Sex Science Facts 101: Can I Get An STI From Public Toilets?

No. The chances of getting an STI from peeing in a public bathroom are in the incredibly low-to-no range. Could the organisms that cause chlamydia and gonorrhoea infections be present in people's urine that's splattered on the seat? Yes. But are those organisms going to find their way into your urethra or vagina? Not unless you rub the tip of your urethra (or vaginal entrance) on a contaminated toilet seat. Who does that?

Having worked in a family planning clinic, every STI case I ever came across was transmitted from sex. STIs are passed primarily through oral, vaginal and/or anal sex. Unprotected anal sex with an infected partner poses the highest risk of infection, then unprotected vaginal sex, and finally unprotected oral sex. And while condoms offer strong protection against HIV, chlamydia and gonorrhoea, they are less effective at protecting people from passing syphilis, herpes and the human papillomavirus because condoms can't possible cover all of the possible sites of infection, such as a person's pubic mound, a man's scrotum or a woman's labia. As such, regular STI testing is recommended — especially if you're in the market for a new partner or think your partner has other partners.

Famous sexologist and Gizmodo friend Dr Debby Herbenick will answer your sex questions this month. Every day, Dr. Herbenick will give you a solid, scientific answer to commonly asked questions.

Dr Debby Herbenick, author of Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction, is the Co-Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion in the School of Public Health-Bloomington at Indiana University (IU) where she is a Research Scientist. She is also a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction where she writes (and hosts audio podcasts of) the Kinsey Confidential column and coordinates educational programming. She has a PhD in Health Behavior from IU, a Master's degree in Public Health Education (also from IU) and a bachelor's degree in psychology from the University of Maryland, College Park. In addition, she is certified as a Sexuality Educator from the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists.

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    Ahhhh, ok, thought I'd clicked on the wrong website for a moment, so to get things back on track for Gizmodo.... Question for Dr Debby Herbenick, can you catch an STI from a Nexus 4? Answer, no it's impossible because unlike STI's, they are actually really hard to get.

      You sir, are win

        I second that emotion.

          Well in all fairness, it really depends on how the Nexus 4 is used...

            Fair enough, perhaps we better edit the Dr's words a bit then.....
            Not unless you rub the tip of your urethra (or vaginal entrance) on a contaminated Nexus 4.
            Now that would make a great advertising poster!

            Last edited 05/12/12 12:51 pm

    "Not unless you rub the tip of your urethra (or vaginal entrance) on a contaminated toilet seat. Who does that?"
    Oops, I am not supposed to do that? Where all the warning signs?
    And again, thanks a lot to a solid science!

      Government Health Warning. 'Do not rub urethra on toilet seat' :P

    .... haha this has always bugged me...

    isn't it both technically and reasonably possible that when you are doing a number 2.. that the splashage from a plunker could splash the toilets water onto your private parts and you make contact that way??

    What about when your penis is so big you can't help but let it touch the toilet seat when you sit down to take a crap?

      Ahh yes, the toilet bowl's 'dick spot'. It's a cold and unnerving surprise to an otherwise relaxing moment.

      You two wouldn't have any problems then :P *I jest

        Oh no I don't experience this problem at all. I was only thinking out loud.

          I don't experience that problem either. I experience another problem. It's called an Belgium Dip :P

    For men sitting down on the toilet, it is a very common experience for a penis tip to brush the plastic of the toilet seat. I would be interested to hear the Dr's position on the chances for men, considering frequent contact between the male urethral entrance and possibly contaminated toilet seats.

      It's always bothered me that whoever designs toilets seems to completely overlook healthy clearances for even the average semi-flacid western penis. People with XXL members must have quite a challenge. Using one hand to keep Percy pointing perpendicular is unacceptable. And still no guarantee there won't be a cold surprise.
      Girls: always bitching about your man splashing when he pees? It's subliminal contempt for something we paid for, can't live without, is cemented into our life like a stone, is used once a day when we are most vulnerable, and often completely fails us in a manner we simply can't talk about. With anyone.
      ...Except you Internet, old chum, old pal. We can tell you anything. We know you understand.

      Nah, size matters! Mine goes way dipper :)

    So the correct answer is yes, it is possible to catch an STI from a toilet. Yes and No are absolutes, it either is or isn't and in this case Yes it is possible although hard and unlikely.

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