How to Talk to Your Partner About Safer Sex
If you’ve made it to this page, that means you’re asking the right questions about sex, communication, and safety. Not only is communicating with your partner a must for MVP-level sex, but it’s also critical for ensuring you and your partner are on the same page about safety. You may be asking, “But isn’t it awkward to talk about protection?” Never fear. Stick around to learn how to talk to your partner about safer sex with confidence.
Safe or Safer?
Let’s talk about the difference between “safe sex” and “safer sex.” According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, many medical professionals believe 100% safe sex doesn’t exist because every sexual act comes with some degree of risk. But don’t worry! “Safer sex” practices make it possible to help keep yourself safe and be sexually active.
The goal of safer sex is to protect both partners from contracting and spreading STDs or STIs, while also avoiding unplanned pregnancies. So some of the elements that could contribute to unsafe sex include the exchange of semen, blood, or vaginal fluids. Another key part of safer sex is communicating with your partner about getting tested and any transferable diseases either of you have.
Why Talk About It?
A good way to explain why you should talk about safer sex is to think about what could happen if you don’t discuss it.
STDs and STIs
Planned Parenthood notes that just some of the STDs that can be spread and contracted through unprotected oral, anal, or vaginal sex include chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV, and herpes. In fact, some STDs like HPV or herpes can be spread through oral or skin-to-skin contact alone. That’s why barriers including condoms and dental dams (latex or polyurethane sheets that act as a barrier during oral sex) are effective ways of lowering the risk of spreading STDs and STIs.
Understanding safer sex can also help you and your partner avoid unplanned pregnancies. Regular use of birth control pills or cycle tracking is a great way to reduce this risk. Avoiding the skin-to-skin transfer of semen through the use of condoms is another accessible way to protect yourself and your partner. To keep sex safe and pleasurable, Champ’s Ultra-Thin Condoms provide a barely-there feel and durable protection.
Let’s say it louder for the folks in the back, true consent can’t exist if one partner hides their STD or STI from the other. Consent requires enthusiastic and active agreement to engage sexually with somebody else. In the same way, both parties need to be on the same page when it comes to risk factors before having sex. Being lied to about your partner’s conditions means you don’t have all the information to safely and intentionally agree to get physical with them. That’s why it’s critical to establish open, honest communication about risk factors and safer sex methods.
How to Talk About Sex and Safety
We know that having a conversation about safer sex isn’t always easy. We also understand that the level of anxiety you may feel about this topic can vary depending on the situation. How do you talk about safer sex with a short-term partner vs. a long-term one? How do you avoid awkwardness? Here are some tips for talking to your partners about safer sex.
Know Your Boundaries and Needs
Before broaching the subject with your partner, you need to be grounded in your own boundaries and priorities when it comes to sexual health. Here are a few good questions to ask yourself:
- What do I feel comfortable with within long-term and short-term sexual relationships? Which sex acts are on or off the table for each type of partner?
- Do I have any STIs or STDs?
- Am I immunocompromised or otherwise at a high risk of contracting a specific STD or STI?
- Do I have a condition that makes pregnancy difficult or dangerous?
- How often will I get tested, and what testing habits am I comfortable with my partner having?
- Am I comfortable walking away from a sexual encounter if my partner doesn’t agree to practice safer sex?
Standing firm in your own boundaries and needs will help you approach safer sex conversations with confidence. So go ahead and jot down your own list of priorities.
When things heat up, your brain can sometimes take a back seat to your nethers—it happens to the best of us. That’s why talking about safety before sexy-time starts is so important. If you have a long-term partner, build in some time during regular conversation to talk about your safer sex priorities. For a new or one-time partner, bring up the subject before you get to the bedroom. In either case, you can broach the topic on the car ride home, on the couch, over the phone, or in whatever way makes you and your partner comfortable.
Keep in mind that it’s never too late to talk about safety. Whether you’re mid-makeout or have already had sex with your partner multiple times, don’t feel ashamed or scared to start the conversation. When it comes to talking about sexual health, late is always better than never.
Keep Things Clear and Simple
By now you’re likely wondering, “Ok…but what do I say?” We’ve got you covered. Here are some conversation starters and questions you can use to ease into the safer sex talk.
- Making sure we’re both safe is important to me.
- When were you last tested for STDs?
- I want to focus on just us when we have sex, so let’s talk safety first.
- How do you feel about using condoms?
- What’s important to you when it comes to protection?
- I have/don’t have an STD. Do you know if you have any?
- Have you ever been treated for an STD in the past?
Each of these talking points are simple and to the point. The last thing you want is confusion or miscommunication when it comes to sexual safety. With a bit of practice, this conversation will start to feel more and more natural.
Plus, confidence is contagious. If you’re leading with calm and confidence, your partner will be more likely to lean into the conversation with levity. The whole point is for these talks to become second nature. After all, this conversation does you no good if it’s too anxiety-inducing to have consistently. So keeping things light, clear, and simple is essential to turning this talk into a safer sex habit.
Remember, You’ve Got This
At the end of the day, your partner is a person with their own priorities, needs, and possible hang-ups. If their priorities around safety align with yours, great! If they refuse to accommodate your needs, that’s okay too. There’s no shame in walking away from a partner that puts your health at risk. True regret comes from compromising your own safety and boundaries. But don’t you worry. The conversation around safer sex is only growing, and there is no shortage of potential partners who will prioritize your health and needs. We hope you’ll use these tips to help normalize the safer sex talk and make the world a safer, sexier place.