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You’re coming back from an incredible date and you’ve decided to take the next step with a new partner. You two are back in your room now and the last thing you want to do is talk about STI’s. Sure, you could avoid the topic all together, but the risks are high and the subsequent stress could be a bigger buzzkill than the harmless conversation. Still, it can feel daunting to ask if a partner’s been tested.
Bringing up the idea of STIs might not seem like the sexiest thing to do, but biting the bullet will undoubtedly save you, and your partner(s), strife going forward. While STIs are a normal part of being sexually active, unexpected infections can be unpleasant and inconvenient. The best way to avoid them is to ask if a partner’s been tested and know their STI status before getting physical. Starting the conversation is difficult enough with your clothes on! You’ll be doing yourself a favor by bringing it up while your mind is more clear and you’re able to address it thoughtfully.
Discussing STI’s before getting intimate may feel unwarranted, or even presumptuous, but by doing so you are prioritizing the health of both you and your partner(s). There were over 2 million STIs last year, and the majority of those cases were asymptomatic. That means that the only way you can know your status is through getting tested. By inquiring about partners’ histories you are not making any assumptions or accusations about their sexual practices (1). Rather, you’re taking practical steps towards a healthy and honest relationship.
If you’re still concerned about sounding accusatory in asking about a partner’s status, consider using the technique of mirroring language and behavior. For example, instead of beginning by asking whether a partner has been tested, consider first offering your history: “By the way, I just got tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia a couple weeks ago as part of a regular check-up. My tests came back negative and I haven’t had any sexual partners since.” Often times, hearing you share your history will be enough to prompt a partner to do the same. Remember to include all of the relevant information that you want them to mirror in their response: the timing of your last test, what you were tested for, the results, and whether you’ve had any sexual partners since.
What if they haven’t been tested? Don’t panic. This is why you had the conversation before the sex. Consider offering to get tested together, not the most exciting date, but potentially the most important. By offering to get tested together, you are simultaneously normalizing the behavior and creating healthy habits together.
Sex is complicated. Why not eliminate all unnecessary stressors? By having open communication with your partner(s) about STI status you rid yourself of at least one worry. Once you’re no longer concerned about exchanging STI’s, you free up brain space for more exciting topics like romance or pleasure. Proving once and for all that safe sex is sexy.
For more dating advice, click check out “How to maneuver dating with an STI.”
1 Cates JR, Herndon NL, Schulz S L, Darroch JE. (2004). Our voices, our lives, our futures: Youth and sexually transmitted diseases. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Journalism and Mass Communication.