Use the charts on this page to look up sex acts and see what risks they correspond with, and then to look up possible STDs/STIs you may have been exposed to so you know what to get tested for.
Remember that this information is only for when you have 100% unprotected sex with a 100% infected partner. Use these tools to manage what you want to do, or what has already happened, in the least harmful way you can.
Mobile viewing: Apple device users can open the .PDF charts in Safari. Android users can view the embeds below as-is.
Direct .PDF links:
- By Sex Act: Safer Sex Risk Assessment Charts
- Infection Risk Assessment Chart
- Virus Risk Assessment Chart
Lots of people have unprotected sex. Know the facts so you can make the best choice for yourself each time you engage in a sex act. There will be a lot of factors with any sexual encounter you have: you can only make the best choice you can at the time that you make it. That decision is a risk assessment, and it’s never simple.
- High risk means that if the virus or infection is present, you will almost certainly get it.
- Moderate risk means that if the virus or infection is present you might get it.
- No risk means that if the virus or infection is present you are not at risk.
- N/A means that it is not possible to contract this virus or infection with this sex act.
If you think you might be at risk, use these simplified charts (CDC 2011 data) to understand what you might have been exposed to – consult a doctor for a diagnosis:
It’s called “safer” sex because it’s not 100% safe – for birth control or sexually transmitted disease (infections and viruses). Know what you’re at risk for before you decide to take a risk, any risk, whether it’s to use a condom, latex gloves, barriers like dental dams, or go bare.
If you know your risks you can make an informed decision and give informed consent. We also make choices around informed consent. Consent is agreeing to behave in a particular behavior and having the ability to refuse. Informed consent is having a clear understanding of behavior and its potential consequences.
- Use condoms for penetration with penis or sex toys.
- Use latex or non-latex gloves for your hands.
- Use dental dams or saran wrap for surface barriers.
- Use water based lubricant on latex to keep it from drying out.
- Oil (even from hand lotion or food) will cause latex to weaken and break.
- Always change barriers for different partners or orifices. It is possible to spread something on an unprotected, shared sex toy.
- Lambskin condoms are not as safe as latex or nitrile condoms.
Stay up to date by visiting cdc.org and sfsi.org for supplemental information on toys and alt sex acts. Compiled by Violet Blue 1998-2011.
Safer sex gear
Before you put each other’s naughty bits in your mouths or even think about rubbing your bodies together, it’s a good idea to know where these bits have been. But since we don’t all live in a perfect world, in fact, no one does, you’ll want to use condoms, gloves, dental dams or fingercots when you have oral, vaginal and anal sex, when you use or share sex toys, and when you give hand jobs.
When someone pulls out a condom, dam, glove, lube or a ‘cot, you know you’re in good hands. Here are your first line of defense against invading infections and viruses, in short order:
Condoms: Available in latex and polyurethane, in dozens of sizes, colors and flavors. Animal skin condoms do not prevent the spread of some viruses. A condom is a snug sheath that unrolls onto a penis or sex toy. Use condoms for fellatio, vaginal and anal sex, and for covering sex toys that are made of porous materials, or when you want to share a sex toy.
Friends often ask me for my personal recommendations on condoms. I say, find a brand that fits, and stick with it. When I worked in a sex toy store we sold individual condoms and I discovered that the condom of choice for sex workers is Crown Skinless Skin (just changed name to “Crown”) because they are clear, thin and strong. They are still my #1 choice and general purpose favorite.
However, I found in talking to customers over the counter for many years that many men feel more comfortable in condoms that have wider tips – it’s more pleasurable for sex and does not feel uncomfortable for guys who ejaculate more than a thimble. Most men who use condoms like Pleasure Plus, Twisted Pleasure, and Inspiral never go back to standard condoms. These condoms with a “pouch” were also the top choice for uncircumcised men, who would not buy any other kind of condom. If the guy puts a drop of lube in the inside tip before rolling it on, they feel amazing on the receiving end.
I got to be an early user for Lifestyles non-latex Skyn condoms, and they are fantastic, highly recommended if you don’t like or can’t use latex.
Change condoms for different sex partners and orifices — something used anally should be covered with a condom before being inserted orally or vaginally. Don’t re-use your toy condoms. Do not use anything containing oils of any kind where latex condoms may come in contact; however, polyurethane condoms may be used with oils. Always add extra lube when using latex condoms, as they absorb moisture, and keeping them moist is key to keeping them from breaking. You’ll increase sensitivity and both of your pleasure if you add a drop of lube inside the tip of the condom before you roll it on.
Dental Dams: Thin squares of latex or polyurethane used as a barrier for cunnilingus and rimming. Lubricate the genitals, place the dam on top, keep a good hold on the dam and lick to your heart’s content. Available in a few flavors and colors, and in a jam you can use plastic wrap or a condom cut open and laid flat.
Gloves: Use latex or non-latex gloves for hand jobs on any gender. They protect against germs from your hands going onto genitals, can protect your hands from picking up viruses or germs, and make hands a smooth surface free of jagged nails or scratchy calluses.
Fingercots: Tiny condoms made of latex that unroll over a finger to create a sterile surface. Great for on-the-go escapades.
If you choose to go at it uncovered, know what you are at risk for. Swapping fluids is how you infect, and can be infected by, a sex partner — though it is possible to be infected from a used sex toy. Brushing and/or flossing your teeth before sexual activity opens up small cuts in your mouth and gums, putting you and your partner at higher risk.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including Bacterial Vaginosis, Vaginitis, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, Chlamydia and Trichomoniasis can be treated with medications and go away after treatment (though you can infect a sex partner if you are not finished with treatment, and there is a new antibiotic-resistant strain of Gonorrhea).
Sexually transmitted viruses (STVs) including Herpes, HPV (including Genital Warts), HIV, and all strains of Hepatitis (A, B, C) can be treated and managed but not cured, and you carry them for life with constant potential for outbreaks, complications and partner infection. HIV/AIDS is fatal. Make an informed decision!
If someone is infected, or they are having an outbreak and you do not use condoms, gloves or dams, you are at risk.
This STI Risk and Prevention Chart (click on the image for more information and a large view) shows what items – gloves, condoms, etc. – you can use to reduce your risk for everything from pubic lice to HIV: