Information on Safer Sex and BDSM


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© August & October, 1996, The AIDS Committee of Toronto.


SAFER SM:
Practical Guidelines and Advice on AIDS Prevention within SM play

If sexually explicit information about sadomasochism (SM) might offend you, this brochure is not for you.

HIV Transmission:

HIV (the virus that can lead to AIDS) can be avoided. HIV is passed from one person to another when infected:
  • blood
  • semen (cum) or
  • vaginal secretions (cunt juice) goes from one person’s body into another, and then makes its way into your bloodstream.

    You don’t have to worry about:

  • saliva (spit)
  • perspiration (sweat)
  • urine (piss) or fæces (shit) on the outside of the body

    Always remember to use common sense. Ensure that first-aid items are readily at hand. By remembering these basics, you can make any kind of sex safer.

    SM Risk Reduction

    Most SM activities have always been low-risk for getting HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). Responsible SM has always been about practising safety.

    Getting a sexually transmitted disease (STD), like HIV, can be prevented. But there are other possible dangers with SM. For more information on how to avoid these, read material like the On the Safe Edge: A Manual for SM play by Trevor Jacques, et al, Lesbian SM Safety Manual by Pat Califia; SM 101 by Jay Wiseman; or Screw the Roses, Send me the Thorns by Molly Devon and Phillip Miller.

    Generalized information on HIV and STDs is available from most Community Health Centres, doctor’s offices/clinics or community AIDS organizations.

    SM Etiquette

    Use the etiquette of SM. It’s really just a matter of respecting the person(s) with whom you’re playing. You should agree upon a safety word and what you want to do in a scene before you start the scene. A safety word (or motion) is used by any partner to stop the scene immediately, no questions asked. There is no shame in using the safety word. It’s there for both of you. You should respect it and your partner’s limits and feelings at all times.

    Always consider your partner(s). Discuss interests, pleasures, perceived needs etc. If you are unsure of a certain sexual or SM activity, then hold off until you’re familiar with the safety aspects of it. Find out as much as you can beforehand, so you can make a decision about how and/or when to proceed.

    If you are HIV+, think about how infection with STDs -- or re-infection with HIV -- could affect your immune system. Bow out when necessary. For example, don’t deep throat a sore throat. By being interested in your health and practising safer sex, you are doing a lot to help stop the transmission of HIV and other STDs.

    Always ask before using someone else’s toy. They may not want you to use it, or it may be broken. By practising the guidelines mentioned in this pamphlet, you will be making your contribution to the community of safer SM players.

    Lubricants

    Lubricants (lubes) can be lots of fun, whether used for play or insertion. Flavoured brands can be used externally or for oral sex.

    If you’re going to insert something into someone, you should only use a water-based unscented brand - like K-Y, Lubafax, Muco, Safer Sex lube, Astroglide, or Wet. Never use oil-based lubes (like Vaseline or Crisco); they weaken latex condoms and gloves, making them more likely to break.

    Also, during a scene, you shouldn’t take lube from a large container. Either buy small portions and throw the packets away afterwards or put enough lube for this play time into something disposable (like a paper cup or plate). Some brands come in pump jars. This makes sure that nobody’s "dirty" hand, penis, or whatever can get into your personal supply of lube.

    Your Rectum

    The rectum (ass) is more delicate than most parts of your body and you should take care of it. Sticking things up your rectum - whether it’s a finger, cock, dildo, fist, or anything else - can tear the rectal lining. Even extremely tiny tears can open up the body and be places where HIV can get in.

    Fucking without protection is a high-risk activity, since a penis ejaculates semen (cums). A penis also has a pee hole in the end, which can let viruses in. Always use a latex condom, and use it properly.

    To put on a condom: first make sure the penis is erect. If it’s uncircumcised, pull back the foreskin before putting on the condom. Squeeze the air out of the tip. If the condom is round- ended and doesn’t have a tip, squeeze the air out and leave 1 cm free at the tip of the penis.

    Lubricate the outside of the condom really well with a water-based lube (like K-Y, Muco, Wet, Safer Sex Lube, or Astroglide). Never use oil-based lube (like Crisco or Vaseline); it can damage condoms. Pull out soon after you come, grabbing the base of the penis to make sure the condom doesn’t slip off. To be extra careful, you can start fucking with a condom, and then pull out before you come - you can then cum on the chest, thighs, hand, or whatever.

    If you finger a rectum, be careful not to finger it if you have a cut or sore on your finger or if you have long/sharp nails. You could also use a latex glove when fingering. As for dildos, make sure they’ve been cleaned before they go up your rectum (see the section on cleaning toys).

    Douching and Enemas

    If fisting, fucking, or dildos are part of your sexual activity, some people feel it is very important to have a clean ass or vagina. But douching, or using enemas before getting fucked, could leave you more open to infection. They can wash away the surface mucous that’s there to protect you.

    Never share your douche bag. Clean your douche bag each time you use it. Also, don’t share the nozzles of metal shower douches. Get a separate nozzle for each friend, label it, and clean it between uses (see the section on cleaning toys). Douching or enemas should not be used after sex because they don’t necessarily wash things away - they can also push infected semen, blood or fæces further into the body. Infections and bacteria douched up into a woman’s uterus and fallopian tubes can cause Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) - which could lead to infertility, or worse.

    Your Vagina

    Successful play with your vagina (cunt) depends on paying attention to detail, because a great variation of sensations occurs over very small areas.

    It’s easy to bruise, cut, or tear your vagina, so you should take the same care to protect it whenever anything goes into it. The inner parts of the vagina are mucous membranes, so a good rule is to make sure that your play is less aggressive here. Anything inserted into the vagina should be properly washed and have no sharp edges.

    Your vagina can be damaged in other ways too -- you can: bruise or scrape the cervix, which is located about 10 cm inside the vagina (the exact position varies from woman to woman); tear the skin between the vagina and the rectum; bruise the tissue between the pubic bones; or cut and scrape around the pee hole. All of these can open up your body to HIV - or other STDs - making vaginal intercourse without a condom a high risk activity.

    A good rule of thumb is that too much lubricant is not enough. If you don’t use enough, you may cause tears and rips, or a mechanically induced vaginitis.

    Vaginal play depends on moving slowly to generate fairly symmetrical sensations, and remembering that the border between pleasure and pain here is razor thin. So get to know the size and shape of your partner’s vagina, and remember that it changes shape depending on where she is in her menstrual cycle, and how excited she gets.

    Toys

    When you were growing up, your mother probably told you to share your toys. Well, for sex toys, forget it! Anything that goes into a person’s rectum and/or vagina could transmit HIV or other STDs, if it’s shared. Any toy that draws blood can also be a risk.

    If you’re a bottom, the best idea would be to have your own toys and get your top to use them on you. If you’re a top, ask the bottom what toys he or she owns. Or, if having sex with various bottoms, you should assign and mark toys only for them.

    For example, if you spank someone with a sturdy wire brush, you’re going to draw blood. So, tape the bottom’s name onto the back of the brush - maybe even tape the brush to the bottom’s leg - but don’t use it on anyone else. The same applies to dildos, butt plugs, etc.

    Cleaning Your Toys

    You’ll need these things to clean your toys:

  • soap and hot water
  • one part household bleach to nine parts water
  • 10% hydrogen peroxide solution

    What if you use a toy on someone and you don’t mean to draw blood - but you do? You don’t have to throw away your toy. Wash it in soap and hot water, let it soak for 20 minutes in the bleach solution, rinse it in hot, clean water and then let it dry thoroughly (preferably overnight) before using it again. The same goes for douche nozzles.

    Leather toys are a bit different: To clean a leather toy (like a whip, flogger or leather dildo), first wash the tips or ends with a strong foaming cleaner using a hard bristle brush to get at nooks and crannies in the leather, then spray the tips or ends with hydrogen peroxide, wipe away the excess with paper towels, and let them air dry for at least a few hours (preferably overnight) before using them. Cleaning dries out leather very quickly, so your toy should be treated with an acceptable leather conditioner immediately after it has dried, or it will become brittle and crack.

    It’s a lot easier to clean a dildo after playing if you put a condom on it before you use it. If you are a top, you can probably think of lots of ways to make your bottom put the condom on the dildo.

    It may sound complicated, but it isn’t really; just make sure any toy with semen, blood, or fæces on it, or anything that’s been in someone’s rectum or vagina is cleaned. Make sure you get any bleach or soap off the toy, by flushing it with clean water. Remember, uncleaned toys can transmit STDs - which could affect your whole immune system.

    Watersports, etc.

    Both urine and fæces are fine on the outside of the body. Urine in your mouth is a very low-risk activity for getting HIV, but with an infected bladder there is a high risk of catching other STDs. If you take fæces in your mouth, there is also the possibility of catching parasites or other STDs . Never brush your teeth or tongue just before playing, wait at least 3 to 4 hours; and never play when you have cold sores, cankers, or cuts in your mouth.

    If there are any cuts on the outside of the skin, don’t urinate (piss) or defecate (shit) near the cut(s). Remember that a pimple (zit) is also a cut.

    Fisting

    Fists are big things. They can create more serious tears in the rectum or vagina than most sexual activities. If you get fisted, you’re going to have to treat your rectum and/or vagina very, very carefully.

    Immediately after you’ve been fisted never let anything else (a penis, dirty dildo, or a finger with semen, fæces, or blood on it) into your rectum or vagina that might be carrying HIV or other STDs.

    If you are going to fist, wear latex gloves. They protect both the top and the bottom. Surgical gloves are the best. They usually go part of the way up the arm and are good for most fistings. If you are going to be fisting deeply, use a calving glove. You can buy them at veterinarian supply stores. Calving gloves can bunch up, though, and the wrinkles can cut the lining of the rectum or vagina. To avoid this, cut the finger and thumb sections off the calving glove to leave the glove covering the palm of your hand, including the base of the thumb. Then put a surgical glove over the calving glove.

    Don’t fist if your fingernails are long. Cut them and smooth them down with an emery board, since they can tear the fisting glove or the bottom’s rectum or vagina. If you have an open wound or hangnails on your hand(s), don’t fist with that hand even with the precaution of gloves.

    Be sure the glove stays well lubed while you’re using it (see the section on lubricants). When pulling out (as with condoms), make sure to grab the open end of the glove so that it doesn’t slip off.

    Rimming

    Rimming (licking someone’s rectal opening) is very low risk for becoming infected with HIV, but high risk for the transmission of other STDs (like herpes, anal warts, hepatitis A) as well as parasites. If you want to rim, use a condom cut length wise to form a sheet of latex, or use a latex barrier like a dental dam (which is more difficult to find). Never brush your teeth or tongue just before your sexual play, wait at least 3 or 4 hours.

    Rimming can be very enjoyable for your partner but always take precautions to ensure your own safety -- avoid leaving yourself open to STDs.

    Piercing, Shaving, etc.

    If you want to have a permanent piercing, make sure the rings or bars are new and sterile. You might be able to find a doctor or nurse to do the piercing in a sterile way. If you can’t, have it done by or learn from a professional piercer. Make sure the bars or rings are properly soaked in bleach and then rinsed in water before they’re inserted. Make sure only new, sterile are used and then only on one person. If a temporary piercing is part of a scene, make sure you use sterile, disposable needles. Us them once -- only once -- on one person. Then dispose of them safely. (See the section on cleaning needles, and disposing needles under Drugs and Alcohol).

    As for branding, heat-branding is safe because of the high temperatures involved (heat kills HIV). Knife-branding should only be done with a knife that’s been soaked in bleach for twenty minutes and then rinsed with water. Better yet, you can use a sterile scalpel with a disposable blade (scalpels can be bought at medical supply stores). Use it once, put it in a strong narrow-necked plastic container, put the lid back on, and throw it in the garbage.

    For piercing, branding, or shaving, any drops of blood should be wiped away with sterile cotton balls. Soak the cotton ball in rubbing alcohol. You can also buy pre-soaked separately wrapped cotton balls called "alcohol preps" or "alcohol rub". After use, put it in a plastic bag, tie up the bag, and put it in the garbage.

    When starting a piercing, branding, or shaving scene, the area of the skin should first be wiped with rubbing alcohol, "alcohol preps" "Hibitane", or "Staphene" to remove and fine dirt trapped by the skin’s oil.

    Whipping

    If there’s no break in the skin during whipping or flogging, then it’s no problem at all. Depending on the material that the whip, quirt, or cat-o’-nine-tails is made of and the way it is used, it can draw blood if the skin is broken.

    During a flogging or whipping scene, wipe up the blood the same way as you would for piercing or branding, and always clean your flogger/whips (see the section on cleaning toys).

    When in a more public forum, you should avoid breaking the skin, as blood can be flicked from the flogger/whip during the return of the stroke.

    Drugs and Alcohol

    If you’re into SM, you have to keep your wits about you. Mind-altering drugs - like tranquilizers, uppers, or hallucinogens - are not recommended. If you use them, you’ll be more likely to make mistakes. Alcohol can have the same effect. Too much drugs or alcohol can lead to unsafe activities.

    As for "poppers", they make your blood vessels bigger. This may increase your risk of infection with HIV if you’re getting fucked. Poppers are also hard on your heart and immune system.

    If you use injection drugs, a very easy way to pass on HIV is by sharing your needles, syringes, or cookers. Use your own works and never share them unless they are properly cleaned in bleach and water.

    To clean your needle and syringe properly:

    1) Fill the syringe completely with sterile water, shake it, and squirt it out.
    2) Fill the syringe with full strength bleach and squirt a little out. Leave the rest in for 30 seconds, then squirt it out.
    3) Repeat step 2.
    4) Fill the syringe with sterile water, shake it and squirt it out.
    5) Repeat step 4 twice more.
    ( Bleach and sterile water can be obtained from your local needle exchange).

    To dispose of your needle and syringe properly:

    Once a needle or scalpel is used, make sure the cap is put back on and the whole thing is placed in a strong, narrow-necked plastic container (with its lid on) before disposal, so no one handling your garbage gets pricked. You can also use a "sharps" container (see your local needle exchange).

    Electricity:

    Electrical equipment (like the "Relax-A-Cisor" machine or "Violet Wand") probably won’t break skin, so there’s not much risk for getting HIV from it. If it does break skin, wipe up any blood with disposable, sterile cotton balls soaked in hydrogen peroxide, and cover the broken skin with a bandage. Since flexible, sticky electrical contacts pick up dirt from the skin, use them on one person only. If you get body fluids on them, throw them away and get new ones. There is no way to clean them.

    Only use electric charges below the belly button - you don’t want the charge to affect the heart or the brain’s own electric system.

    About this pamphlet:

    We developed this document with the help of experts in the field of education, as well as people experienced in safe, sane, and consensual BDSM. For maximum effect, we have used frank language specifically aimed at the target audience; not to shock but to speak to them in their own words.

    Educational research indicates that this direct, non-judgemental presentation, using slang equivalents of the correct terms, ensures effective use of pamplets like this. In the printed version of this document, we have also used photographs and design to help maintain the reader's interest throughout the text.

    For copies of the illustrated, four-colour version of this document, please contact the AIDS Committee of Toronto (address below) or send an e-mail message to SaferSM@SaferSM.org.

    The development and printing of this pamphlet was funded exclusively by the SM community within Metro Toronto.

    If you have found this document useful, please consider making a donation to the Safer SM Education project (mention the project by name when you send your donation to The AIDS Committee of Toronto). This helps us keep the education going.

    Thank you to these supporters:

    Alternate Sources,
    The Barracks,
    Northbound Leather,
    POWERarts,

    The National Leather Association - Toronto,
    Spearhead Toronto,

    Dan Bowers,
    Michael Hamilton,
    Trevor Jacques,
    Dr. Dale McCarthy,
    Rachael Melzack,
    Dennis O’Connor,
    Sniffer,
    David Stein,

    and the many generous donations made at the AIDS Committee SM101 seminars.

    Special thanks to John Maxwell at A.C.T.

    The AIDS Committee of Toronto Safer SM Education Project
    399 Church Street, 4th. floor, Toronto, Ontario M5B 2J6

    Office:    416-340-2437
    Hotline:   416-340-8844
    TTY/TDD:   416-340-8122
    Facsimile: 416-340-8224
    
    E-Mail:  SaferSM@SaferSM.org
    URL:     http://SaferSM.org/SaferSM.html
    


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