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Some BDSM activities carry a very real risk of infection.


There are two main vectors for this infection:

  1. Infection through sexual, anal, or oral contact,
  2. Infection through broken skin (via torn skin, weals, burns, or abrasions)


The most likely infections from sexual, anal, or oral contact are:

  • Herpes
  • Hepatitis
  • H.I.V.

The most likely infections through broken skin are:

  • All of the above
  • General wound infection

Broken skin

The skin is the main barrier the body has to infection. A number of BDSM activities can and do cause the skin to be penetrated or broken. This can allow infections to enter.

Activities which intentionally breach the skin

Activities which may consequentially breach the skin

What gets in and how it gets there

Regardless of how well an area of skin is cleaned beforehand and regardless of how well implements used are cleaned, there is always the risk of a passing bacteria or germ wafting into a wound and multiplying. Generally, the body will deal well with this kind of infection, and even if it can't, antibiotics will generally do the trick.

Of more concern are infections carried from one person's body to another. These can be difficult or impossible to cure once they have taken hold. Infected saliva or blood products from one person can be carried to another via:

  • Improperly-cleaned implements, such as knives or needles
  • Implements which have soaked up blood or saliva in the past, such as leather floggers, canes, cloth gags, etc.


Blooding is the term used when an implement has been exposed to the blood of a person, such as a flogger which caused someone's skin to break during a heavy session. Such implements should not be used on another person until they have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.

Some private individuals, particularly those without the resources of a professional BDSM establishment, will put aside a "blooded" implement and in future reserve it solely for use with the person whose blood contacted it.

Good BDSM establishments instead will customarily clean and properly disinfect implements after use with each client.


  • Safe sex practices can generally protect well from infections passed via sexual, anal, or oral contact (e.g. condoms)
  • For activities which intentionally break the skin, disinfecting the skin area, all implements, and using disposable needly tips (which are discarded after play), serve well
  • Consider using disposable latex gloves, and slipping condoms over anything (dildo, penis, or other) which might go in a hole