Can Dry Humping (Frottage) Lead to HIV or Other STIs?

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

What’s the short answer?

Yes, you can contract HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from dry humping.

But don’t swear off this super-hot and not-just-for-horny-teens sex act just yet.

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There’s more to it than getting your grind on and — BAM — an STI.

What exactly do you mean by ‘dry humping’?

Dry humping. Dry sex. Frottage. Smashing. Pants burning.

These are all names for rubbing/grinding/thrusting your genitals against someone — or something — in the name of sexual gratification.

It’s also considered a form of outercourse.

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Anyone can do it. There are all sorts of fun variations, beginning with clothes or no clothes.

Then there are the endless options for getting your frott on, which can include delightful moves like:

  • intercrural intercourse, which is fancy talk for thrusting your penis between your partner’s thighs
  • rubbing your genitals against theirs, be it penis to vulva, penis to penis, or vulva to vulva (tribbing) in various positions, like missionary or scissoring
  • hot-dogging, in which one person slides their peen between a partner’s buns
  • bagpiping, which involves placing a penis in the armpit
  • tit f*cking, which involves sliding the peen between two smooshed breasts

Isn’t it supposed to be safer than penetrative sex?

We need to get this straight.

While dry humping is generally a lower risk activity than penetrative sex, it’s NOT completely risk-free.

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If pregnancy is your only concern, then dry hump on, friend. STIs are a whole other story.

Penetration doesn’t need to happen to transmit an STI. STIs can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or fluid exchange.

Dry humping while fully clothed is safe, but any state of undress increases your risk, because bodily fluids could seep through fabric.

If you’re itching to dry hump and want it to be 100 percent risk-free, consider a solo smash sesh, and rub and grind your naughty bits against any nonliving thing that feels good.

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Think pillow, the arm of your couch, that ridiculous stuffed parrot you won at the fair, etc.

As long as there are no zippers, buttons, or sharp edges, anything that feels good is safe and fair game.

Actually, there’s a risk of fabric burn with enthusiastic drumping, but that’s a small price to pay for such pleasure, no?

Just how likely is HIV in this scenario?

If you don’t have any slip-ups — or slip-ins, in this case — there’s little risk of HIV transmission from dry humping, especially with your clothes on.

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To transmit HIV during frottage, the bodily fluids of an HIV-positive partner would need to touch the mucous membranes or damaged tissue of an HIV-negative partner.

Mucous membranes are found:

  • inside the vagina
  • opening of the penis
  • the rectum
  • the mouth, including the lips
  • nasal passages

Damaged tissues could include sores, cuts, or open wounds on any part of your body.

What about other STIs?

Yep, you can get other STIs from dry humping, too.

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Skin-on-skin genital contact can transmit STIs like:

  • human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • herpes simplex virus (HSV)
  • trichomoniasis (“trich”)
  • syphilis
  • crabs
  • chancroid

Exchange of bodily fluids can transmit:

  • gonorrhea
  • chlamydia
  • HPVHSV
  • trich
  • hepatitis A and B

What about STDs?

Left untreated, most STIs can become symptomatic and develop into a disease — aka an STD.

So, yes, developing an STD from dry humping is possible.

Is there anything you can do to reduce your risk for contraction?

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Keeping your clothes on during a smash sesh will help. It eliminates the possibility of skin-to-skin contact and makes the risk of fluid exchange low.

Still, a talk with your partner about your status (and theirs!) is important before engaging in any kind of sexual activity.

Is there anything you can do to prevent transmission to a partner?

Absolutely!

You’ll want to take the same precautions that you would for penetrative sex, and use barrier methods like condoms and dental dams.

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And just to hammer it home: Discuss your status with your partner before gettin’ busy.

What should you do if you think you were exposed?

Early detection and treatment significantly reduces your risk for complications and infecting your partner(s), so see a healthcare provider for testing as soon as possible if you think you were exposed or have symptoms.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • unusual discharge or bleeding from the vagina, penis, or anus
  • itching or burning in the genital region
  • testicle pain or swelling
  • painful urination
  • abnormal vaginal bleeding, like between periods or after sex
  • painful intercourse
  • bumps, warts, sores, or rashes in or around the genitals, anus, buttocks, or thighs

Some infections can also cause you to feel lousy with flu-like symptoms, or cause swollen lymph nodes in your groin or neck.

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Enlarged lymph nodes are actually one of the first signs of HIV infection.

While good to know, keep in mind that other infections — sexually transmitted and otherwise — can also cause lymph nodes to swell.

To check for STIs, your healthcare provider will begin with a visual and manual exam to check for signs of infection. Laboratory tests using samples of your blood, urine, or fluids can be used to confirm an STI and detect any coinfections you might have.

Different infections become detectable at different times, depending on their incubation period. Your doctor may schedule other tests at a later date.

Negative result
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If you tested negative, then you’ll want to stay on top of screening by having regular STI testing, especially if you have a new or multiple partners.

Your healthcare provider may make different screening recommendations depending on your individual risk level.

Positive result

If you test positive for an STI, you’ll be given a treatment or management plan depending on what’s diagnosed.

The most common STIs are caused by bacteria and easy to treat. Most can be cured with a course of antibiotics.

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Antibiotics don’t work on viral infections. While some can clear on their own, most are long-term conditions. Antiviral medication can usually manage and relieve symptoms, and reduce the risk of transmission.

Some other STIs caused by something other than bacteria or viruses, such as crabs, are treatable using oral or topical medications.

Your healthcare provider may recommend you be retested to ensure the treatment worked and check for reinfection.

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