There is a lot of misinformation going around about STDs/STIs, and one of the biggies is “the more sexual partners you have, the higher your risk of having something.”
It seems logical, right?
The more people you have sex with, the more likely you are to catch something.
Not at all.
That’s not how science works.
And to be clear, this isn’t what I was actually planning on writing about today. I was going to write about open relationships, and how Mayim Bialik got it all wrong in one video, then got it mostly right in another.
But, as I was reading comments on the second video, I saw quite a few focusing in on the title topic, and remembered a conversation I had on the same topic a while back, and was inspired.
How Risk Of STDs/STIs Works
The relevant statistics are not the number of people you have sex with, but the risk levels of the people you have sex with.
It’s basic disease vector science.
Let’s look at an example of a disease vector I intersected with earlier this year: In late January, early February, the flu was going around. I was quite ill, so I went to the doctor. He thought I might have the flu, but he also thought I might have had a quite severe respiratory infection that may require quarantine.
Now, the reason he thought I might have the flu is obvious: So many people near me in North Carolina had the flu, and I was a breathing human.
However, the reason he had me tested for that nasty respiratory infection was not because I was breathing around so many people in North Carolina, but because I had a 12-hour layout in the Middle East on my way back from Thailand (and naturally had to breathe once or twice while there), and that put me at risk.
The issue was not that I breathed (had sex) but that I breathed (had sex) with a high-risk group multiple times for a period of time, without taking precautions like a mask (condom, papers) that might have reduced my risk to almost nothing.
This is how disease vectors work.
It’s not how many people you breathe around (sleep with).
It’s how many people you breathe around (sleep with) that pose a risk.
AND, factors like personal immunity and health always play a factor as well.
Let’s look at two extreme examples…
First, the person who have had sex 100 times, but only protected sex with untouched virgins.
I’m not sure this person exists, truthfully. However, I’m making a point.
Second, the person who has monogamous unprotected sex with one person (ever) with syphilis.
Who’s more at risk of STDs/STIs?
Obviously, the second person.
(Unless the first person made out with someone with mono, shook hands and then touched their eye with someone who has a herpes outbreak and had just touched their genitals (perhaps in the washroom, without washing, slept on the same sheets as someone with crabs, or ate food carelessly prepared by someone with hepatitis, etc.)
And if that second person has sex multiple times with the same infected partner, their risk increases through multiple exposures.
Still, our faithful here is not 100% guaranteed to get syphilis, based on their having that sex, even multiple times. Some people have immunities and barriers that protect them in ways that are not yet fully understood by science.
Just as some people rarely get sick (I rarely do), and some get sick quite regularly.
So, to recap, it’s not the number of partners you have sex with, it’s how risky your sex is multiplied by their risk factors and so on.
And according to some, that is a HUGE risk, suggesting that even one male partner in his twenties can equal sex with 479,201 people. And that’s one partner.
The fearmongering crowd can be quite vocal.
As they say in finance…
“Past performance does not equal future results.”
Just as in investing, the number of people someone has slept with does not equal their history of STDs/STIs, nor does it suggest that they will continue that exact same rate into the future.
People change. Motivations change. Hormones and desires change.
So, in closing,
You have an absolute right to choose your own safety level for you.
Choosing your personal boundaries when it comes to the sex you have, how safe it is, and what sort of disclosure you want from your partner about current interactions and status is 100% OK.
Just don’t think you can beat actual diagnoses and science by simply totting up their bangs.