Getting to know someone new is part of the deal in any relationship, whether it’s about sex or dinner. Where will we meet? What movie would you like to see? Your place or mine? As teens or young adults having sex, any “prevention” focus tended to be birth control. Now we need to talk about sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Oh great.
Determining your own bottom line on safer sex and condom use before you even talk to a partner is a powerful place to start. Learn about safer sex so you have knowledge to inform your decisions. Using condoms can significantly decrease the chances of getting infected with an STI, and you are worth protecting, no matter what a partner says.
Talking to your partner about safer sex is stressful, even for sex educators who talk about sex all the time! Sex is a primal connection between people and the idea of bringing in our past partners and risks can seem mistrustful and a downright desire killer. There’s also the risk of being rejected for bringing it up- definitely not what we’re looking for with a new lover. But whether we comfortable talking about it or not, risk is an issue.
If you need something to start with, that line could work. You can talk about what turns you on, introducing the idea of safer sex and STI testing at the same time. Another script could have you saying “I want to tell you what turns me on…” and include the idea of safer sex. Or you can take Susie Bright’s approach and just assume your partner has herpes (and potentially other things) to make it easier on them and go from there: “We should use condoms so we’re not sharing anything, right? Let’s talk about what else we can do.”
Good sex and safer sex aren’t opposed to one another. Because we’re in our forties, the chances of having been exposed to some STI are astronomical, so why wouldn’t we talk about it? We’re not gaping teenagers anymore. Assume your partner wants sex to be good and safe for both of you too.
Ideally, you want to share info with your partner. Have you both been recently tested for STIs? Does either of you have a STI (like herpes or HIV? Talking about condom use is part of it. You may not want to use them, but they’re the best protection against STIs.
If you and your potential partner have a hard time talking, imagine how uncomfortable you’d feel if you got a new STI. Your health is worth protecting. If your partner isn’t bringing up safer sex, or keen to talk about it, do you want to be with them? If talking about safer sex seems daunting, remember it’s not easy for anyone but it’s wise for everyone. Contact us if you’d like support.
Youshouldknow.ca: Sexual health science, culture and news for women edging to middle age, parents and educators. Info on sexually transmitted infections, relationship dynamics, aging and sexual health, and sex education.
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