Stop Saying “Fluid Bonded”

Posted: July 21, 2017 by Isaac Cross in Advice, Learn Something, Philosophy

Note: Each use of the term “Fluid Bonding” in this article will link to different articles on the same topic and which are relevant to what is being discussed here. Click each one for further reading. 

I literally heard the term “fluid bonded” for the first time from the very first people I met in the community about 11 years ago. I still hear it thrown around constantly. It’s a term that means wildly different things to different people and it causes problems. So you shouldn’t use it.

The thinking behind the term goes something like this:

At a certain point in our relationship, we will decide that we matter enough to each other to stop using barriers with things like sex or blood play, after which point, we are “fluid bound/bonded”. This is both symbolic, similar to the “blood brothers” traditions of old, as well as practical (save money on condoms). In both cases, it’s supposed to represent a greater intimacy and connection and act as a sign of a “more serious” relationship.

That sounds all sweet and meaningful, right?

But here’s the thing about that. The term is only used by non-monogamous people or kinksters who play outside of there otherwise monogamous relationships. And there’s a reason for that, a reason which is the first of several problems with it.

Territorialism

It’s a way to enforce couples privilege and control your partner. Since the two of you are “fluid bound” and regular expose each other to your goop, it gives you the right to control who else they swap juices with and/or keep others at arm’s length altogether.

I have literally heard people claim they were the victim of a consent violation because their partner had unprotected sex with someone else “without their consent”, even though they immediately told them about it.

Let me be clear about this. I don’t care if you are “fluid bound”. I don’t care if you’re married. YOU DO NOT OWN YOUR PARTNER OR THEIR BODY. And what they choose to do with it is up to them and the people they do it with. The only people whose consent is required are the people whose bits are rubbing together.

“But Cross,” I hear you saying. “If they get an icky disease, that will affect me, too. So shouldn’t I have a say in the risks being taken?”

No.

What you DO have a right to is to set your own boundaries and control your own safety. And do you know how you do that? By practicing the same safe-sex practices that you insist they use or choose not to have sex with them at all. You have a right to say “If you have unprotected sex with others, then you may not have unprotected sex with me.”

Anything more than that runs off of the central assumption and attitude that YOUR pleasure and YOUR ability to have unprotected sex without worry is more important than ANYONE ELSE having that same privilege. So what’s so special about you? Your genitals got there first?

Nonsense.

And you know what else?

That’s not how STI’s work

Many people define being fluid bound as “I have everything he has.” The idea being that they don’t have to worry about safer practices with each other, because they already share anything they might have to worry about.

But no, probably not. “Fluid Bonding” isn’t a permanent, forever thing.

You’ve POTENTIALLY been EXPOSED to anything they have. But you haven’t necessarily contracted it. Each time you have unprotected sex (or other high transmission risk behavior), you increase the likelihood of actually contracting whatever the other person might have. But what the other person has or not is constantly changing, especially if they have sex with other people.

Lots of STI’s can also be contracted in other ways. You could touch something that someone else bled on and pick up HepC. You could have protected sex or oral sex and catch herpes. So, your “fluid bound“, “I have everything she has” status is only good for as long as neither of you are exposed to anything else in the world. So… a few minutes? Maybe.

Obviously, sexually monogamous people have less exposure risk. But if you pretend that having unprotected sex is the only possible way to compromise the sanctity and purity of your DDF status (Don’t even get me started on fallacious ‘one penis policy’ safeguards), then you are sadly mistaken. And you probably use that as…

An Excuse To Not Get Tested

Getting a full STI screening is a hassle and can be expensive. But many cities have free or low cost options available. Hey Denver, for instance, offers free screenings and will be set up all weekend at our local kink convention.

In any case, regular testing is critical to truly safer sex. Whenever you are doing high-risk behavior with someone, whether that’s blood play or sex or anything else, part of your negotiation should include when your last test was, what was tested for, and what the results were.

And yes, that includes people in mostly monogamous relationships. As I said before, you can be exposed to things in ways you might not expect. You should be tested at least annually to stay aware of what risks you are exposing to play partners or sexual partners. And if you discover that you have something, you should disclose it to any partners you may have exposed to it since your last clear test. That’s grown up behavior.

If you regularly play with blood, work in a high-exposure-risk field, or have multiple sex partners, you should probably increase the frequency to every six months, or even quarterly. Even if you are “fluid bound” to the only person you fuck. Your doctor may be reluctant to order STI tests that seem unnecessary. There are actually good reasons for this. So, be honest about your ethical slut status and insist on it. I literally tell my doctor(s), “I have multiple sex partners and I regularly engage in activities that involve blood with people I don’t know very well. So I would like to be tested for STIs and Blood Borne Pathogens regularly.”

But let’s move beyond the practical to the philosophical.

“Fluid Bonding” Isn’t The Pinnacle Of Intimacy…

A lot of hierarchy-driven couples insist that they should be able to control who their partners “fluid bond” with because they view it as an intrusion into a specialness that they share. As if that person’s unsheathed genitals will somehow corrode their relationship.

But y’know what? It’s just sex. Seriously. It one specific type of physical touch. Sex is nice. But it’s not everything. And keeping your partner from having sex or “fluid bonding” with someone else is not going to stop them from falling in love with that person. It’s not going to stop them from experiencing intimacy. And it’s definitely not going to stop them from deciding to leave you because you force them to accept arbitrary rules like restricting behavior which doesn’t affect or concern you.

…Nor should it be treated as inevitable or irrevocable. 

That’s not to say that deciding you don’t want to be (or stay) “fluid bound” with someone isn’t absolutely your right. If someone’s lifestyle seems a bit too risky for you, or if one of their partners has something that you don’t want to risk exposure to, you can say no. And that should be respected. And it’s ok if that NEVER changes.

The other thing that’s ok is changing your mind. Even after you’ve been “fluid bonded” to someone, you can decide at any point that you are no longer comfortable with high-risk activities with them. You don’t even have to have a good reason. It’s your body.

Bottom Line

Using the term “fluid bonded” puts an inappropriate weight on the act of unprotected sex and other exposure-risk activities. It makes it seem that the activity is more important than it is while trivializing the risks of other activites, ignoring responsibility to monitor your own status, and engaging in hurtful couples’ privilege behavior that, like a child’s security blanket, gives you merely the illusion of safety.

So forget “fluid bonding” and remember these best-practices instead:

  1. Treat every exposure as meaningful and risky, not just the first. Lots of things can make a person sick, and people are exposed to things in between sex sessions.
  2. Remember that you don’t own your partners’ bodies and they have a right to do with it what they choose, as you have the right to yours. If your partner is taking risks you don’t approve of, you can increase the level of safety in your interactions with them or you can leave the relationship. But you have no right to tell them what they can or can’t do in situations that don’t involve you.
  3. Honesty and integrity in relationships means informing your partners if you have engaged in high-risk behavior. It also means getting tested regularly and disclosing the results to your partners and potential partners.
  4. Establishing, communicating, and enforcing your own boundaries is a healthy behavior and an important relationship skill. By doing so, your partners can make choices knowing the implications it will have, but without being treated like a child that needs your permission to stay out past curfew or kiss a boy. However, remember that boundaries only extend to your own behavior and what you are willing to do or be a part of. Restricting behavior that doesn’t directly affect you isn’t a boundary, it’s a rule reflecting either an insecurity or a problematic territorial attitude.
Comments
  1. aggiesez says:

    Excellent essay, this linguistic sleight-of-hand has bugged me for years. When sexual health gets tokenized to become a symbol of relationship rank/strength, it serves none of those goals.

  2. beachelf says:

    I agree with this. My last relationship ended because SO did not communicate change in status per #3 above. I think the responsibility to communicate a change in an agreement to a partner lies with the person who changed (unilaterally, sometimes,) the agreement. It is fine if a partner wants to change an agreement, even unilaterally, but to not communicate the change compromises the other partner’s autonomy to make informed decisions about consent. People need to understand that when then people deceive others into having barrier free sex by failing to proactively provide full disclosure about discontinuation of barrier protocol agreements, this is tantamount to rape.

  3. Mario Dionne says:

    Gee, imagine that….even those whom would normally be totally cool with lgbtq++=-123 Are starting to get alittle sick with all the terms floating, be it orientation or relationship status. Maybe this should be abit of a wake up call for you people not to get so fuckin offended when “normal” people dont get it right. Or dont know it exists to begin with. You see it everywhere now. Smug early twenty yuppies who basically ONLY know these terms and not much else, walking around causing trouble for those just trying to live their damned lives.

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