Does poly dating mean a higher risk of catching an STI?

Sep 24 '2021, 2:48 PM | By Chris
Does poly dating mean a higher risk of catching an STI?

When humans transitioned from nomadic hunter-gatherers to stationary agriculturalists, populations grew, and STIs spread more easily. There’s interesting research that postulates humans shifted to monogamy due to higher sexually transmitted infection (STI) rates under the previous polygamous society.

Why? In ancient communities where STI checks, medication, and sex education weren’t invented yet, this change makes sense. However, other factors could have triggered the change from polygamy to non-monogamy. 

Nevertheless, most people today associate consensually non-monogamous relationships with higher risks or instances of STIs. With potentially more sexual partners, this seems like a harmless, logical assumption. When you think about it, though, it’s detrimental to polygamy’s reputation. So how true is this assumption?

Comparing STI rates in monogamous vs. polygamous relationships

Perform a Google search and you’ll find that research on STI or STD risk in polygamous relationships isn’t too extensive. Some articles focus on animals’ non-monogamous mating patterns. Others focus on very specific communities outside of the United States. I did discover some credible information, though.

One study by The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that people in consensually non-monogamous relationships have more sexual partners (naturally), but they also take more precautions against STIs. They practice safer sexual habits overall compared to people in monogamous partnerships. These safe habits include getting tested regularly and using condoms with all of their sexual partners.

My takeaway: People in polygamous relationships might be more likely to be exposed to STIs because of a higher number of sexual partners, but these same people are more responsible, too. I take this to mean that STI rates are more or less the same between both types of relationships - at least according to current research.

In other words, polygamy dating might technically put you at a higher risk for an STI just because of the number of partners in the mix, but polygamous couples and polyamorous partners are more careful about sex than monogamous couples. Frankly, researchers haven’t conducted enough studies to make a definitive statement. For now, it all comes down to personal responsibility.

What do I do if I contract an STI?

Poly dating is synonymous with openness and honesty. We’re willing to talk positively about sexual health, history, and status. If you test positive for an STI, disclose your test results to all recent sexual partners. It may have been a one-nightstand or a group affair - make sure to tell them so they can get tested.

Common STIs

STIs are common and are harmless if treated on time. Here are the most common ones in the US.



Human papillomavirus (HPV)

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)

When left untreated, bacterial or viral infections can evolve into diseases. These diseases are more harmful, and some are untreatable. Note that many online publications use STI and STD interchangeably, but the main difference is that some diseases originate from an infection.

Genital herpes



What do I do if my sexual partner contracts an STI?

First, don’t panic. Sometimes even if your partner has an STI/STD and you engaged in sexual activities before they found out, you might not get it. Either way, getting tested is the responsible thing to do. If you’ve been intimate with a different person, make sure to let them know, too.

How often should I get tested?

The minimum is once a year. If you have multiple sexual partners (as is the common case in poly dating), it’s every three to six months. Whenever you connect with an individual, couple, or group on Sister Wives and want to get intimate, everyone should take an STD screening before taking that step.

What can I do to lower my risk of an STI/STD?

There are several steps you can take to protect you and your partner(s) against STDs.

Get tested regularly.

Like we mentioned above, the minimum is once a year but every three to six months if you have multiple partners.

Always use protection when necessary.

Note that condoms do prevent some STDs, but infections like genital and oral herpes can spread through other means. Also, consider dental dams for oral sex.

Be honest about your relationships.

Consensual non-monogamy requires openness and effective communication above all. If you have multiple relationships, keep them updated about any STI scares or positive tests. They (and you) have a right to decide for themselves what sexual risks they’re willing to take.

Get the HPV and hepatitis B vaccine.

The HPV vaccine is administered to children when they’re 11-12 years old. Anyone can get the vaccine before they turn 26. If you’re over 26, you might want to consult with your doctor - this vaccine helps prevent genital warts and certain cancers.

The hepatitis B vaccine is usually administered to infants. Older children and adults can get vaccinated, too, depending on your sexual activity and other risk factors. This vaccine helps prevent hepatitis B, which can be transmitted both through sexual and nonsexual means.

Use separate towels and other personal items.

Certain infections like herpes, hepatitis B, and HIV can spread through nonsexual ways. For instance, sharing needles, participating in skin-to-skin contact, sharing utensils, and platonic kissing can put you at risk of catching an STI.

Take care around recreational drugs/alcohol.

Certain drugs and large amounts of alcohol are known for releasing inhibitions. Unfortunately, in an altered mental state, we’re more likely to engage in risky behavior like unprotected sex or sexual intercourse with partners who haven’t been tested.

My advice? Always surround yourself with people you trust, and when in doubt, take yourself out of the situation while you’re still sober.

Seek proper treatment and complete it.

Most STIs are treatable with simple regimens like taking a pill once a day or applying a topical cream every few hours. However, these treatments are usually only 100% effective if you follow the doctor’s orders to a T. 

So if you’re currently weathering an STI storm, hang in there! In the meantime, read more about sexual health in polyamorous relationships for other issues beyond STIs.

Published By: Christopher Alesich 

Matchmakers Inc:


Sep 25 '2021, 2:03 AM
Great article.
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