I enjoyed your recent guidance regarding avoiding STD’s, but I’m
struggling with the practical implementation of some of your advice.
Specifically, how exactly does one politely ask a potential sexual
partner if he or she is presently infected with a venereal disease?
What would the Yenta say in such a situation?
And moreover, if the person is forthcoming enough to reveal an
infection how do you politely tell the person that you are no longer
interested in pursuing a physical relationship?
Dear Safest Sex,
When I was a sex educator in high school, we were taught all different ways to tell if someone had an STD. What we learned, besides that if you wrap a man’s penis in a towel soaked in vinegar that spots might show if he has sub-surface warts, was that you really can never tell who has an STD.
Some STD’s have no symptoms, others take up to six months to show and go in and out of remission. This is just meant as a reminder of how vital the “talk” is. Part of having a healthy sex life is being able to talk about sex. If you can’t talk to your partner about sex, then chances are you aren’t ready to be having it.
That being said, the question is not so much, “do you have a venereal disease?” as much as a general discussion around exposure. All of us should be getting tested with our partners, and this conversation is one that revolves around the potential for sex. “Hey honey baby, I like you and things have been heating up. I think we should be safe if we decide to go further. Can we talk about this?”
Safe includes, “when was the last time you were tested for STD’s? Have you been sexually active since then?” This is a question about health maintenance, not so much about “are you infected?” For those who love a one night stand, a good litmus test for how things will go in the sack is how your lover can handle this simple question.
The truth is, though, with sex-hungry strangers: they might lie. The only way to truly prevent STD’s is to not have sex until tested WITH your partner. (Or become a devoted masturbater.)
That being said, let’s say your lover is infected. Before deciding it is grounds for dismissal, I think it is really important to research how to enjoy sexual activity with STD’s. Basically, avoid connecting open wounds, etc with blood, semen, and general body fluids, use a condom/dental dam, etc., and be creative. In 40 Days and 40 Nights the sexual chemistry was so intense, Josh Hartnett used an orchid to provoke an orgasm without even laying a finger on his lady-friend.
For those of you with STD’s wanting to talk to your partner about having one, click here for more help. One thing I loved on this site was this woman’s advice about how saying you have an STD is not a confession, rather, it is a discussion. There shouldn’t be filth or shame attached to divulging the truth. Anyone could have one. There is no moral code to venereal disease.
For those of you with STD’s who feel doomed to sexual solitude, try PositiveSingles.com. Way easier to start with the truth and go from there.
And finally, if you feel that an STD is grounds for dumping your partner, then chances are you didn’t love them too much to begin with. Be honest, “I can’t have sex with you if you are infected, but it was fun while it lasted.” There is no polite way to dismiss someone for their disease. Follow the same code you would use if you were ending a strictly sexual relationship. Usually it starts with the door.
Best thing to do is to ask yourself what you would do with your lover if you knew they had an STD before having the conversation. If the answer is, “walk,” then walk first, before hurting someone. Getting physical isn’t worth causing people emotional pain. Sex is fun, but if you really care about someone, you will find a way to make love to them, regardless.
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