Button: Pride 2020

Read This Before You Go Bareback (& We’re Not Talking Horses)

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
The term “bareback” is just one in a long line of metaphors comparing horseback riding to sex. There is Big & Rich's “Save A Horse (Ride A Cowboy)” and Ginuwine's Pony,” to name a few. When you think about it, the movements are relatively similar. So it kind of makes sense.
But what do we mean when we talk about “bareback sex”? Basically, it’s sex without condoms, particularly penetrative anal or vaginal sex, though a few Urban Dictionary definitions mention oral sex too. According to Kinkly, initially, the term was primarily used in the gay community to refer to anal sex between two cis men with the same HIV status. But now, many use the term to refer to unprotected sex between people of any gender or sexual orientation. 
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Having sex without condoms means a higher risk of STI transmission than sex with condoms — and if we’re talking about penis-in-vagina intercourse, a higher chance of pregnancy. When used correctly, condoms are about 98% effective at preventing both pregnancy and STIs, according to Planned Parenthood.
Fans of bareback sex say that it just feels better. But because of the STI risk, sex educators say that bareback sex is safest when it’s between monogamous partners who’ve both been tested and know their HIV and STI status — and, if pregnancy is a concern, are using another form of birth control, such as the pill or the IUD.
But let's face it: Not everyone is going to follow this advice, particularly when it comes to oral sex. (Although the chance of STI transmission is lower for oral sex than it is for penetrative vaginal and anal sex, there's still a risk.) If you do have sex with multiple partners without using protection, the National Coalition for Sexual Health recommends you get tested for STIs at least once every six months. If you haven't been tested recently, it's also a good idea to tell prospective partners, so they can make an informed decision about the level of risk they're comfortable taking on. 
While some people automatically see sex with condoms as "more intimate,” not everyone agrees. As Larry Swaider, social media director for The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, previously told Refinery29, “Using a condom means caring about the health of your partner and yourself.”