Let’s be real: STIs aren’t the sexiest sex topic to discuss with a partner. It can feel like a huge buzzkill, especially in the heat of the moment. But with STI rates on the rise in the U.S., talking about status is more important than ever. Since STIs are often asymptomatic, particularly in women, they can be passed between partners unknowingly during sex. Even if you’re pretty confident you’re negative, it’s still smart to get tested routinely and talk about status with new partners.
How do you kick off “the talk”? Well, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach—it depends on a lot of factors, like timing, the mood, your relationship status, and whether or not you’re using protection. But there are some tried-and-true ways to have a more productive conversation. Here are tips and openers you can keep in your back pocket to calm the jitters and open up before you get down.
Tips for a Smooth STI Conversation
1. Make it about both of you
Getting asked about STI status can naturally put some people on the defensive. A simple way to avoid that is by showing your partner that you care about their health too. Focusing on the fact that you want both of you to be healthy eases the pressure and makes it more about the mutual experience.
2. Be light and have an open mind
Contrary to popular belief, talking about STIs doesn’t have to be heavy and awkward. If you bring a light, positive energy to the conversation, your partner is more likely to open up. While some conversations might be short and sweet, others may bring up sensitive information or topics that require a more in-depth discussion. Try to be open, while respecting your boundaries and your partner’s.
3. Talk first, naked second
Whenever possible, bring up STI status before you’re in bed together. It’s a whole lot easier to have a coherent, honest conversation when you’re clothed. It sounds simple, but sometimes one thing leads to another and you’re off to the races before you can pop the question. It happens. But it’s always better late than never. So even if you’ve already had sex, you haven’t missed your chance—you can still talk about it after.
4. Chat through your preferred channel
It’s 2020. Digital is the way of the world. If you feel more comfortable talking about STI status over text, call, or DM, then go for it. There are no rules on how or where you bring it up, all that matters is that you do it.
Ready for Some Roleplay?
“So, I recently got tested for STIs and was wondering, have you been tested recently?”
“Hey, I’ve been having a lot of fun with you and want that to continue. Would you be down to get an STI test before things go any further? I just got tested and want both of us to be good.”
“I like you and I’m excited to see where this goes. But I want to make sure we’re both healthy. Want to take an STI test with me? We can buy it online and do it at home.”
“If we’re going to date openly, let’s talk about how to be safer. It just means we’d have to be a bit more cautious and get tested more frequently.”
“I know we’re both committed to this relationship, and I trust you. But it would be great if we could both get tested now so we don’t have to worry about it later.”
What answer should you be looking for?
The ideal response is obviously, “Ya! I’ve been tested recently and all my results were negative. Let me show you.” But alas, we live in the real world, and these conversations can trigger anxiety, especially if your partner isn’t used to sharing. So if they don’t open up immediately, try not to jump to conclusions. A little hesitation is normal. But flat-out rejection is not. If your partner doesn’t want to talk about their status, you can ask follow-up questions to learn why.
Here are some simple ones to try:
“I know this is a little awkward. I just want us both to be safer. Any particular reason you don’t want to talk about it?”
“I felt nervous about bringing this up too. No judgment. Are you up to share what is making you uncomfortable?”
Here are some reddish-flag responses that you should look out for:
“I’ve never been tested before.”
“I don’t want to discuss testing because I feel like we should trust each other.”
“Don’t worry, we’re not at risk.”
“I already got tested so I don’t need to get tested again.” (But they don’t share their results or when they got tested last.)
What to do if you don’t get an answer
Remember: There’s nothing wrong with pulling the plug in any sexual encounter, ever. And if a partner refuses to wear a condom, evades questions, or waffles when you ask them about testing, it’s a clear signal that you may want to stop. Ultimately, it’s up to you, and you always have the right to say “no” or “not tonight.” But if you do end up having unprotected sex, make sure to get tested after.
What to Do If Your Partner Is Positive for an STI
A positive STI result doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker, as long as they’ve gotten the right treatment and you’re using the right protection—like condoms and PrEP (in the case of HIV). If your partner is experiencing symptoms or hasn’t completed treatment, it’s important to avoid sex. All that said, it can be understandably nerve-wracking to sleep with someone you know is positive. Don’t feel pressured to sleep with someone to protect their feelings. If you aren’t comfortable moving forward, it’s totally cool to say so. Your health, your choice.
Talking about STI status before you have sex every time is obviously the ideal, but we’re all human here. If you don’t ask before sex, it doesn’t mean you’ve lost your chance. You can always pop the question after the fact. Knowing is better than wondering.
Once you get past the initial awkwardness, having “the talk” can be a positive experience. Think of it like this: You’re opening the door to better communication in and out of bed. And that means better health, better sex, and better relationships. So whether you’re getting down with a one-night stand or in a committed relationship, having the STI conversation is just good self-care. And, like most things, it gets easier with practice.
When you’re ready to get tested, pop over to figathome.com. There, you can order an STI test kit online, collect samples at home, and ship them back to get results within days. It’s as fast as the doctor’s office, and way more convenient for you and your hookup or partner.