In our culture, sex is everywhere. From billboards used to sell cheeseburgers to cable television steamy hookup scenes there seems to be an underlying primal component to our society. Being sexually active is a natural part of the human experience but it materializes in very real consequences for individuals who partake in unsafe practices. It is a conundrum that openly discussing the mechanics and repercussions of sex is such a taboo. We like to glorify our bodies and simultaneously condemn anyone who brings up the physicality of intercourse. Due to this phenomenon it’s not surprising that while people are partaking in sexual acts, they are reluctant to discuss the subsequent consequences.
Sex is not a one way street – it takes two to tango. To optimize safe sex, people need to be on the same page with their sexual partners. Whether you’re with someone you have been dating consistently or met spontaneously, it is equally important to be able to communicate openly about safe sex. For many, the thought of discussing contraception and STIs with their partner is more daunting and awkward than having an intimate physical relationship. These tips to opening the communication will make the conversation productive and not awkward.
Be confident with what you want – and say it!
When it comes to opening the discussion, don’t be afraid to say what you want with junction. Be firm with what matters to you and your body. The mantra “Your body, your rules” applies in full here. Having respect for yourself will show your partner the type of respect you demand of them, and the respect you’re willing to dole out to them as well. Don’t be ashamed to ask for the things that you want, because ultimately participating in safe sex benefits both parties. Honestly is a huge component of any relationship – openness about your past relationships, emotions, and personal boundaries for safe sex will help your partner meet your expectations. People are not mind readers – give your partner the opportunity to meet your needs by explicitly sharing them.
Break the STI stigma cycle.
“You think I have STDs?!” This knee-jerk reaction has been heard too many times by individuals asking their sexual partners of their sexual history. People are intimidated when asked to be tested, asking them to be medically examined insinuates their lack of personal health practices or suggests sexual promiscuity. The ugly truth is that STIs do not discriminate. They are blind to your personal and sexual habits, and often, they lay dormant. People often like to claim, “I think I would know if I had something.” Unfortunately, this is a fallacy. Many STIs lay dormant for months after they are contracted. Men especially can carry STIs that are harmless in the male body but can manifest in females. Just because you aren’t itchy and have no visible bumps doesn’t mean you are marked safe from STIs. It is important to remember that STIs usually remain undetected for the first few months that they are contracted, in some cases longer. There is no face of STIs – anyone and everyone who is sexually active is at risk of contraction. Neutralize your risk, and your partners, by opening the conversation.
Ask about getting tested.
When was the last time your partner had an STI test relative to their last sexual experience? You will never know unless you ask. Whether you are entering a long-term relationship with your partner or a fleeting hook-up you should feel comfortable with this question. As mentioned earlier, STIs are ambiguous and illusive. Assuming you’re “clean” without medical examination is risky business. If you feel your partner has neglected regular check-ups, perhaps suggest that you go together for an examination. Often times, it is much less intimidating to get STI tests together than alone, so make sure your partner knows you’re holding yourself to the same standards. If you have doubts about your partner’s sexual history, be sure to use a condom. Condoms are the only form of contraception that also prevent STIs.
Bring your own condoms.
Speaking of condoms – BYOC! Expecting your partner to have the protection that you demand is an unworthy gamble. When the moment comes, be prepared with condoms or other forms of protection you like to use. If you’re setting a standard for safe sex with your partner, making it available shows the respect you have for your body. Once the heat is on, nobody wants to make a run to a pharmacy.
A person that respects you will not hesitate to meet your needs for safe sex. Remember the mantra your high school health teacher taught you – safe sex is good sex.
When it comes to safe sex, knowledge is power and prevention is key. If you would like to learn more about contraception, STIs, and discuss your options for safe sex, the experts at the Women’s Aid Center are eager to help. The Women’s Aid Center also offers STI testing. Please call our offices at 773-725-4232 to arrange an appointment today.