Your Guide to Bringing Up Sexual Health with Someone New
We promise, it doesn't have to be awkward.
Are you about to enter 2023 with a new person on your arm? Whether you’re pursuing a longer-term connection or exploring physical relationships with new sexual partners, there’s so much fun to be had. But with the excitement of the new and mysterious come the complexities of the new and mysterious.
Discussing sexual health with someone new can feel hard. But these talks are essential and there are ways to approach them that won’t bring your sexy rapport to a screeching halt. Here’s what you need to know. For more tips, and free or low-cost access to all the methods of birth control, make an appointment at your nearest The Right Time health center.
Put the “we” in sexual wellness
It’s not you against them in these conversations. It’s the two (or more!) of you together. We suggest coming at it with a “to keep things safe and fun for both of us, do you mind if we chat about sexual health?” You could also ask if they’d be comfortable going in to get tested together.
Offer info first
You don’t want this to be an interrogation; you want it to be a conversation. Rather than springing questions on the other person, consider offering information first. Try something like, “I’ve been prioritizing my sexual health and just wanted to let you know that I’ve been tested recently.” This way, you’re showing that you share the responsibility with them, and you’re also letting them know it’s a safe space to be vulnerable.
De-stigmatize the subject matter
Conversations about sexual health can be triggering or uncomfortable for some. Be sure to avoid adding any unnecessary embarrassment or shame when bringing up topics related to sexual health. One great way to do this is to just put it out there that it’s a bit awkward. That way, if the person you’re talking to is feeling uncomfortable, they’ll know they’re not alone. And maybe you can laugh about the awkwardness a little, which will help break the ice.
Consider mentioning that STIs are super common and you recognize there’s a lot of stigma around them, even if there shouldn’t be. You can also add that you’re coming from a completely neutral place and just hope to discuss how you’ll both keep each other safe.
Share (and be prepared to hold) your boundaries
Suppose you have strict boundaries about condom use, exclusivity, transparency, or anything else. If so, it’s up to you to express those boundaries as soon as it becomes evident that you might get physical with a person. Knowing your boundaries is incredibly empowering, but they can only be understood and respected if they are communicated. Sharing your boundaries early will also give you a chance to see if there are any sexual disconnects, which you’ll be happy you knew sooner than later.
Advocating for your sexual health and sexual pleasure is an ongoing process that requires letting go of a lot of internalized stigma and taking the risk that things might be a little awkward sometimes. The key thing is to try to make your partner(s) feel comfortable and accepted, no matter what information they bring to the table. This type of conversation is worth it for your peace of mind and it will likely help you relax and enjoy the sex that much more.
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