Let me admit something right from the start. I love having sex without barriers. I, like many other people, enjoy the way it feels. I think it provides a closer connection to my partner and it’s just plain hot. I also acknowledge the amount of risk that goes into being barrier free or ‘fluid bonded’ with a partner is much higher. Most sex educators will agree that if you are monogamous with a partner and you both have been tested and are using proper birth control methods, that not using condoms is a viable option. When polyamory or multiple partners are added to the equation, the lines become more blurry. To most medical practitioners having multiple partners puts you into a higher risk category for STDs.
Polyamory is amazing in so many ways. You have the love, support and affection of multiple people. You are also adding a lot of variables to your sex life. Multiple partners who have multiple partners and those partners probably have multiple partners. A long chain is formed that at least for me doesn’t make unprotected sex worth it. It only takes one break in the chain for a whole polycule to enjoy some nice chlamydia.
My point with all of this doesn’t actually have to do with risk factors. It has to do with boundaries and rules. I try to conduct my poly lifestyle with very few rules that restrict my partner’s behaviour. You won’t hear me tell a partner they cannot spend the night with their date, or that they can only have oral sex with me. However, there is one place where I have a very strict rule that some might debate with me about.
Your Choice, My Choice to Set Protected Sex Boundaries
My “rule” or boundary is that I prefer to be fluid bonded with only one or two partners at a time. I don’t want to have unprotected sex with them if they have unprotected sex with any of their other partners. This doesn’t make them my primary, it doesn’t make them more important than my other partners. Who I am fluid bonded with can change. I have chosen to do this to limit my risk factors, as I cannot control or keep track of the entire polycule and partner chain. I might trust my partner to tell me what he is doing with who, but how can I trust his partners and his partner’s partners? I do not expect any of my partners to be fluid bonded with me, but if they decide it’s something they would like there are some boundaries I have put on myself that protect my sexual wellbeing.
So once a lover and I have decided we want to be fluid bonded this is what happens:
- We both get tested again (I’m saying again because I usually exchange results with partners before we have any sexual contact). We have a discussion about our sexual history (who have we been fluid bonded with before, have we ever had an STD or any other relevant sexual health history information). We exchange results, sometimes even in writing.
- We have a conversation about sexual activities with other partners. Including down to things like ‘do you wash your hands before touching yourself if you have came in contact with bodily fluids’ and ‘what is your screening process for other partners’
- If all of this goes according to plan, we can begin having sex without barriers. This can be revoked at any time. Not as a punishment but if there is any change that either of us deems important.
Some polyamorous people might bristle about this, and say that I am controlling what my partner is doing too much. They might argue that I am controlling what my partner does with other partners, because they will be swayed by the loss of unprotected sex with me if they do it with someone else. I say that is bullshit. It’s my body, and I have a right to consent to what risks I expose myself to. If I want you to use a condom and you refuse, I can say no to having sex with you. Even if I was doing this to “guilt” you into not sleeping with someone else, it is still my body and no one has a say about who I give or do not give sex to no matter the reason.
When I am fluid bonded with a partner, I am very careful to practice safe protected sex with everyone else. I don’t want to expose my partner who is putting a lot of trust into my hands. I think it is perfectly reasonable to hope for similar treatment from my partner. I also don’t need or expect someone to ever have unprotected sex with me if they disagree with my philosophy. I have many partners who I will always use barriers with and I’m still perfectly happy to be sexual with them with protection.
I think the main takeaway is just that you shouldn’t do anything that puts you at risk that you aren’t comfortable with just because it will be limiting your partner’s behaviour even indirectly. Your actions never exist in a vacuum, and as much as we would like poly to work without having influences that change our partner’s behaviour with other partners it just doesn’t work that way. Disagree with me or wholeheartedly agree, the bottom line is your body is your own and you choose what you do with it.