In the world of sexually transmitted diseases, and sexual health in general, there is a lot of misinformation. The less experienced you are, the more likely it is that there will be some gaps in your knowledge. As a result, many people who have yet to have sex wonder if it is possible for them to contract an STD. Let’s take a look at this topic—it is more nuanced than you think.

Defining Virginity

The first bit of nuance to think about with this topic is: What exactly is a virgin? Yes, we all know it means someone who has yet to have sex, but that begs another question: What is sex?

When thinking about sex and virginity, many people think of losing their V-card strictly as when penetrative sex, or even more specifically as sex when a penis penetrates a vagina, first occurs. But if that were the case, many people not in heterosexual relationships would technically never lose their virginity. 

Other types of sexual contact outside of penis-in-vagina sex are still sex—whether are not society deems participation in them as a metric of virginity status. 

How STDs Are Transmitted

STDs can be transmitted in a variety of ways. With some diseases, sexual contact is the only way the diseases are spread. With others, blood and saliva can also spread them.

When sexual contact transmits an STD, it does not have to involve penis-in-vagina sex. Oral sex, anal sex, and touching the genitals or sexual fluids can all cause STDs to spread. So can things like sharing needles, sharing drinks, and friendly kisses hello, depending on the STD being discussed. 

Can a Virgin Have an STD?

The simple answer is yes—no matter how you define virginity. Some diseases, such as oral herpes, are contracted by people as children due to infected relatives giving them kisses or infected people sharing foods and drinks with them. Nearly all sexual diseases can be spread through sexual activity such as oral sex and mutual masturbation, allowing for those who still consider themselves virgins to contract STDs. While virgins are significantly less likely than those who are fully sexually active to have a disease, the possibility is still there.

What This Means for You

Whether you are a virgin yourself or the person you are planning to sleep with is a virgin, you need to understand that it does not guarantee safe sex. Even someone who has never had any sexual contact could potentially be carrying oral herpes, whether or not they have ever experienced an outbreak. When it comes to partners, there is also the risk that they have engaged in activities that can spread diseases but do not consider them to have been sex, or that they are simply not telling the truth.

Before engaging in sex acts with any partner, you should get screened for STDs. No matter their virginity status or sexual history, the risk is there, and you need to be protected.