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How To: Safe Manual Sex

How To: Safe Manual Sex

Jan 07, 2024

Manual sex means pleasuring someone using your hands. This can include a hand job, fingering, and even something as intense as fisting. For many, manual sex is the first sexual experience that they have. Because of this, it is usually not conducted safely.

There’s a false assumption that the only type of sex that can cause pregnancy or STDs is genital-on-genital contact. But that’s simply not the case.

The Risks of Manual Sex

The risks of manual sex are certainly nowhere near as prevalent as those associated with other forms of sex. But can you still get pregnant from manual sex? Yes, although the likelihood is very small. You would have to have touched your vulva with a hand dripping with fresh semen for it to work. But it still can.

As for STDs, the risk factor here is a little bit higher than the one for pregnancy. In particular, the following STDs spread well using manual sex:

  • HPV
  • Chlamydia
  • Syphilis
  • Herpes (simplex 1 and 2)

But the most common consequence of manual sex for either partner? Infection. For folks with vulvas, bacterial vaginosis is a big one, but yeast, and even UTIs can also be a problem. Here are some tips on how to keep yourself safe, no matter what genitalia you have.


The first step of safe manual sex is clean hands. When giving a hand job, this seems pretty straight forward– all you have to do is wash your hands with antibacterial soap.

But if you’re interested in fingering someone with a vulva, you’ll have to take a few extra precautions.

First, you’ll want to cut your nails short. Nothing cuts a good fingering session short like suddenly feeling like DJ Clit scratched the record too hard! Don’t just cut them– use an emery board to make sure they’re nice and smooth as well. Sometimes, cut nails can feel jagged on the sensitive clitoris.

You will also want to make sure that your hands are scrubbed clean. This includes beneath the nails. Invest in a nail brush to make sure you’re spic and span before going to town. Any invasive bacteria that gets in there can be a real pain in the vag, and can even cause some serious problems down the line.

For any types of manual sex, you’ll want to make sure you don’t have any open sores on your hands, like the blisters caused by dyshidrotic eczema– you know, those little, clear blisters that are pretty common when it’s cold out. STDs and harmful bacteria can be passed between genitals and open sores.

The problem is that sometimes, cuts, like paper cuts, can be so small you might not even know that you have them. Go Ask Alice recommends washing your hands with lemon juice prior to engaging in unprotected manual sex. If there is any stinging when you do so, that is an open wound and it should be covered before going into any orifices or contacting any genitals.


There are multiple products you can and should use to protect yourself and your partner during manual sex. The first is latex or nitrile gloves. Just like a condom or female condom, these will protect you from spreading disease or bacteria into the genitals, or from the genitals to your hands.

If you’re just inserting a finger somewhere and you find entire gloves to be uncomfortable, many pharmacies also sell finger cots, also known as finger condoms. These little latex pods look almost exactly like little tiny condoms, but they slide down your finger instead of your winger.

If you don’t have gloves or finger cots available to you, you can always use a condom. Sticking your entire hand in one may be uncomfortable for you, so limit yourself to a couple fingers. A female condom is another great alternative, since you can insert it in your partner’s body and then insert your fingers into the condom.

Manual Anal

Manual anal sex can range from simple fingering to full-on anal fisting. There’s an extra special challenge when it comes to manual anal though in the form of bacteria.

The anus is one of the main ports for bacteria in the body. As such, having unprotected manual sex can run an especially big risk of infection. The other problem is that the anus produces no natural lubricant, so being particularly rough, including fisting, can open wounds in the anus itself.

To ensure that you’re having safe manual anal sex, always make sure that you’re wearing gloves, or at least finger cots. Additionally, make sure you use plenty of silicone lube on your hand or fist. Read about why we suggest silicone over water or oil-based lubes for anal in our Lube Guide.

Finally, remember that pain is the body telling you it’s had enough. While sometimes it can feel good to push yourself past your pain limits, remember that the anus is very sensitive to tearing and that tearing can become infected. Remember, taking care of your health should always come before pleasure.

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