As a leatherworker and a bootblack, one of the most common questions I'm asked is "how do you sterilize leather?"
On one hand I'm happy to know that people are mindful enough to know that it is important to keep toys clean, but on the other hand I can't help but wonder WHY do you really need to sterilize your toys?
Yes the obvious answer is to stop the spread of STDs, STIs, and other transmittable conditions, however unless you're playing with someone who has an STD/STI that can be spread through bodily fluid exchange, sterilization is unnecessary.
Because of this I've started to wonder, how many people are asking about their partners' STD/STI status?
When is the last time you asked?When is the last time you asked a play partner if they had a bloodborne pathogen?Most commonly people remember to ask if they are doing needle play, cuttings, or any other play that involves intent on breaking the skin. Those aren't the only types of play that involve fluid exchange though!
If you're worried about your leather toys getting bodily fluids on them, why aren't you asking the important questions before hand?
What about rope scenes? How often do you see a crotch rope being used? Sure, the rope usually gets handed off to the bottom, but is the top wearing gloves? Not likely, and I'm fairly certain they didn't ask the important questions before the scene either.
Take a moment and think. When is the last time you asked?In a world where STDs and STIs exist, it is imperative that you ask the question: "Do you have any bloodborne pathogens I should know about?"
Remind your potential bottom that a "yes" doesn't mean you can't play together, it just means you have information you need.
Far too often people don't want to ask because they assume:
The above reasons, are bullshit.1. "If they have something, they'll tell me." - The idea of coming up to someone and admitting you have an STD/STI, is terrifying. While it doesn't excuse not sharing that information, it does give you something to think about. With how often people are blamed and shamed for "not being clean" it is imperative that we make sharing that information less threatening and remind our partners (current or potential) that the play doesn't have to be negated because they have an STD/STI. There simply needs to be other arrangements made to prevent transmission.
2. "They might lie to me, so why ask?" - If you can't trust your partner to tell you the truth of their STD/STI status, don't play with them. This shit is important and lying about it isn't acceptable. Again, a "yes, I have x condition" DOES NOT NEGATE THE ABILITY TO PLAY!
3. "Our play won't get that intense" - Well, then you better make sure it doesn't. If you negotiate ahead of time that no fluids will be exchanged, then you better ensure that you don't deviate from that plan. For one, that involves a change of consent mid-scene, and second because now you have to figure out how to deal with bodily fluids you might not already be prepared for.
4. "Oh I forgot to ask." - Simply unacceptable. Make it part of your regular negotiations and this will never be a problem.
5. "I'll just clean it afterwards anyways, so there is no need to ask" - While there is no real harm in continuing to ensure that your toys are clean, why do extra work or quarantining that may not be necessary. If there are no STDs/STIs present to worry about, then sterilizing is unneeded. If there are, then you can plan ahead for the cleaning, or use toys that clean easier for the times that bodily fluids will be involved (ie: use a rubber toy after breaking the skin rather than going back to leather, especially since leather isn't often the material used to break skin in the first place).
In conclusion, simply asking and communicating about STDs/STIs in a non-threatening manner goes a long way in making your play safer.
It is time to stop making excuses, and start communicating.Just ask!
Ignixia is an international kink and alternative sexuality educator. The following blog entries range from educational information and resources from her classes to daily musings had on things occurring in the world.