Having “The Talk” About Consent And STI Testing

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How do you overcome the awkwardness of talking about sex before you even have it?

megaphone

Photo: Megaphone! by NelietisLV

Discussing consent and STI testing doesn't have to be a public announcement

First things first: Asking for consent

Asking for consent from a partner may be obvious for some individuals, but a fine line for others. If you are hooking up for the first time with someone you do or don’t know, is it important to ask for consent?  The answer is yes. If you are in a relationship or have a steady sexual partner, do you really have to ask for consent? The answer is yes! Consent is the very first step in any sexual act you engage in, and it doesn’t have to be so awkward. As seen by Kristen Jozkowski, you can ask for consent by saying, “are you okay with this?” or “would you like to keep going?”.  Always make sure your partner is comfortable with taking it a step further. If you are considering becoming sexually active with someone, another important topic is STI testing.

Discussing getting tested can be scary

Depending on your level of communication with your partner, discussing STI testing can be a bit nerve-wracking. Knowing your partner’s history is very important not only for their health, but for yours also.  In a perfect world, discussing sexual history should often be done before engaging in any sexual activities, but this doesn’t always work out.  You can open it up but stating, “By the way, I have been tested for …, or “I haven’t been tested recently, have you?”  This does not mean you have to ask your partner about the number of people they have been with, but simply sharing if either of you have had an STI in the past, and how recently you have been tested. Actually knowing this information takes a big weight off of your shoulders. This could open up the doors for more comfort and relaxation with your partner, without the possible health risks flooding your mind. While using a condom during sexual intercourse is highly recommended, STI’s are still a risk for everyone. With this being said, how do you go about addressing this topic?

Fear of blame or assumptions

A few reasons you may fear discussing this topic with your partner is their reaction. What if they think you are assuming they have an STI? What if they take it as you’re concerned about their past? These are questions that could possibly stand in the way of a meaningful conversation. However, these assumptions could be reversed. What if they think you have an STI and are asking to ease into the topic? Whatever the fear may be, do not let it stand in the way of discussing the topic. If you fear there could be any blame or assumption, start by saying why getting tested is important to you. Getting tested ties into sexual health, so you could inform your partner how both of you being healthy is important to you in a relationship.  It’s usually best discussing testing at a neutral time, rather than the heat of the moment. You might suggest going to get tested together. If your partner is still a bit weary, you could volunteer to get tested first to show how much it means to you. Another possibility is getting tested with a friend. This tends to calm the nerves and makes you feel a bit more at ease.

Important for pleasure, too!

Asking for consent may not only reduce the chances of a risky situation, but can also lead to more pleasure during a hookup. When knowing this, why would you NOT want to ask for consent? While it may be nerve-wracking at first, this opens the gateway to more communication between you and a partner. Talking about topics such as consent and STI testing can allow you to see that once you have surpassed that hurdle, communication about other topics may be easier.

 

 

 

Elizabeth M Day

is a graduate student in the MPH program at Indiana University
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