What does "as close as you can get with safe sex" mean? I read this sentence in "Hannibal" from Thomas Harris, the original is

Our informant's close to the family situation, like, he's very close, as close as you can get with safe sex.

Is this phrase an idiom?

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    Compare it to how close you can get without safe sex. Jan 24, 2013 at 10:59
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    Not an idiom, no, but I've seen other analogies to things being extremely close without actually touching by referring to something extremely thin. For example a 'cigarette paper' apart.
    – user24964
    Jan 24, 2013 at 11:09
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    The difference between safe sex and unsafe sex is the thickness of a condom or rubber or whatever you want to call it. That's how close. It's an analogy. Jan 24, 2013 at 13:26
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    Thanks, guys! The analogy like this is really hard to understand for someone who isn't a native speaker.
    – Nanbing
    Jan 24, 2013 at 18:33
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    This is Too Localised (or perhaps just Off Topic). It's not about English as such - it's just a matter of having sufficient powers of understanding to recognise the metaphoric juxtaposition of social and physical "closeness". Jan 24, 2013 at 23:08

1 Answer 1


This is not an idiom, but rather a coarse metaphor, referring to being separated by something as unobtrusive as a condom (supposedly feels like it's not even there!).

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