To become a certified deep-sea diver, you have to write tests, complete hours of diving practice, and be able to pull off a wetsuit with flair and grace. Now, I tried diving once, and I despised it. I felt like the fish were staring into my soul and, as much as I wanted to, I didn’t rock the wetsuit. (Maybe if they came in patterns?) The one thing I took away from my short-lived experience with diving was this: you have to be confident before going under the water.
I decided to apply this mantra to something I actually do enjoy: sex. You have to be confident with yourself and your partner before going under the sheets.
When asking and answering these questions, honesty is the best policy. If you’re mature enough to deliberately lick someone’s bum, you’re mature enough to respect a partner’s physical and mental health. Here are the questions you need to be asking.
“When was your last STI test, and how’d it go?”
Let’s start with the toughest (and perhaps most important) question. It can only get easier from here right? People who are having sex on the reg should be tested on the reg. Period. Nearly 20 million new sexuallly transmitted infections occur in the United States every year, and half of those occur in people between the ages of 15–24. It is recommended that women get a Pap test once every three years and an STI test at least once a year.
It’s a good idea to bring this question up before you and your partner get too hot and heavy so that it can be given due diligence. There’s no need to dance around it. Having a well-rounded understanding of their sexual past is key to being a part of their sexual future.
“Do you use protection?”
Relating to the first question, you’re going to want to know if your partner plans on taking the necessary precautions. Condoms? Birth Control? Geico? Get get the details before you get too hot and heavy.
I once dated a man who I invited home after our third date. We started to undress one another and I asked “Do you use condoms?” He said “No, I don’t like how they feel.” It was the BIGGEST turnoff ever. I showed him the door, and needless to say, he did not get the privilege of being a part of my orgasm that night.
There have been links between having multiple sex partners and acquiring an STI. In a study from The University of Michigan, it was found that only 23% of women had used condoms every time they had sex. 23%!?
(Off topic: I recently learned that the “!?” combo is called an interrobang, and I’m very pleased about it.)
For the small slice of Americans who are allergic to latex, there are latex-free alternatives. It’s kind of like when your best frenemy wouldn’t come to your Olive Garden birthday party because she’s not into gluten. There are other things on the menu, but if she isn’t willing to try them, then it’s her loss: no birthday cake.
“What sexual boundaries do you have?”
This is all about finding out what you and your partner are comfortable with. A fun way to preface this question is to first ask, “What do you love most about sex?” That conversation tends to naturally flow into the “I once tried and really didn’t like…” or “Nah, I don’t think my mind wants to bend that way…” conversations.
It’s ok to not want to do everything that has ever been done in the history of sex. It’s ok to take it slow, it’s ok to take it fast, hell, it’s ok to take it however you want.
There are perceived norms when it comes to having sex. A lot of times we make decisions that are not necessarily based on our own needs, but rather the desire for approval from others. This can lead to misinterpretation and confusion and there’s already enough of that in the world. (*cough* *cough* Is Starbucks going to add a delivery feature or aren’t they? It’s keeping me up at night.)
“So, um, like, what are we even?”
This is the one I struggle with most. In the age of electronic dating apps, mystery-flavored Doritos, and charcoal teeth whiteners, our society has a tough time confronting the question “what are we doing?” Relationships have long since evolved from awaiting your Prince Charming and then sticking it out with him for the rest of time (thank you Disney for the unrealistic ideals). Partnerships are taking on new forms with the upswing of polyamory and open relationships—it’s estimated that between 1.2 and 2.4 million Americans are currently practicing sexual non-monogamy—and as our expectations shift, so does the conversation.
The first step is knowing what you WANT. Do you want a full on come-home-and-meet-my-weird-uncle-Steve-at-Christmas relationship? Or do you just want to finish your glass of pinot, get to it, and call it a night? Either choice is fine, as long as you are both (or all) on a similar page. Otherwise, confusion is bound to occur—for weird Uncle Steve, but also for you.
“Little spoon or big spoon?”
Sweet or savory breakfast? Game of Thrones of Sons of Anarchy? Sometimes us gals can confuse liking someone with liking being liked. Try to put your ego aside for a sec and throw a few character-testing questions out there (my personal fave: “how many children do you want?”) before opening your world—among other things—to someone new. It can help you determine if they’re really worth your hot love and emotion.
To have the best sex you can possibly have with a partner, you need confidence: with yourself, with them, with your Internet search history. Be the Emma Watson of your bedroom and ask questions that will make your world a better place.