Let’s talk about sex. Not all collegiettes are necessarily doing it, but for those who are, you have to be responsible for your own sexual health.
Not everything about sex is actually sexy. Some conversations with a new partner can be awkward to bring up, but if you’re going to be intimate with someone, you need to be able to talk openly. Before jumping in the sack with your crush, you should discuss these important topics.
1. Define your expectations
Make sure you and your partner know what exactly adding sex to the relationship will mean for you and what the expectations you have about it are. Patrick Wanis, a human behavior and relationship expert, says that “it’s better to have this conversation before you have sex, or one of you may end up emotionally devastated if you thought it was something the other didn’t.”
Don’t rush into anything you aren’t ready for, and know what you want to get out of it. “Both people have to be really honest and understand that sex will change the relationship,” Wanis says. “You both need to agree on the meaning that you are going to give the sexual relationship.”
If having sex means you’re in love with this person and this is your way of expressing it, make sure your partner knows that. If it’s just sex and you aren’t looking for a commitment from it, be sure to make that clear. Be open about your expectations and what sex will mean for you in the relationship.
2. Talk about getting tested
Although this isn’t the sexiest conversation, it’s definitely an important one to have. Ask your partner if he or she has gotten tested in the last six months and if he or she knows of any STD or STIs that they may have.
“It’s always an awkward thing to ask, but I never have sex with someone unless I know they have been tested and are clean,” says Lucy*, a student at the University of North Georgia. “No guy has ever been weird or offended by it. They know I’m just looking out for my health and they’re usually glad I bring it up so they don’t have to.”
It’s better to be safe than sorry, so don’t be afraid to bring testing up. However, be sure to remember that even if you do have the conversation, there’s always a chance your partner isn’t being truthful or has something without knowing it. Make sure you trust your partner and that you both have been tested recently.
3. Talk about contraception
On the same note, unless you’re down to have this guy’s baby or want to risk getting an STD or STI, you need to discuss what form of contraception you will be using. “While it may seem obvious, it has to be one of the key topics to discuss,” Wanis says. “Some people like to take a risk or chance and use no protection at all, but it is very important.”
Let him know if you are on the pill or if there’s another form of birth control that you use. Discuss using condoms and make sure one of you has them.
4. DTR: Are you exclusive?
College dating can be confusing, and it’s easy to get caught up in relationships that have no clear definition. Maybe you want to only have sex in a committed relationship, or maybe you don’t want the relationship to be anything serious. Regardless of how you feel, you should make sure you and your partner are on the same page about it.
Wanis notes it’s important that you specifically discuss what sort of commitment sex will add to a relationship. “It’s important to be on the same page about your relationship before taking it to the next step,” he says. “Both partners have to agree on what the sexual relationship is going to be, and each partner should have an understanding of what the other person wants.”
Make sure you both know if you’re exclusive or not. If you aren’t, define what the relationship is. Are you friends with benefits, or something else? You don’t want to think you’re exclusive and then hear around campus that your partner was with someone else, or vice versa—thinking you’re not exclusive when your partner thought otherwise can be messy, too.
5. Define your boundaries
Some people like chocolate ice cream and some like vanilla. Your partner may be into or ready for some things that you aren’t ready for. It’s also common that your definition of sex is different than your partner’s. He or she may think that oral sex is no big deal, while you may think differently. Some people only consider penetrative sex as sex, and others consider anal and oral as equal to penetrative sex. That’s why it’s important to discuss the things you and your partner are willing to do so you aren’t taken by surprise by something you may not be comfortable with.
“It’s important that both partners are telling the truth,” Wanis says. “Radical honesty is key.”
Make sure you’re very clear with your boundaries in all aspects. “I’ve always been completely open about it with my partners,” says Emily*, a student at the Community College of Philadelphia. “When I’m ready, I’ll tell them that I’m okay with things going further. That way, it’s crystal clear and there can’t be any confusion.”
If your partner starts to do or suggests to you something you’re not comfortable with, voice your concerns to him or her. Speaking up is the only way your partner will know what you do and don’t want. Be sure to explain your discomfort about it afterwards so there won’t be any confusion in the future.
Take control of your sexual health and make sure you’re communicating with your partner. Sometimes we rush into things after a drunken frat party or night out at the bar, but it’s important to keep yourself safe. Remember to discuss these topics before taking the next step!
*Names have been changed.