In the common usage of HIV-affected communities, the terms "safe," "safe sex," and "safer sex" refer to sexual activity in which the risk of acquiring HIV, the pathogen which causes AIDS, is inherently low, or is made lower by the use of some intervention, most commonly a condom.

Over time, however, popular journalism's use of these terms has tended to blur the distinction between HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.

For example, in this "Question and Answer" which appears on, Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, director of STD Prevention and Control Services at the San Francisco Department of Public Health, describes "mutual masturbation" as "safer sex":

Kissing and mutual masturbation

by Dr. Jeffrey Klausner

Q I had a sexual encounter with a guy. We kissed and engaged in mutual masturbation -- we held each other's cocks, we rubbed our cocks together and even had cum on our hands. Am I at risk of getting HIV or any other disease?

A It is very rare that STDs like herpes or genital warts are transmitted via mutual masturbation. What you describe is generally considered to be safer sex and carries a very, very low risk for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis.

Because the question is framed in terms of "HIV or any other disease," Dr. Klausner somewhat arbitrarily includes five other sexually transmitted infections -- herpes, genital warts or HPV, gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis -- in his answer; but notice that he juxtaposes "safer sex" with "a very, very low risk for HIV."

Because, strictly speaking, that's what's at issue when the question of "safe" or "safer sex" is raised: HIV.

So, when we say in the Alliance that Frot is "safe," we do not mean that it's impossible to acquire a sexually transmitted disease through Frot -- even though one's chances of doing so are *extremely low*, as this STD risk chart, also prepared by Dr. Klausner for, makes clear.

By "safe," we are referring to the fact that there's never been a documented case of HIV transmission via Frot.

Occasionally, "gay health" websites and "safer-sex educators" will state that it's possible to acquire this or that STD via frottage.

Remember, however, that there's a big difference between "possible" and "likely."

For example, we know that the prevalence of human papilloma virus or HPV, which causes anal cancer, is 30 times greater among men who are anally-receptive than among the general population.

And that 57% of HIV-*negative* anally-receptive gay men carry HPV.

Clearly, anal penetration greatly facilitates the acquisition of HPV.

In general, there's universal agreement that anal penetration is the highest risk "sex" act two men can perform; and that frottage is lowest risk.

To repeat:

Anal is highest risk.

Frot is lowest risk.

What does that mean in human terms?

In my case, I've been a sexually active Frot man for 33 years.

I've NEVER had an STD.

And most particularly, and as I describe in Hyacinthine Love, I had a very passionate Frot relationship with my first lover Brett Averill, who, unbeknownst to us, was already infected with HIV when we met in 1982, and who subsequently developed frank AIDS and died of the disease in 1995.

We practiced Frot daily and often more than once daily for most of the time we were together.

We were very passionate.

And we never used any sort of protection.

In addition, I had other Frot partners who were HIV + and who later died of AIDS.

Yet I remained and remain HIV negative.

As did literally thousands of other Frot men whose partners succumbed to HIV.

So: Frot is "safe" -- HIV safe.

In addition, many of my partners almost certainly had herpes and HPV, the virus which causes genital warts, since during the time I was most sexually active these pathogens were extremely common in the gay male community.

Yet I was infected with neither.

That's why Klausner says,

It is very rare that STDs like herpes or genital warts [HPV] are transmitted via mutual masturbation. What you describe is generally considered to be safer sex and carries a very, very low risk for HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis.

So, while it might be possible to acquire HPV through Frot, it isn't likely.

If it were, Klausner would say so.

Not only, then, is Frot a very low risk or "safer sex" activity, Frot is also the most mutually genital and mutually satisfying sex act two men can enjoy.

So why, given the very high risk and very low pleasure, choose anal?

Readers who wish to better understand the role of anal penetration in the concurrent epidemics of sexually transmitted disease which afflict the gay male community may refer to our Man2Man Alliance policy paper, an anus is not a vagina, Part 1: The Biology of Anal Penetration.

Finally, those readers who wish to avoid any chance of acquiring a sexually transmitted pathogen are reminded of our statement in Why Be Faithul:

No sexual behavior outside of fidelity to one uninfected lifetime partner can confer absolute protection.

However, I would add, experiencing Frot with a partner whom you know well and whom you know to be free of STD is, in terms of disease, safer than going to work in an office.

© Copyright 2011 by Bill Weintraub.
All rights reserved.