can also be exposed to Hepatitis B from infected cum. Vaccination is a good idea if you’re sexually active.
Having your arse licked or doing it to someone else is a big turn on for some guys. If rimming is one of the things you’re into, or it’s something you’d like to try then make sure your arse is clean, but be sure not to get soap inside your arse, it will interfere with natural bacteria and irritate sensitive membranes.
If you want to lick someone’s arse it is safe from HIV infection, but there is risk of other infections like Hepatitis A.
Putting your hand or fingers into someone’s arse (or your own) or vagina is considered a low risk practice for transmission of HIV if there are no cuts or abrasions on the hand or fingers. Vaginal fluids and anal mucus can contain HIV, but if the inserted hand or finger has no breaks in the skin, there is no opportunity for the virus to enter the blood stream of the inserting partner. This sexual act requires skill and patience. It’s really an extension of what men do already in anal play (hands up those who have managed to get three or even four fingers into themselves or a partner?). The fister wears a latex glove to prevent fingernails harming the delicate rectal lining of the fistee.
The traditional lube used for fisting is Crisco, an American cooking fat. It’s not just used because of tradition (Thanks Giving?): it provides a protective layer as well as being a good heavy duty lube. Crisco is oil based so it can’t be used with condoms (this is why using Vaseline or baby oil for anal sex lube is a no-no) but the much thicker glove will remain intact.
Fisting requires the fistee being very relaxed without being deadened to any sense of pain (pain means stop) and the fister needs to be cool and calm. Slings are usually used for fisting because the fistee is suspended and comfortable and the arse is exposed and easily accessible.
Fisting is sometimes referred to as ‘handballing’, a term invented to counter the connotations of ‘violence and sleaze’ that the term fisting allegedly evokes. There is no risk of HIV infection. Remember that fisting without gloves also poses a risk for the transmission of Hepatitis C however microscopic amounts of blood can be transferred onto the glove, which can then end up in the tub of lube. The virus can live quite happily there and anyone else using the lube is exposing themselves to the virus.
Butt plugs, dildos – any long (usually rubber) object designed to be inserted into an arse. Use LOTS of lube and start out small and work your way up to the whoppers if you like. Take it slowly (literally). Often it’s not practical to thoroughly clean toys that are going to be re-used, so putting a new condom on it for each person is essential. Well-equipped slip rooms will have a mirror at the back so the man in the sling can get a good view of what is going in (and coming out). Toys can be cleaned in soap and hot water or a solution of one part household bleach to nine parts cold water.
There is no risk for HIV infection, but if you drink piss you could be exposed to other infections, the most serious being (again) Hepatitis A. Consider vaccination if you’re really into it.
Group sex refers to having sex with more than one partner in the same session. Other terms to describe group sex are gang bang, orgies, group meets, three-ways, threesomes, ménage a trois, sex party, and play party. Group sex can range from a threesome through to a large-scale sex party.
Group sex is relatively common among gay men. Research in Australia shows that around 40-50% of gay men have recently had group sex.
Group sex is no riskier than any other kind of sex for HIV and STIs as long as all the normal precautions are taken such as condoms and lube, gloves, and regular testing. Men who are really into group sex are encouraged to get tested for HIV and STIs more frequently (e.g. every 3 months).
Your dick is a sensitive part of the body, but it’s also one of the most vulnerable when it comes to HIV and STIs. It’s the moist lining inside the dick eye (the little hole at the end) and under your foreskin if you’re uncut that allows HIV to enter your body.
HIV thrives inside the arse and there is more HIV in the mucus of the arse lining than in blood or cum – this is what makes wearing a condom so important, especially for anal sex.
Pulling your dick out before you come is not safe because pre-cum alone can transmit HIV during anal sex, this also means teasing your partner by putting your dick it just a little way inside the arse, before fucking with a condom is not safe either.
When you’re fucking someone, pull out your cock from time to time (such as when you change positions) and check the condom is still in place. You can re-lube and put a new condom on at the same time during extended sessions.
Keeping your dick clean – especially if you’ve got a foreskin – is vital as it reduces the chance of general infection (and increases your chances of getting a blowjob!). Gentle washing in the shower or bath is fine, avoid over-washing as this can lead to skin problems.
To ensure your dick and balls are in tip-top condition it’s a good idea to do monthly testicular self-examinations.
Early detection often means effective treatment for conditions such as testicular cancer. You’ll find that one hangs a bit lower than the other and is also slightly larger. That’s normal. Gently roll each of your balls between your fingers and thumb. You’ll feel the long tube at the top and back of the testicle as a bump. Otherwise it should feel smooth. Compare the feel of one with the other, as it’s very unlikely both would show signs of cancer at the same time. What you are checking for is change, has one of your balls grown larger, become heavier or even changed shape? If you find anything you’re not sure of consult a doctor.
Using drugs or alcohol might affect your ability to make sensible decisions about having safe sex, and your ability to let your partner know what you want. It’s a good idea to make the choice to be prepared for safe sex before using drugs and alcohol. Making sure you’ve always got condoms and water-based lubricant with you can make it easier decision to have sex without regret.
You can still do almost everything that turns you on safely.
The only precautions you need to take are common sense ones: avoid cutting the skin and, if you do, avoid getting blood or cum into the wound. And don’t share sex toys that go into the body.
Being committed to safe sex all the time isn’t easy. There are always going to be times when it’s hard to stick to safe sex. It’s important to be able to talk about this with people we trust. We should not be judgmental if friends tell us that they have had a slip-up. Most gay men can remember or imagine what leads to an unsafe incident. Remember that slip-ups don’t mean we’ve gone off the rails or that we are bad. Just make the decision to have safe sex in future-for a long life enjoying sex without regret. Post-exposure prophylaxis (morning after) treatments are now available.
Did you know that having a sexually transmissible infection (STI) increases your chances of contracting or passing on HIV by up to ten times? It’s true! This is the case for a number of reasons but there are two main ones; increased immune cells at the sites of infection and sores. HIV replicates in CD4 cells in your blood. These cells are an important part of your immune system and are also the natural ‘home’ of HIV. When you have an STI the concentration of these cells at the site of infection increases as your body tries to fight the infection. Unfortunately this also provides many more targets for HIV to get a hold in your system should you be exposed to it, increasing your chance of becoming HIV positive. STIs also usually cause some damage to skin or mucus membranes in or around the genitals. This damage can provide a route for HIV to enter your bloodstream if you are exposed to it. To reduce your risk of picking up or passing on HIV always use condoms and lube for anal sex, and get into the routine of having a thorough sexual health check-up at least every six months (or more often if you have a lot of sex partners). Look after yourself and your mates!
For further information on PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) see prep.htm
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Free RAPID TESTING HIV testing is now available. The rapid test provides results within 20 minutes by collecting a small blood sample from the fingertip. The rapid test detects both HIV antibodies and the HIV antigen, which can appear just 12-26 days after infection. HIV antibodies first appear later around 20 - 45 days after infection. A non-reactive result on the HIV rapid test reduces any anxious waiting. A reactive result leads to early diagnosis which allows you to manage your own health and help you live a healthier life through appropriate treatment. Also find out information at your local sexual health clinic about HIV post-exposure and pre-exposure prophylaxis which are treatments to prevent a person acquiring HIV.
Acknowledgements: Most of the above material comes from the following sources.
Updated 25/2/2020Back to Top