Do You Practice What You Preach About Negotiating to Have Safer Sex?

Lesbian couple on bed
Lesbian couple on bed. Tony Garcia/Image Source/Getty Images

Question: Do You Practice What You Preach About Negotiating to Have Safer Sex?

Answer: Yes, and it's still hard after all these years. 

It occurred to me the other day that some people, when reading my assertions about taking responsibility for your own safety during sex and talking to your partner about STDs and safety before having sex, might think

"Well, what does she know about it!"
"Sure, it's easy for her."

I decided to out myself here to tell you "quite a lot" and "no, it's not." I have been a safer sex educator for almost half of my life. Still, whenever I enter a new relationship where sex could be on the table, and I have to practice what I preach, it's hard. It's no easier for me than for the next person to sit my prospective sexual partner down and talk about safer sex practices and STD testing. If anything it may be harder. I know where they may be mistaken in their answers, and I feel I have to call them on it..

For example, if a partner tells me they have been tested "for everything," I ask them to be specific. They then often say, "you know, everything the doctor always tests you for." At that point I'll have to inform them that their doctor probably doesn't test them for anything, let alone everything. So when I say "it's important to talk to your partner before having sex," I say it knowing that doing so can be excruciating and difficult.

Never doubt that I know that doing the work so that you are able to make informed decisions about your sexual choices is hard. I also know that sometimes it ends up with you going home frustrated while you wait for your partner to go get tested. Still, as they say, nothing good comes easy. For me, the embarrassment and awkwardness is totally worth it for the peace of mind.

Many years ago, I made up my mind that I would always practice safer sex, always get tested before taking a new sexual partner, and always talk to my partners about their testing status and safer sex practices before the first time we slept together. That is a decision I have never regretted. Even though there was no poor outcome to my actions, the only time I've only ever felt badly about my sexual decision making was the one time I talked myself out of following the third rule. So, to answer the question, I do practice what I preach.

Because of that I know how hard it is to do what I recommend. That having been said, I do have a few words of encouragement that I can give to you from years of following my own advice:

  • Most of the time, the stress of thinking about the conversation you're going to have with a new partner is a far bigger deal than actually having the conversation.
  • If you've talked about your safer sex practices before things get hot and heavy then you're in luck. When things do get hot and heavy, you don't have to interrupt intimate moments to have clinical conversations. It makes things much more fun.

    Most important, when you sit down to talk to your partner before the first time you have sex, know this. Their answers could lead to you deciding not to have sex with that person - that night, that month, or ever. Know that whether or not to have sex is your choice. Know that making either choice is ok. And, if you're worried about your ability to safely have the talk with your partner, perhaps its time to back away. A partner who isn't willing to accept that you're taking responsibility for your own health, safety, and welfare may not be a safe partner for you to be with. They may not have your best interests in mind.

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