Being fluid-bonded means that partners don’t typically use barrier protection during sex with one another. Fluid-bonding is an umbrella term that can apply to people of any sexuality with any number of partners at any given time. The term “fluid-bonded” does not typically apply to two people who have just hooked up for the first time – rather, it applies to a relationship that is previously established, and the decision to be fluid-bonded often conveys a desire for the relationship to be long-term and committed.
Something important to establish when discussing fluid-bonding is that unprotected sex is not required to establish a higher level of commitment in a relationship. Using barrier protection is does not lessen how partners feel about one another, and isn’t always indicative that your partner is planning to sleep with other people. You can absolutely trust your partner(s) but still choose to practice safe sex with them for a variety of reasons. Fluid-bonding is not a way to “prove your love” or show how much you trust your partner. Fluid-bonding does not need to be considered to be the “natural next step” in a relationship once the commitment level is escalating, because it is always a highly individualized choice that isn’t right for everyone.
Many people make the decision to become fluid-bonded using information from their own and their partner’s health status. Not all STIs present with obvious symptoms, so the best way to get full information about your health status is to go in for a comprehensive STI test, which is often available at lower costs in community health centers or your local Planned Parenthood. It’s important to know which STIs you want to be screened for, because often medical providers do not screen for certain STIs like Herpes, HIV, Hepatitis, and HPV unless you present active symptoms or specifically ask them to do so. With a full screening you and your partner will know exactly what you’re working with, and will be able to make informed choices about safer sex techniques.
Fluid-bonding doesn’t apply to intercourse alone. If you are practicing safe barrier sex then you’re using protection during oral sex, too. Any form of ejaculate may carry an STI such as Hepatitis that you could catch if you have a cut or sore in your mouth, and other bodily fluids like urine and blood present the same possibility.
Fluid-bonded couples still have the option to use barriers in their play; it doesn’t make them any less fluid-bonded. One partner may bring dental dams because they have herpes and wish to protect the others from it during an outbreak, or perhaps condoms are still the preferred contraceptive method of a couple that swaps fluids in some other way. A commitment like fluid-bonding doesn’t mean that you have to come into contact with fluids every time you have sex.
Whether you decide to swap fluids in a sexual relationship or not, it is always important to know your status and decide on the safety of your sex beforehand. Informed consent is important!