From the iconic pool sex scene in Showgirls to the steamy hot tub make out in To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before, movies can make getting busy in the water look really appealing… but there are a few risks of having sex in the water that never make it onscreen.
While sex on the beach (or in an ocean, lake, pool, hot tub, or shower), can be a turn-on, the presence of water adds a few difficulties. It might seem counterintuitive, but sex in the water actually washes away natural vaginal lubrication — meaning that while your skin and hair might be wetter than usual, your vagina won’t be. The usual risks that come with having sex — pregnancy (for P-in-V sex), STIs, and irritation — don’t disappear in the water, and in some cases, may be increased.
All this doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t have sex in the water — but if you do decide to go for it, you should be knowledgable and prepared. We talked to sex educator Erica Smith (no relation, although she has almost the same name as me) to get the facts.
Does water kill sperm?
“There is a pervasive myth that water and/or chlorine kill sperm and it's not true,” says Smith. Having sex in the water doesn’t reduce the risk of pregnancy or STIs. However, sperm can’t live long outside the body. If someone ejaculates in the water (not in their partner's vagina or anus), the sperm will die within a few minutes. But if someone ejaculates inside a vagina or anus, that sperm is very much alive.
Can you get an STI underwater?
“Remember that you can still get STIs or become pregnant when having sex in water,” Smith says. It’s a good idea to take the same precautions when having sex in the water as you would when having sex on dry land (or in a bed). Barrier methods like condoms help reduce the risk of STIs.
Can you get pregnant underwater?
You can. “Once sperm leaves the body of the person who ejaculates, it dries up quickly, so it's not going to swim around and impregnate someone who is swimming,” Smith previously told Refinery29. “However, if two people have sex in the pool, and one person comes inside a vagina, you can still absolutely get pregnant. The pool isn't going to kill the sperm that goes directly into the vagina.” You can use condoms or hormonal birth control to help reduce the risk of pregnancy (if you’re having P-in-V sex).
Can you catch an STI underwater?
Just like pregnancy, the risks of catching an STI don't go away just because you're in the water. However, you might have heard that you can catch an STI just from being in dirty hot tub water — this isn’t true. Just as you won't catch an STI from a toilet seat, you won't catch an STI from dirty water: you need to have sexual or skin-to-skin contact to transmit an STI.
However, having sex in the water can increase the risk of other types of infection, such as a UTI. “What is in that lake or hot tub? Bacteria! The water could get thrust inside the vagina during sex, and the microtears and abrasions make you more susceptible to infection,” Smith explains. “UTIs, bacterial vaginosis, and a yeast infection could be potential outcomes. Not to mention the discomfort of sand in crevices where you don't want sand.”
Do condoms work in water?
You can use a condom in the water, with a few caveats. “If you're having penis-in-vagina sex and want to use a traditional condom, that will be okay in most water, but the addition of silicone lube is recommended because the friction (created by lack of vaginal lubricant) could cause it to break,” Smith says.
She adds, “A condom wouldn't be as effective in a hot tub — hot chlorinated water may interfere with its durability. Note that condom manufacturers don't test condoms in water or chlorinated conditions, so the extent of their durability there is anecdotal.”
You should put on the condom outside the water, but wearing it in the water means that it may be more likely to slip off. “Have extras on hand in case yours floats away!” Smith says. “Internal condoms (sometimes called ‘female’ condoms) are a better option because they are more likely to stay put, are made of durable polyurethane, and you can insert them before you even put on your swimsuit.”
How to have sex in the water
If you’re having penetrative sex in the water, it’s a good idea to use a silicone-based lube (water-based lube would get washed away). “If you don't have silicone lube but want to get down anyway, just be aware that the vagina may experience irritation due to the water's interference with natural lubrication,” Smith adds. “This could mean microtears, abrasions, or irritation after the fact.”
Sex in the water might also mean you’re at risk for slipping — ouch! “If you're having sex in the shower plus using lube, please be careful about falling,” Smith says. “That lube could end up near your feet and cause slipping; get one of those anti-slip tub mats for safety.”
If all this makes sex in the water sound a lot less appealing, we’ve got a new suggestion: foreplay in the water. “Sometimes it's best to start things up in the shower and then finish up on dry land — that can be just as hot,” Smith says.