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Risk-o-meter

Use the risk o meter control below to explore which elements of sexual behaviours fall into which category. Just click or tap on the appropriate low, medium or high area.

 
 
 

Low Risk

The following behaviours and activities are classed as low risk.

Virtual sex

As there is no physical contact during virtual sex (also known as ‘cyber sex’, ‘online sex’, ‘phone sex’ or ‘sexting’) there is no risk of sexually transmitted infections to either partner.

However, there are other risks:

  • Some may make your sexually explicit posts, pictures, chat or video public
  • Your real life relationships could be put in jeopardy if you’re engaging in virtual sex with someone other than your regular partner
  • Sexual predators could use online information to find you in the real world.

Find out more about safer virtual sex.

Medium Risk

The following behaviours and activities are classed as medium risk.

Masturbation

When practised between partners, masturbation is a medium risk activity, but is a no risk activity if you do it alone.

If you masturbate by touching or being touched by a partner:

  • wash your hands before and after with soap
  • be careful not to spill any semen or vaginal fluids
  • use plenty of condom-friendly lubrication
  • avoid touching the eyes, mouth, nose or any broken skin.

Find out more about safer masturbation.

Oral sex

Most sexually transmitted infections can be passed on through unprotected oral sex. It can be low risk if you practise safer oral sex.

The risks from oral sex can be reduced if you:

  • always use a fresh condom or dental dam
  • change the dam or condom if in use for a long time
  • refrain from oral sex if there are any signs of infection or
  • refrain from oral sex if the person giving it has any cuts or sores in their mouth.

Find out more about safer oral sex.

Using sex toys

Using sex toys is a medium risk activity for most sexually transmitted infections if you share them with a partner. There's no risk if you use them alone.

The health risks from using sex toys can be reduced if you:

  • always cover the toy with a fresh condom before use
  • change condoms before swapping toys with a partner
  • use plenty of condom-friendly lubrication
  • only use well-made toys displaying the European safety CE mark.

Find out more about sex toys.

High Risk

The following behaviours and activities are classed as high risk.

Anal sex

Having unprotected anal sex, whether you're a man or a woman, is a high risk activity for almost every sexually transmitted infection.

You can reduce the risks of anal sex if you:

  • always use a condom
  • use extra lubrication
  • never share anal toys without a fresh condom
  • don't touch your face, genitals or any cuts or wounds before washing your hands.

Find out more about safer anal sex.

If you've had unprotected anal sex, you should consider getting tested.

A burst condom

A burst condom puts both partners at risk of sexually transmitted infections. Women having sex with men also risk pregnancy if a condom bursts.

Reducing the risk of a condom burst:

  • make sure it's properly unrolled
  • squeeze the air out of the 'teat' before putting it on
  • keep your fingernails short and smooth
  • use extra lube suitable for use with condoms
  • never use oils, oil-based lubricants, or oily foodstuffs during sex.

Find out more about safer condom usage.

Group sex

Having sex with lots of partners increases the risk of catching a sexually transmitted infection.

Group sex will always be risky.

You can reduce the risks if everyone:

  • always uses a condom
  • gets tested regularly
  • never shares toys without a fresh condom.

Find out more about safer group sex.

Vaginal sex

Having unprotected vaginal sex carries a high risk for both partners for most sexually transmitted infections.

Reducing the risks from vaginal sex:

  • always use a condom
  • use lots of condom-safe lubrication
  • change condoms before switching to oral or anal sex.

Find out more about safer vaginal sex.

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