Anna Pulley, @annapulley
RedEye's sex columnist
9:05 AM CDT, July 17, 2013
I’ve been dating this guy for a few months now. We haven’t had the “what are we” talk, but I presume that we’re both sleeping with other people. (For the record, I’ve slept with one other person). This kind of “don’t ask, don’t tell” arrangement is OK in the short term, but I’m wondering how to bring up safe-sex practices without making it a big deal. It seems important to talk about these things, right?--Asking and Telling
Isn’t it strange that, when it comes to sex, we have few qualms asking someone to tie us up and call us Nancy Reagan (hypothetically), but asking that same person about their condom use is, like, super weird?
I know it can be awkward, but if you’re regularly boning this guy, you should have the balls to inquire about the whereabouts of his balls. The “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach didn’t work for the military, and it doesn’t really work in relationships either, for the same reasons that you brought up. I’m not saying you have to get a detailed play-by-play on all the girls he’s playing naked Canasta with, but yes, please talk about it. Especially if you’re having unprotected sex with other people (duh). This includes sharing toys and oral too (remember a few weeks ago when I ruined oral sex for everyone by mentioning parasites?). If you need a jumping-off point, I recommend this video of Indian men dressed as dancing condoms.
You’re not going to be perceived as Attila the Slut for talking about safer sex--and if he does try to slut-shame you, then he doesn’t deserve admittance to your vagina anyway. Asking about someone’s sexual history, the last time they were tested, etc. is not only responsible, it’s vital. According to the CDC, nearly 20 million new STIs occur each year in the U.S. And those are only the ones reported. Remember that many people don’t even know they have an STI, and therefore don’t get treated or tested.
No matter how nerve-wracking such a conversation about safer sex might be, remember that it’s far preferable to the one that starts, “So, I have this rash ...” Meaning don’t put your health and well-being on the back burner because you’re afraid to say “dental dam” aloud.
As a general rule, it’s better to have serious-ish talks while not naked, and not just because your tattoo of a five-legged octopus holding pancakes is distracting. Lust, that ever-reliable life plan, has a way of clouding our judgment in the heat of the moment, making us vulnerable to decisions we might regret later, like a tattoo of a five-legged octopus holding pancakes.
Another reason to communicate about safer sex practices and STI status is because you might get sued. For real. One woman was awarded $750,000 in court from her ex-husband because he gave her herpes and lied about it. Another was awarded $900,000, also from a date lying to her about having herpes.
But common decency and directness aside, in the end, what you DO is your best protection, more than what you talk about. You are your own best defense, in other words. While STIs affect both men and women, women face the most serious long-term consequences. So don’t be shy. It’s your health at stake. Now that we’re all sufficiently bummed out, let’s watch the dancing condoms video again.
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