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Is it safe for him to taste my menstrual blood?

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theredmarker asks:

I know having your partner finger you during your period is perfectly safe (while a little messy), but I do have another concern: my boyfriend often puts that finger in his mouth to taste the fluid after he's done fingering. So I was wondering, is it safe to do that while on your period? Like, are there any health risks involved with ingesting the blood? Now I do realize this would be a very small amount of blood, but I'm just curious.

Heather Corinna replies:

Yes, there are health risks associated with ingesting or being exposed to menses, because this is both fluid sharing and also blood sharing, even though menses is more than just blood.

Overall, what you're looking at are the risks associated with unprotected -- without a latex barrier like a condom or dental dam between -- oral sex. Unprotected oral sex, and oral exposure to another person's body fluids, presents a risk of a person contracting or transmitting the following sexually transmitted infections:

Generally, unprotected oral sex with a receptive partner who has a vagina is considered to be lower risk for the transmission of many STIs than is unprotected oral sex with a receptive partner who has a penis. However, once blood is inserted into the mix, you are often looking at higher risks of fluid-transmitted STIs -- like Hepatitis and HIV -- than you would be otherwise. In fact, any of us are likely only at risk for Hepatitis C or D when there is blood involved. Blood sharing is one of those things that puts a person at a higher risk of the more serious and incurable infections, so it is something to consider very seriously and be really cautious about.

If you and/or a partner want to reduce your health risks with sex, fluid-sharing -- be that blood, semen or vaginal fluids -- is something that you will want to wait on until you have both engaged in standard safer sex practices for at least six months.

That would mean six months of sexual exclusivity, six months of using latex barriers for any oral, anal or vaginal sex (or sharing semen, vaginal fluids, breastmilk or blood in any other way), and ideally, one full STI screening for you both at the start of that six months and one at the end. If at the end of that six months, that second screening comes up negative for both of you, you've both stayed sexually exclusive and then remain so, then it's pretty safe to go ahead and fluid-bond if you both want to do that. What any coupld will just want to do regardless is still keep up with those regular screenings -- even if you're exclusive, even if you don't fluid-share, around once a year.

With manual sex (fingering or handjobs), the way to be safe when it comes to preventing infections is to either use latex gloves, or be sure and wash one's hands before and after giving someone manual sex. Either one is fine: it's about your personal preferences. Again, that would also include not tasting any fluids involved.

Because we frequently have users here who have not had previous sexual partners before the partner they are with, if that's the case for the two of you, neither of you have ever been IV-drug users, and you're both up to date with your general health immunizations, your risks of this fluid-sharing are probably minimal. Too, if that's the case, then you also have some wiggle room in that six month plan up there. For instance, if neither of you has ever had any kind of sex with anyone else, one set of screenings is fine and you may not have to wait that six months. As well, if both of you have not had any sexual partners, say, in the last year or two, and had a screening eight months ago, you could consider that screening to be the first one of the two I suggested.

What I'd suggest for right now is that given he has been exposed to your fluids, if he has not started his STI testing, it's time for him to do that. If you have been exposed to any of his fluids, and you haven't started screenings, it's time for you, too. Suffice it to say, even if you have not had known exposure, if you two have been engaged not just in manual sex, but with any oral, vaginal or anal sex, it's time for those regular screenings regardless. Either of you can get screened via your general practitioner (who you see for all your basic healthcare), a gynecologist or urologist, a general walk-in clinic, or a sexual health clinic, such as a Planned Parenthood clinic.

Here are some additional links to fill you both in some more:

written 25 Mar 2009 . updated 08 Jan 2014

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