Expert Answers Factual Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions

Anonymous on August 15, 2011

Is it possible to get STDs by taking a shower with someone or just fooling around?

I’ve decided to remain a virgin until I marry to avoid complications associated with STDs and pregnancy. But I’ve met someone with whom I enjoy "fooling around with." I am wondering if I can contract any STDs from sharing a shower with him (his penis rubs against me but does not enter my vagina), or him using his fingers in me after touching himself.

answered by
Linda Lesondak, PhD on August 15, 2011

First of all, I commend you for taking steps to keep yourself safe from STDs. You’re right that you can reduce your risk of STDs and unintended pregnancy by not having sex, or when you do have sex, being in a monogamous relationship (in which both of you are STD free).

That said, here are some thoughts to keep in mind:

Some STDs, like herpes and genital warts, can be spread through skin-to-skin contact with an infected person...in addition to unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex. As well, these and other STDs often don’t show signs or symptoms for a long time. So, unless your partner has been tested for STDs and you’re sure that he’s STD-free, there is no way of knowing whether he has an infection that could be passed to you through genital rubbing in the shower (or even oral sex).

In fact, many people who have STDs don’t realize they’re infected because they feel fine and they don’t see anything unusual on their bodies. For example, 80% of people infected with one type of herpes – HSV-2 – don’t know they have it, according to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Bottom line? If you’re worried that you might have been exposed to an STD, I would encourage you and your partner to get tested for a full panel of common STDs. If one or both of you tests positive for an STD, don’t panic...many STDs are curable, and all are a treatable. And the sooner you get any necessary treatment, the sooner you’ll be able to feel health and avoid any potential health risks from untreated STDs.

If you both test negative, and if you’re sure you’re in a mutually monogamous relationship (sexual activity with only each other), then the activities you described in your question are unlikely to put you at risk for STDs...although you may want to use latex condoms, anyway, to avoid an unwanted pregnancy that can sometimes result from heavy petting.

For more details about STD risks and prevention, check out our Expert Guide to STD Basics.

Hopefully this information has been helpful to you. Thank you for writing, and I wish you the best of health.  

Related Info:

Linda Lesondak, PhD

Dr. Lesondak is a Community Psychologist with the Chicago Department of Public Health. Her areas of expertise include STDs, HIV, preventive care, public health and community planning, as well as human sexuality and women’s health. Dr. Lesondak was educated at Georgia University in Atlanta.

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