Q&A: Pregnancy Risk With Dry Sex

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QUESTION: My girlfriend and I are engaging in dry sex. She has panties on with boxer shorts and I have worn boxers as well but also have been naked. I am getting a lot of mixed signals about the pregnancy risk from dry humping when I look for answers on the internet. I have not ejaculated, but am aware that some pre-seminal fluid exists in my shorts. What are some birth control methods we could use for better peace of mind? Would a condom be a good choice or will it just rip off during the rubbing?

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Although sperm are very good swimmers, they’re not supernaturally good – I have yet to hear of a case where sperm have swam through both boxers and underwear and resulted in a pregnancy.

Defining “Dry Sex”

I imagine one reason why you might be reading conflicting information on the internet is because it’s impossible to know what exactly people are doing when they say that they are having dry sex, or any other type of sex for that matter.

And what people do can change from time to time – even with you and your girlfriend, sometimes your dry sex has meant that you both have clothes on and other times it has meant that she has underwear on but you are completely naked.

The more clothes that come off, the more the potential for pregnancy exists if men’s and women’s genitals come together, and the guy ejaculates. So in the absence of knowing what exactly people are doing, you can imagine why sex educators, nurses and doctors are a little cautious about describing pregnancy or infection risks for dry sex.

Consider Birth Control

That said, I think you are very wise to consider more reliable methods of birth control, particularly since it sounds like you two sometimes take things a little further than planned, like when you’ve wound up naked. And you’re absolutely correct that if your semen were to get near her vaginal entrance, then there could be a risk for pregnancy, even if you didn’t have vaginal intercourse.

Using a condom is certainly one strategy – it would provide a barrier between your semen and her vagina. It is possible that a condom might tear, particularly since dry sex involves more friction than intercourse, and you should check the condom here and there to make sure that it is still intact.

Applying a bit of water-based lubricant on the condom, once it is already on your penis, can reduce the risk of the condom breaking or tearing.

There are also a range of hormonal contraceptives that your girlfriend might consider such as the birth control pill, patch, ring or shot. The best form of contraception is one that you two can use consistently and correctly, so issues about convenience, access, ease of use and cost are important to consider.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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