So you have found someone with whom you wish to get down and dirty. You may have known this person for years, you may have known them for hours (we are not here to judge who you knock bits with), but there’s some necessary awkwardness that should always precede the actual deed: The Talk. Let’s talk about having The Talk.
It’s up to you what, exactly, your Talk includes, but at a bare minimum you should discuss STD status/testing and the logistics of protection. Other topics may include whether or not you expect sexual monogamy, how many partners they have had, if they are a good person, and how many licks it takes to get to the center of your lollipop. Although it may be too soon, or too fleeting, to have a DTR (define the relationship) discussion, it may be worth making sure you’re on the same page as far as expectations before you have sex: Nothing worse than one person thinking it’s forever and the other knowing it’s a band-aid.
I know having The Talk may not be the easiest thing in the world, but it is absolutely necessary before you sleep with someone. The more conversations you have, the easier it gets, and the more you realize this is a thing responsible adults do and it’s not scary at all. You’re about to get naked and exchange bodily fluids with this person, there’s no reason to be shy now, about something this important! It’s as simple as asking, “Hey, when was the last time you got tested?” or “Hey, if we’re going to have sex, I want to be the only one you have sex with. What do you think?” Definitely talk at a time when you’re not getting busy to avoid…distractions, and ensure questions are actually answered (“I got tested a little while ago and have only been with a few people since then” isn’t going to cut it).
Most importantly, you need to stand up for your body because no one else will. When I was younger, I let a couple of people pressure me into having sex without condoms when it wasn’t a smart decision. I found that guys seemed to care about pregnancy and not STDs, to the point that I wouldn’t mention I was on the pill because I didn’t want to argue about why condoms were still necessary (Actual line: “Oh, you’re on birth control? Why do I need to use condom, then?”). One day I was talking to my older, much freakier bisexual friend about sometimes letting it slide (figuring that she would commiserate), and she looked at me and said, “Oh honey, NO.” She then explained she kept a basket of condoms under her bed, and that everyone had to play by her rules or the clothes went back on and they had to leave, immediately. It was a very empowering realization for me, and I wish I could go back to younger me and shake some sense into her. The people who are pushy about not using condoms are probably not people you want to sleep with. If you are afraid that having The Talk will push someone away, then fine, let them go.
Unfortunately, I gained quite a bit of experience about the undesirable parts of having The Talk when I, like 75 percent of women, tested positive for human papillomavirus. HPV (which, yes, I had gotten the vaccine for) can cause genital warts and cervical cancer (the vaccine protects against most strains that cause this), but in my case I just had abnormal cells on my cervix and no outward symptoms, as is the case with many STDs. Like herpes, HPV is spread via skin to skin contact, so even if I had been an angel about condoms and none ever broke, I still could have gotten it—which is why you should ALWAYS have The Talk. When I got the diagnosis, I felt horrible, dirty, and like no one would have sex with me ever again. Given what I thought about myself, I cringed at having to explain things during The Talk, but I now felt it was my duty to have it before every sexual encounter.
You want to know how many guys cared, ever? Zero. Literally zero people I slept with cared that I had an STD (admittedly, one with no symptoms, but still). Which is scary, but also reassuring in a sick sense—guys want to have sex with you no matter what, the important thing is to be honest. After getting through that experience, I became militantly vigilant about my sexual health. Everyone always thinks it will happen to someone else, someone more experienced, but actually my more promiscuous friends are all clean because they are careful. I got my diagnosis directly after my longest relationship (which—imagine how much fun THAT was, going through a breakup AND an STD). You never know someone is safe, and it’s definitely better to err on the side of your health—best done in foresight, not hindsight.
Which is why having The Talk is so important. Some people are too scared to be forthcoming with information, but will tell the truth when asked (though unfortunately, some people lie). From The Talk, you may feel closer and reassured, or you may realize the potential bits-knocker is completely ignorant about sexual health and you definitely want some test results before you touch that. Ask for specifics about testing—I know people who refuse to have sex before they have results in hand, and honestly, that’s great. I know one person who’s had sex with 50-plus people but condomless sex with two. There’s no one answer to what is normal, and all sex is inherently a certain amount of risk (for example, a guy can carry the kind of STD I had with no symptoms, condoms don’t protect against it, and there is no HPV test for men). I’m definitely not advocating abstinence, but you should take all the measures you can to stay healthy.
An ex-boyfriend once told me, “If you can’t talk about it, you shouldn’t be doing it.” When it comes down to it, I can almost certainly guarantee that The Talk will go over better than expected and you will feel better after (hopefully in more ways than one, wink wink). When it comes to your health, you need to always prioritize responsibility over the excitement of sexy times, or you may get stuck with some unpleasant, permanent side effects. A few slightly awkward minutes is certainly better than that.
If you do not know your STD status, there are several options to make sure you’re in the clear.
If you are in college, your university health center may offer services at a low cost or on a sliding scale, and Planned Parenthood does this as well.
On this website you can enter your city or zip and filter by Free Services, Accepts Insurance, LGBT focus, etc.