BEFORE you negotiate safer sex:
- Educate yourself! The American Social Health Association is a good place to start reading. Learn about how different STDs can be transmitted, and which ones can be cured and which ones managed.
- Know your status. Get tested regularly, either annually or every 6 months depending on your number of partners and risk behaviour. If you’re a woman, ask for the HPV test – they won’t do it if you’re under 30 unless you come back with an abnormal PAP or unless you ask for it. Ask for the HSV strain tests (specificaly the HerpeSelect ELISAs) – they aren’t perfect, but having a baseline is a Good Thing. The others are pretty standard: HIV, Syph, Chlamydia, Gonnorhea. If you’re a guy, ask for the urine tests – they’re new, and MUCH less painful.
- Think about it. Think about what acceptable risk means to you. Chances are good that if you’re interested in safer sex, you’re not going to have PIV (penis-in-vagina sex) or anal sex without a condom the first time. Chances are good that you ARE going to kiss someone, because it’s relatively low risk and sex is much much less fun without it. There’s a lot in between! Barriers for oral sex? Do you need gloves because you’re prone to cuts on your hands or hangnails? What are you willing to risk, and what scares you?
Now, the negotiation:
Rule #1: Always negotiate safer sex with your clothes on. Negotiating in a hormonal fuzz is much more likely to lead to much less latex.
Next, always disclose. Tell your new partner when your last tests were, if they were clean, and what you’ve done since then. Expect the same from them. If you have a hard time keeping track of that sort of thing, write it down!
If you find out the person you are talking to is carrying an STD, don’t blame or shame hir. You may choose more barriers than you would have otherwise, or you might choose not to be sexual with them at all, but be polite and respectful about it.
Each of you may have different comfort levels – go with the more strict. You may need to go back and talk to your other partner/s, and sie may also need to – leave room for that.
Last but not least, do your best to treat these conversations the way we all wish they were – routine, expected, and respectful.