When it comes to engaging in sexual activities with a new partner, there are a few important things to consider. Some of them are more obvious than others, for instance, contraception is a very important consideration as unplanned pregnancy can be dramatically life changing.
Conversations about sex can be awkward and a little intrusive, but they are absolutely necessary in order to enjoy safe and pleasurable sex. If you do not feel comfortable discussing sex with your potential partner, it might be a sign that you may not be ready to engage in sexual activity and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. You should wait until you are comfortable enough and with someone who understands the importance of these conversations, before engaging in sexual activity. Speaking of questions, here are a few to consider asking.
Have you been tested for STDs?
When considering a new partner, it is important to find out when they were screened for STDs, their last result and how often they get tested. It is also a good idea for both of you to get tested together so that you both have current results to share.
The most commonly reported STDs are Gonorrhea and Chlamydia. Both of these can appear without symptoms and still cause significant damage to the reproductive system. There is also the big incurable one, HIV. Most sexual health screening packages will test for these three, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, HIV.
A partner with a history of gonorrhea or chlamydia infection does not pose any extra risk, as long as the infection was properly treated, and they have since tested negative.
People living with HIV also pose little risk of transmission if they are on treatment and their viral load is undetectable. There is also medication available for HIV prophylaxis (PrEP) for those who are HIV negative and have partners with HIV.
There are other less commonly tested sexually transmitted diseases, including HPV, herpes and syphilis. Testing for these diseases is usually done by taking a swab from an active sore. While some centers are able to carry out blood tests for these diseases, many will only test for these if you have a strong suspicion that you have been exposed to someone who is affected by any of these diseases. It is also important to note that herpes, syphilis and genital warts (caused by HPV) are spread via close contact with an infected sore. This means that using barrier methods of contraception such as condoms will not prevent you from being infected with these diseases if you do come in contact with an infected person.
Ideally, people with any sexually transmitted disease should disclose this to their partners, unfortunately, this is hardly ever the case. Due to shame and discrimination, many people withhold their STD status when they can, and because these diseases are not regularly tested for, it is up to you to shine your eye. Literally.
While you may want to get lost in the moment of passion, it is important that you ALWAYS inspect your partners genitals for any sores prior to ANY sexual contact i.e. oral, vaginal or anal.
A quick google search for “herpes” or “syphilis” or “genital warts” should give you an idea of what to look out for.
If you notice any sore/wound/blister, consider pausing activities and having a conversation with your partner about its origin. It may be a harmless mole for all you know, but it is always better to check and not chance it.
Other symptoms of sexually transmitted infections to watch out for include:
- Vaginal or penile discharge
- Genital swelling or redness
- Blisters, sores, spots or lumps around the genitals or anus
- Painful urination
- Itching, burning, or tingling around the genitals
- Pain in the lower abdomen
- Pain during sex
The Pro-life vs Pro-choice debate might be a political one for most people, but it is one you want to have with any potential sex partner. In reality, there is a chance of pregnancy with any sexual encounter involving a vagina and penis. Condoms slip off and other birth control methods fail, so there is always a chance that your eggs may get fertilise. What happens then?
While you may have your own views and what you choose to do should you fall pregnant is ultimately your choice, it is a good idea to know what your partners views are as this might help you decide whether to involve him in your decision making or not.
Are you allergic to latex?
Most condoms are made out of latex material and some individuals are allergic to this material. Thankfully there are condoms made out of alternative materials such as polyurethane and polyisoprene. An allergic reaction can get in the way of activities and should be avoided. If you are aware of your partners latex allergy, you can procure an alternative in order to ensure that you are still keeping things as safe as possible.
Are you currently having sexual relations with other people?
Not all relationships are monogamous, and this is not a bad thing. However, it is vital that you have an honest conversation with your partner regarding their intentions and current sexual practices. If you are involved in a non-monogamous relationship, you should consider making condoms MANDATORY and also increasing your frequency of testing for STDs.
Remember that every sexual encounter carries a risk of infection/disease transmission, and the more people are involved, the higher this risk becomes. Strict condom use is necessary to keep risk to a minimum.
While these conversations may seem intrusive, they are absolutely vital for sex to be safe and pleasurable for both parties. As women, we are more susceptible to sexually transmitted diseases and their long-term complications, just by biological design. Therefore, it is imperative that while we enjoy the pleasure and intimacy that can come from sex, we continue to prioritise our health and safety by taking necessary steps.