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How to Have Safer Bareback Sessions [NSFW]

It’s not irresponsible to enjoy bareback.

bareback sex

We’ve reached a powerful place in sex between men. We’ve combated HIV to the point that poz guys will live long, happy, healthy lives. We’ve created an HIV preventative for HIV-negative guys. We’ve reached a point where we can stop being scared.

We can start enjoying each other again. Fun and pleasure — the purpose of our wonderful sodomy — can become a focus again without all the fear we’ve known for generations clouding it over and robbing us of our joy. That fear has been utilized as a political tool by politicians and anti-queer campaigners for the past fifty years. Let’s stop giving that to them. Let’s get nasty again.

We can start fucking in back alleys again. We can start having sex parties and hookups on the way home from work without feeling like we’re putting our lives at risk. We can play bare, so long as we take available steps to keep ourselves safe. Here are 14 tips to having safer bareback sex:

1. PrEP (best way)

You’ve probably heard a lot about PrEP in recent years. It’s made headlines. It’s completely changed the landscape of HIV and AIDS. It’s reduced stigma and made serosorting (poz guys only fucking poz guys and neg guys only fucking neg guys) a thing of the past. But, do you know what it is?

Truvada is currently the only drug approved for pre-exposure prophylaxis — better known as PrEP — a daily pill that will greatly reduce your likelihood of contracting HIV. PrEP is an important option for every HIV-negative person to consider, particularly if you’re a gay man who likes playing bare.

2. TasP (best way)

PrEP is for HIV-negative guys. TasP is for HIV-positive guys like me.

“TasP” stands for Treatment as Prevention. When an HIV-positive guy is taking ARVs (antiretroviral medication) and successfully suppressing his viral load to a point lower than can be “detected” by an HIV test, we call him “undetectable.”

At this point, his likelihood of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative person (regardless of condom use, and regardless of whether the other guy is on PrEP) is “basically zero,” according to the PARTNER study. The study monitored 767 serodiscordant (one positive, one negative) couples, gay and straight, over several years. In 2014, they found zero HIV transmissions when the poz partner was successfully taking medication. Hence, “treatment as prevention.”

3. Don’t get cum in your ass (boring).

Who hates getting loads in the butt? Not me.

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4. Don’t clean out too aggressively before sex.

Cleaning out too aggressively may cause micro tears or irritate your anal lining, opening the gateway for HIV infection or, if you’re on PrEP, a host of other STIs like gonorrhea and syphilis.

5. Use silicone lube or any lube that isn’t water-based.

Who likes water-based lube? Some guys do. But water-based lube dries up quickly and gets sticky, so you need to keep applying it if you’re going to fuck for hours. If things dry out down there or you’re not using enough lube, you can get hurt, and getting hurt opens the gateway for infection.

Silicone lube keeps thing smooth and slick downstairs. It also stains sheets and lingers on door handles and shower knobs for weeks, so wash your hands thoroughly after playtime before touching everything in your bathroom.

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6. Get full-range STD tests frequently. Like, every couple of months.

Knowing your status gives you and your partner(s) power to make decisions and protect each other. If you just tested positive for HIV, give sex a rest until you get on medication and become undetectable.

If you tested negative six months ago, get tested again. You can have HIV without showing symptoms.

7. Get tested for ALL major STIs, not just HIV.

Thanks to advancements in healthcare, HIV is now a livable and manageable illness, not the death sentence it was in the past. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t fear it, but it also doesn’t mean it’s the only one to watch out for or the worst thing you can catch.

Hepatitis C is pretty severe and can cause long-term liver damage if left untreated. Skin infections like scabies are pretty miserable. Giardia, although not exclusively an STI, can be spread through skin-to-skin contact, and is agony. Sexually active gay men (particularly HIV-positive guys) are likelier to get a staph infection and MRSA. And syphilis, termed the “silent killer,” is skyrocketing among gay men. Men usually don’t show symptoms of syphilis until late in the disease’s development. Late-stage syphilis is deadly.

If you’re having lots of sex, regardless if you use condoms, get a thorough, full-range STI test every three months — no exceptions.

8. Don’t shave your hole right before sex.

Some guys like shaving their holes. I sometimes do. It’s hot for tops who like to see their cock clearly sliding in and out of ass without any hair to obscure the view.

Some guys who are into degradation fantasies (ahem) like being called “fag” and their holes called a “cunt” or “pussy” when they’re being brutally fucked by aggressive tops, and a shaved hole clearly shows who’s the alpha (not the bottom).

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If you shave your hole right before bareback sex, you can get tiny nicks and cuts that, once again, open gateways for infection. Give yourself a little healing time before getting railed.

9. Get vaccinated for Hepatitis A and B.

Hep A and B are preventable! Get vaccinated. They’re on the rise among gay men in Europe, which means gay guys in the U.S. will soon see a rise here. Get those vaccines ASAP.

10. Get vaccinated for HPV.

HPV (human papillomavirus) is one of the most common STIs in the world. For women, it’s a common cause of cervical cancer. In men and women, it can cause genital warts, but often there are no symptoms. There is a vaccine for HPV, so get vaccinated!

11. Find someone who is strictly monogamous, get full-range STI tests together, and play bare as long as you’re certain you’re only fucking each other.

A tall order. Although this may be the standard for many people, it’s the least realistic option on this list.

The picture of a “happy, healthy relationship” presented by centuries-old fairy tales and religious teachings (this writer sees them as the same thing) is problematic at best. You meet someone, fall in love with them, and proceed to have bareback sex with them and only them, till death do you part, right?

Wrong. People get bored. People stray. People break up. You love him, but he just doesn’t satisfy you sexually like he used to. Or, maybe, your sexual needs have evolved over the course of your relationship, and you’re no longer into the same things you used to enjoy.

Related | It’s Not Irresponsible to Like Bareback Sex

Finding an exclusive partner, getting tested with him, and keeping safe by only having bareback sex with him is a fantasy. Believing in it gets many people infected every year with HIV and other STIs.

12. Learn more about the tests. Learn some vocabulary.

STI tests are filled with words that sound similar but have different meanings. Know the difference between antibodies and antigen. Know what a viral load is.

An antigen is a foreign substance that produces an immune response—in effect, an STI. Immune responses produce antibodies, which are Y-shaped protein molecules produced by B cells to fight infection. Antibodies are the body’s natural defense system. They’re why your sinuses flare up, and your nose gets runny during allergy season.

Now, viral load: in the language of HIV, your viral load is the amount of HIV in your blood. The higher your viral load, the faster your CD4 cell count will fall, and the more you become at risk for getting sick due to HIV.

Viral load tests measure the amount of HIV in a blood sample. The result of a viral load test is described as the number of copies of HIV RNA in a milliliter of blood.

The goal of HIV medication is to give you an undetectable viral load. All viral load tests have a cut-off point below which they cannot detect HIV. This is called the limit of detection. Below this point, you are considered “undetectable.” Most tests have a low limit of detection, around 40 or 50 copies/ml, but there are some sensitive tests that can measure below 20 copies/ml. If your viral load is below 50, it’s generally considered undetectable.

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13. Know what “window periods” are.

A window period is the time between when you come in contact with an STI and when that STI will show up on a test.

Why are window periods important? Tests done too early can be inaccurate. Window periods vary from a few days to a few months, depending on the infection. Yes, you can pass an STI to a partner during window periods — including and especially HIV.

Related | Why Men Wake up With Erections

Chlamydia will show up on a test between 2 and 6 weeks after getting it, so don’t run to the doctor the day after a sex party. In contrast, most tests for gonorrhea are accurate after only 7 days.

Get tested for Hep C around 6 weeks after exposure (although most acute HCV infections will be detectable after 2 weeks). HIV has a fearsomely long window period during which the virus is actually most transmittable. Ninety-five percent of HIV tests are accurate after 6 weeks, but it can sometimes take up to 6 months to get a positive read. This is why PrEP is such a game-changer.

14. Study your body regularly. Do not ignore problems.

Check your body frequently. You know how you’re supposed to regularly check your testicles for lumps? You should do the same thing everywhere.

Check your skin, particularly your anal and pubic area, for bumps and rashes. Study your body. It’s powerful, sexy, and important. Like a luxury car, it needs careful maintenance and constant attention. When in doubt, remember the campaign tagline that put Olay cosmetics on the map: “Love the skin you’re in.”

 

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