My partner and I recently changed our safer sex/barrier practices which, of course, brings up the conversation of fluid bonding and what that means in the context of our relationship. It’s been a conversation flitting around the periphery of my experience lately because I’ve been sleeping with (and having more conversations with) people who are assigned male at birth and, once again, found that my experience, in all its delightful queerness, is somewhat out of the ordinary.
When I started having sex, I was having what was considered unprotected sex with assigned female at birth people: no dental dams, no gloves, no condoms on toys. I got schooled pretty heavily by my godmother about safer sex practices, but I wasn’t always good about it- especially dental dams. It’s no secret that I absolutely detest dental dams, although I think they are important and have their place, and will always, always use them if that’s a part of someone’s sexual health and safety practice.
When my partner and I decided to become partners, we had a discussion about being fluid-bonded and what that meant to us. And for the past 6 years, that meant no penetrative sex without barrier protection (condoms, gloves, etc.) and no oral sex without barrier protection (condoms, dental dams, etc.). Because I dislike dental dams so much, I tended to not have a lot of oral sex, but beyond that, had no issues with those boundaries.
Around January, we decided to change our practices- with test results and discretion, we could opt in to having non-barriered oral sex and digital penetration (while still using condoms for flesh cocks, toys, etc.) Holy fuck, I was excited (and still am, let’s be honest). I was starting to have sex with assigned male at birth people and this felt like a really nice kind of… not so much “freedom,” exactly, but it certainly felt less restrictive.
What I didn’t know (and have since learned) is that this seems to be the standard for non-fluid bonded partners outside of the queer scene. This completely confused me.
I guess, for me, because sex hadn’t really been penis-centric, my definitions of fluid-bonded haven’t been either. But I think it’s more than that. It’s not just about what body fluids come from what bodies, but for many, “fluid bonding” is about a level of intimacy. I guess I find it interesting that certain acts are considered “more intimate” than other acts: eg PIV/PIA is more intimate than sticking your face in someone’s bits and going to town.
And yes, there is absolutely a level of trust with unprotected PIV around pulling out and/or birth control and/or testing and/or communication about other sexual partners and risk exposure. Absolutely. But in my life, I have never been fluid bonded to anyone with an attached penis (I’ve never had unprotected PIV/PIA sex)… But I’ve absolutely been fluid bonded to my partner, and I don’t consider that less intimate.
The norms change, based on what cultures and subcultures you’re a part of. And as someone from queer culture, how fluid bonded had been defined is vastly different than how it seems to be defined outside of that. And I wonder if this doesn’t feel like a subtle delegitimization of queer sex- that how we fuck is considered…I don’t know… less intimate, in ways, when compared against non-queer penis and vagina-having partners. Like…how we fuck as queer people, how we negotiate and what lines we draw…those things are non-discussions outside of that (at least, for many).
Maybe, maybe not. I don’t have any solid conclusions, except that it’s a really strange world that I find myself floating around in. As much as I hate dental dams, it’s interesting to not have that be a question that’s asked. It’s interesting that gloves aren’t assumed. It’s strange that these conversations are not more commonplace- even in the kink scene. If my protection protocols were the same as they were before January, I would have to be doing a lot of asserting my own boundaries, rather than being asked and having conversations about them. I’d have to be doing a lot of work to combat assumptions- which, for me, can sometimes feel like I’m letting someone down or ruining the mood. It feels like saying, “this thing is important to me, even though it’s clearly not important to you.”
Is that bad? Not in my life; I’ve felt comfortable interacting in every sexual situation I’ve interacted in, and we should feel comfortable asserting out boundaries when we need to. But as a general practice? Maybe we should all get a little better about asking, instead of assuming and/or hoping someone will speak up. After all, we ask limits for all other manner of kink things; queer or not, why not make it common practice to ask about someone’s comfort level and boundaries around bodily fluids?
Less assumptions, more conversations. Sucking someone’s dick is not, for me, less of a sexual act than sticking it in any other orifice. So why do we treat it like it is?