The Awkward Conversation

From The Desk Of New

Dearest readers,

Rated PGI have always been the person that friends have turned to for advice on romantic encounters. Following the launch of Jewrotica, the amount of questions that I have received from friends, acquaintances and strangers has more than doubled. The most frequent questions that I am asked are about communication: both how to have a conversation about sexual health and also how to communicate boundaries. In light of our recent Sex with Jewrotica article on Protecting Your Sexual Health, I will address broaching the “awkward conversation” about STIs and sexual history in this week’s column.

We all understand the importance of caring for our sexual health. But how do you start that conversation? Everyone has their own style, but before you start any sexual encounter – or certainly before clothing has disappeared – it’s a good idea to at least casually introduce the conversation. You can do so with a light-hearted disclaimer like “I don’t want to be a buzzkill, but can we have a quick chat about sexual health?” or “I don’t want to be presumptuous (that this is leading to XYZ), but…”

By introducing the conversation, you are empowering yourself and your sexuality. Many people feel at a loss for words in this context. If you would like to start the conversation more generally, you can ask something open-ended like: “Can you tell me a bit about your sexual health history?”

Rather than opting for ambiguous questions, I recommend being as direct as possible and asking questions like:

“To your knowledge, have you ever had an STI or symptoms of an STI?”

“When was the last time you were tested, and did the results come back clear?”

“What STIs were you tested for?” (Some less expensive tests offered by Planned Parenthood and local clinics check for HIV, Chlamydia and Gonorrhea, but not Oral or Genital Herpes, for example.)

“Have you had any sexual partners (oral sex or intercourse) since being tested?”

Even then, keep in mind that – assuming the person you are choosing to be with is being truthful (which IS an assumption) – they might be forgetting that “one random hook-up” that they had the other week. Even if they have not ever had symptoms of an STI, it is still possible if not likely that they may still carry one and some STIs stick with you for life. Your health is more important than a few awkward or embarrassing moments of dialogue.

I don’t say any of this to scare you. But knowledge is power and it’s important to take ownership of your health. So, think about what language you would use to have this conversation and speak it out loud. Practice the questions at least three or four times until they become natural. Be responsible and initiate the conversation.

It will always be worth it. Your health is worth it. You are worth it.

Does anyone have success stories, awkward encounters or tips to share about broaching this difficult but critical conversation?

Light and Love,
Ayo Oppenheimer - Final Version of Signature

Founder and editor of Jewrotica, Ayo spent the past two years full-time RVing North America with her Jewish educational film program. Ayo alternates between intensely pursuing fun new experiences and equally intensely trying to do good by people. She would love to hear from you.
  • Banana

    when i was growing up, pressures from society and sex culture displayed on tv, billboards and magazine ads were such that made you nervous talking openly about sex history. Any romanticized movie clip and even reality TV show went from 2 people saying “hi/hello” to, seconds later, a make out session/sex. Desire to discuss health issues all of a sudden seemed uncool and by choosing to do so meant that you were outside the norm. Who would ever want to risk seeming different in the eyes of your crush who finally reciprocated your feelings or the first guy/girl that finally paid attention to you?

    It took a while for me to find self respect and confidence to put myself first.. before anyone else because my health is in my hands and I control its outcome… not anyone else (no matter how cool/cute/hot/nice/generous/chivalrous he/she was). I think a lot of people don’t have this confidence because they are so nervous to lose out on someone that fits their “profile”. I just wish more individuals saw their bodies as a temples and realized that if the other party is hesitant and unwilling or feels awkward to discuss past health history with you then they do not deserve entering your temple!

    On a side note – another way to approach the topic is to say “I was tested on (insert date). Here is my bill of health (present document). Can I see yours?”
    Take pride in your pure temple 😉

  • Mara

    I agree that approaching the subject of STI’s can be “awkward” but this also underscores why comprehensive sexuality education is a critical component for everyone to learn at home and school. If we take the time to teach and normalize the subject of “sex” and “sexuality” then it becomes the norm…and the norm of talking about sex, including testing becomes part of our conversation, language and culture.

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