Discussing safer sex with your partner
Although it may be difficult, having an open and honest conversation with your partner is the best way to protect your sexual health and reduce your risk.
When you bring it up, you may discover that your partner has been wanting to talk about it as well.
What makes discussing safer sex so difficult?
- You may be afraid that your partner will mock you, put you down, call you names, or refuse to have sex with you.
- You may be having sex with someone you just met or do not want to discuss safer sex with.
- You might believe that having a safer sex conversation will be a "downer."
- Your partner might believe they are not at risk of contracting a STI. In reality, anyone of any gender, sexual orientation, race, socioeconomic status, or occupation can contract a STI.
- You or your partner may believe that hormonal birth control methods, such as the pill, are sufficient to prevent pregnancy.
- They do not, however, protect you from STIs.
You or your partner may be unfamiliar with the use of condoms, dams, or gloves.
You could be drinking or taking drugs.
If you are in a violent relationship, you may not believe you have the ability to request safer sex.
How do you begin a discussion about safer sex? This will be determined by the individual and what you know about them. Here are some tips:
Plan out what you're going to say ahead of time. Do some preliminary research so you know what boundaries and safer sex practices you are requesting.
Previous conversations: If you've previously discussed difficult topics with this partner, what worked? What failed to work? Make use of what you know about the person you're speaking with.
Choose a time when you have enough time and privacy to talk. Choose a time when both you and your partner are in a good mood - nothing undermines good communication like being tired, having a bad day, or feeling rushed.
Display and tell: If you don't know the person you're about to have sex with, keep safer sex tools like condoms or your pill pack on hand. Put them out there and say something comfortable but direct, like, "I'm ready, are you?" or "Should we use yours or mine?"
Clear communication: To avoid misunderstandings, express your feelings about safer sex in a clear, honest, and positive manner. Instead of assuming what your partner feels or wants, use "I" statements to express how you feel and what you want.
While humor can help to alleviate awkwardness, avoid teasing or joking about it.
If you don't feel comfortable being direct, try something like, "What do you think?"
If you don't want to be direct, try something like, "What do you think about condoms?" or "Are you on the pill?" To start the conversation, mention an article you read about safer sex.
Be open: Talking about any type of sex, including safer sex, can elicit insecurities and fears, resulting in a negative reaction. If this occurs, try not to be defensive or accusatory. Recognize the other person's emotions, clarify any misunderstandings, and give the person time to think about it.
Information sources: People may react negatively based on previous experiences, misinformation, or fear. Outside information, such as pamphlets from reputable sexual health sources, can assist in dispelling myths and providing accurate facts. This is especially useful if you have a STI and intend to tell your partner.
Remind your partner that safer sex does not have to be less pleasurable. Suggest some of the tips listed under "Making safer sex sexy" below.
Agree: Make a firm decision about which safer sex practices you will employ. This may include using condoms, getting tested for STIs, having only one partner, or using safer sex tools when having sex with others.
Appreciate: Thank your partner for discussing safer sex with you.
Your safety and rights: It is your right to be safe, and your partner(s) should respect that request. If your partner continues to disagree with you about safer sex or tries to pressure you to have sex without the protection you have requested, consider whether you still want to have sex with them.
When you're in the heat of the moment, it's easy to back down from a safer sex agreement. Make use of safer sex tools, such as condoms and dams. Safer sex can be very sexy with a little imagination and playfulness.