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Can Fingering Give me An STD?

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Updated May 21, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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Question: Can Fingering Give me An STD?
Answer: Probably. There is almost no published research addressing the question of whether fingering (digital-vaginal penetration, manual penetration, heavy petting, whatever you want to call it) is a risk factor for STD transmission, but logic says it should be. The risk should be lower than for other activities such as oral sex or naked frottage, but fingering is certainly not risk free.

It is difficult to do studies on the risk of fingering, because very few individuals have only experienced fingering as a possible method of STD exposure. One study that looked at HPV and fingering examined the HPV risks of fingering in virgin girls and found them to be relatively low. However, since that study only looked at one type of HPV, and the number of virgin women who had experienced vaginal fingering was small, it would be premature to assume that fingering was entirely safe.

If you intend to practice vaginal fingering or anal fingering, there are ways to make it safer. Those who choose to not wear gloves or finger cots should at least consider washing their hands between touching their own genitals and their partner's.

Sources:
Rylander et al. "The absence of vaginal human papillomavirus 16 DNA in women who have not experienced sexual intercourse." Obstet Gynecol. 1994 May;83(5 Pt 1):735-7.
Marrazzo et al. "Sexual practices, risk perception and knowledge of sexually transmitted disease risk among lesbian and bisexual women." Perspect Sex Reprod Health. 2005 Mar;37(1):6-12.

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