Fluid bonding is a common term in polyamory safe sex discussions. Fluid bonding commonly means having sex without a condom or other barrier method. The idea being that your fluids are mingling and joining together.
In hierarchical poly relationships, fluid bonding it usually reserved for the primary couple or group. In egalitarian or solo poly fluid bonding is a sign of a highly entwined relationship and a great deal of trust. It is also a potential minefield.
Fluid Bonding and STIs
One of the more popular discussed reasons for fluid bonding is it reduces the risk of getting infected with an STI. By only having barrier-free sex with people you trust, you get some of the benefits of a closed relationship (barrier free sex, lack of worries about infection with the people you have sex with most often) while still being open. So far so good, right?
Here’s where the trouble comes in: barriers are not 100% effective in preventing STIs. For instance, the last time I checked the research, male condoms were believed to be 80% effective in reducing transmission of HIV. 80% risk reduction is damned good—but it is not risk-free. And barriers still only protect against some STIs. It is still possible for people in fluid bonded relationships to pick up an infection and spread it to their fluid bonded partners.
Whether or not you are fluid bonded, you still need to get tested, regularly.
Fluid Bonding and Pregnancy
Whether or not you prefer to practice fluid bonding, pregnancy throws a wrench in the works. Some people rely on fluid bonding to prevent pregnancy outside the “main” relationship. Some people prefer not to fluid bond, but want to have a baby. In both cases, it is vitally important to remember that there is no such thing as 100% effective birth control.
I’ve harped on this point until I’m blue in the face. The vast majority of people who think they are protected from unexpected pregnancy, aren’t.
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use fluid bonding as part of your birth control plan. It does mean you need to be honest with yourself about the risks of whatever approach to birth control you choose.
Fluid Bonding and Assumptions
Fluid bonding requires using barrier methods with everyone other than your fluid bonded partners. Simple, right?
Well, if your partner agreed to fluid bonding because they were worried about pregnancy, they may not see a need to use dental dams. You, in the meantime, are trying to reduce your STI exposure and assume barrier methods are being used with all genital contact. Can you say “Recipe for drama?”
Whatever your reason for fluid bonding, check your assumptions at the door. Make sure you and your partner(s) are on the same page about what you expect. Whether your relationship is built on agreements or boundaries, don’t let assumptions bite you on the ass.