Hey, you. Are you ready to learn the smartest sex tip in the history of sex tips? I swear, it's not what you're thinking. No, really — it has nothing to do with tongue technique or the frenulum or grapefruits or heated, flavored lube that lights up and sings. Actually, this tip is less about sexual pleasure than it is about sexual safety. But! I can promise you that it's not your average pedantic lecture on wearing condoms, so keep reading. (Although, you know, condoms are good; you should use them.)
SO. Tell me if you have ever experienced the following phenomenon. You've been talking to someone you're sexually/romantically interested in for a few weeks/days/minutes. You're pretty sure you want to go for it. You make this clear to them. And, when boning time rolls around, the lucky guy or gal whips out... a hard copy of their recent STI panel test results.
This happened to a friend of mine recently; it has not ever happened to me or to any of the other 20-odd people I informally surveyed for this story. The dude who presented his credentials is a few years older than my friend, and get this: he claims that, in the city where he lives, every 30-something woman whom he's slept with has asked him for his STI test results prior to having sex.
Like... who does that? Also: why don't I do that? Also: why don't we all do that? Last year, a study conducted by the CDC found that about 20 million new STI infections occur in the US annually, with a prevalence (the estimated total number of STIs in the country) of 110 million. STIs! They're around.
I know that, theoretically, some couples share STI tests as their relationships progress in seriousness, especially if they're thinking of forsaking condoms. I've totally had the STI talk with guys, the kind that's like, "You clean? Me, too. Let's party." But I've never seen another human being's STI test results. I've never thought to save the results my gynecologist mails me after annual checkups. I've definitely never interrogated a one-night stand. And now I kind of feel like an idiot, because, seriously, it's such an easy and smart thing to do, and it doesn't have to be thaaat awkward.
So! Welcome to the safer sex revolution, chickadees. From now on, I solemnly vow to pony up my license and registration before inviting someone to operate this vehicle, if you catch my drift, and to ask for a copy of their results, as well. It is a little nerve-wracking, yes, but I also think it will feel great to establish that transparency early on. I'm not bright-eyed and bushy-tailed enough to think that the stigmatization of STIs (and of sexuality more broadly, especially female sexuality) is in my power to fix, but this will afford me at least a small measure of control over STIs as they relate to my life. And, duh, I want you to join me.
Now, three things: first, I realize that not everyone's going to have their stats readily available. But I am at least going to ask anyone I'm considering sleeping with, because there's no harm in asking, and whenever possible, I'm going to insist on seeing a copy of their results before sleeping with them, because there's also no harm in waiting.
Second — and this is very important — if you have an STI, or if the person you're sharing results with has an STI, DON'T FREAK OUT. Seriously, don't. An STI is a medical condition, like strep and asthma and acid reflux. It doesn't make a person dirty or bad. If the STI is curable, just wait to have sex until it's gone, and if it's not curable, have an honest, in-depth conversation about prevention and risk (with your partner, a medical professional, and ideally both), and make your decision based on that. Whatever you do, don't feel ashamed or pass judgment.
Want to join my Coven of No Regrets? Here are a few tips for sharing your results with a partner, from serious to casual alike:
- Download Healthvana. STI prevention: there's an app for that, of course. Save your test results to your phone and show or send them to a partner, no problem.
- Keep a printout of your STI test results in your wallet. If you dug out your ID for the bouncer at the door, you can dig out your test results for the dude you brought home from the bar, no?
- Scan and save a copy of your test results to your phone and laptop. Two devices makes it twice as easy to email your results.
- When you ask for someone else's results, don't make a big thing out of it. A simple "I just want us to both feel comfortable! Here are my results" should do the trick.
- Be patient, but firm. It's fine if the person can't make it to the doctor for a few days — anyone can wait a few days to bang, right? But if they start to pressure you, just remember that what you're asking for is not at all unreasonable. My line will probably be like, "Hey, this isn't a trust issue. I can hardly wait to sleep with you. I'm happy to wait until you can make an appointment — here are some resources for that — but I consider this a necessary courtesy."
- If you do have an STI, be prepared with risk and prevention information. Answer questions honestly, be willing to look things up with them online, and be patient. Here are some helpful tips for having this conversation. And if they say anything to make you feel badly about yourself, maybe re-think this person, you know?