How To Ask Someone If They've Been Tested, Because You Gotta Have That Convo
Years of watching rom-coms have exposed me to numerous versions of the three-date rule. It's the idea that a woman (it's usually the woman but it really can be anyone) tells the man she's just started dating that she won't sleep with him before the third date (or fifth date, or 10th date, or whatever). It's a fine idea, if that's what you're into, but an even better one would be to hold out until you know that your partner has been tested. Just because knowing how to ask someone if they've been tested wasn't a major plot device in the last Katherine Heigl movie you saw doesn't mean it shouldn't play a major role in your love life.
STI testing isn't exactly my idea of romantic dinner conversation, either. In fact, it's downright awkward. But your sexual health is your responsibility and there's nothing awkward about that.
You know what is awkward? Finding out a few weeks later that your new boyfriend or girlfriend gave you more than just butterflies. No thanks.
Ideally, you should ask all new partners about getting tested and you should get tested regularly, as well. According to the CDC, all sexually-active women under the age of 25 should get tested annually for Chlamydia and Gonorrhea and at least once for HIV. Although these guidelines are helpful, remember that your risk of infection is higher if you have multiple partners or engage in unprotected sex.
To help you start a conversation about STI testing with your partner, I asked Lola Jean, sex educator, and Bryan Stacy, co-founder of Biem, a virtual sexual health app, for advice. Here's how you should handle this situation.
Establish Your Sexual Boundaries Early On
For you, this might be never having sex without a condom, which is a great place to start. But condoms don't protect against all STIs. Um, hi, guy who says he doesn't do condoms, are you there? HPV, for example, is spread through skin-to-skin contact and may affect areas not covered by condoms or dental dams. That's why it doesn't hurt to add one more requirement to your list: always make sure your partners have been tested.
Lola Jean explains, "If this is a requirement for you, withhold the activity in question for which the testing is required. If you have a certain criteria you need each of your partners to meet before you can pull your pants down, uphold that criteria. We all make mistakes, but we can only blame ourselves for that. Be willing to walk away when someone does not respect your sexual health needs and requirements."
You don't need to justify this requirement to anyone but if you feel the need to, simply explain that you get tested regularly to make sure that you are healthy and aren't putting any of your partners at risk. You'd like them to extend the same courtesy to you.
I know, "You're worth waiting for," is the ultimate romantic line in any movie but I'll gladly take, 'You're worth getting tested for," over that any day.
Decide On The Best Time And Place To Have This Conversation
Lola Jean's advice? "Not during sexy times if possible. Hormones and arousal can cloud your judgment at the time and this is a serious conversation." You want to make sure you have time to discuss your next steps if they haven't been tested recently enough or if they are living with or recovering from an STI. It is definitely possible to have safe sex with someone who has an STI but it's something you should prepare for ahead of time.
Lots of people admit to bringing this up with a partner in casual conversation before getting into bed with them, like during the getting-to-know-them portion of your relationship. In fact, Stacy says, "Talking about sex likes, dislikes, fantasies, and history before ever taking clothes off can be so hot and bringing up the sexual health conversation at that time is natural."
It doesn't really matter whether you do this in person or via text, as long as both people are comfortable opening up. Bringing this up via text might be less intimidating and more conducive to an open discussion. But a face-to-face conversation offers the opportunity to observe your partner's facial expressions and body language, which might be useful if you suspect they are being dishonest or misleading.
Either way, Lola Jean says, "Unless you have a copy of the test results, better to not put too much trust in any new partners if possible." Just because you asked and they've told you that their test results were negative doesn't mean you shouldn't use protection.
Frame Your Question In A Way That Prioritizes Both Partners' Sexual Health
Sometimes, the scariest part about having this conversation is the thought of offending your partner. Let me just say that if your partner responds to your question about getting tested defensively, it's not a good sign.
That said, there are things you can do to ensure a more favorable response. "You may convey sexual health is important to you by volunteering your own test results first along with when you were last tested. By putting that out there, they should feel more comfortable to volunteer their own. At the very least, this provides an opening to a conversation about how important and easy getting tested is," Lola Jean tells Elite Daily.
Try saying something like, “Want to make sure we’re on the same page about protection and getting tested. I was tested a month ago and everything was fine. How about you?”
According to Stacy, 90 percent of Biem users who did this had partners who reciprocated. "Users also report it giving them an empowering feeling instead of a fearful one," he says.
If this approach still feels too direct, Lola Jean recommends using "we" statements rather than "you" and "I" statements. An alternative opening line might be, "We should both get tested before we do anything just to be on the safe side." That way, your partner feels like you're in this together rather than they're being put on the witness stand.
If you're in a committed relationship, you might even suggest getting tested together. "It’s not as scary or threatening if you’re both in the same boat," Lola Jean says.
However you decide works best for you, it's important to have this conversation with all new partners. The American Sexual Health Association reports that one in two sexually active people will contract an STI before the age of 25 and of the 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S., one in seven of them don't know they are infected.
Don't put your health at risk just because you were too afraid or couldn't be bothered to ask your partner about getting tested.
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