“Fluid bonding” is a relatively new term for uprotected sex, but experts warn it carries the same old risks.
The phrase refers to when people deliberately, consciously have sex without condoms or other barriers, sometimes for the purpose of greater intimacy of connection. But doctors say that kind of intentionality doesn’t protect against sexually transmitted diseases.
“It’s important to know that fluid bonding can put partners at risk of STDs,” Dr Elizabeth Boskey writes in VeryWellHealth. “That is particularly true if their prior STD testing is not comprehensive. Not all doctors test for all STDs, but not everyone realizes that, so testing can give you a false sense of security.”
The term “fluid bonding” has gained currency in recent months, particularly as the pandemic has waned and in-person dating has slowly returned. Experts say that for some partners, unprotected sex can sometimes – but not always – signify a higher level of trust in the relationship.
“Some monogamous couples believe that fluid bonding is a way to enhance intimacy,” Dr Boskey says. “However, there is nothing inherently more intimate about having unprotected sex in comparison to safer sex. Many couples have great intimacy for decades without exchanging fluids.”
But some believe the very use of the phrase “fluid bonding” shows that a couple is forgoing protection for a specific reason.
“Usually, unprotected sex is just a sort of casual, barrier-less erotic experience without the communication and intention that we’re doing this for a purpose,” Dr Jenni Skyler tells MindBodyGreen. “When people go to the lengths to call it ‘fluid bonding,’ then they have a language that has already brought awareness to the concept.”
But language alone doesn’t protect against STDs. When deciding whether or not to “fluid bond” with one’s partner(s), Dr Boskey says, it’s a good idea for everyone involved to get tested.
“If you are considering becoming fluid bonded with a partner, it’s important to discuss your sexual histories openly and honestly,” she says. “It’s also important to discuss your commitments around sexual exclusivity and or practicing safe sex. Be realistic about what you can and can’t do in your relationship.”
On the other hand, Dr Boskey says, forgoing the fluids and practicing safe sex instead should not be seen as a sign of distrust.
“Fluid bonding should never be a way of proving your love or your trust,” she writes. “Why would you even start to discuss the possibility of having unprotected sex with someone if either love or trust was a question?”