Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner

Yes, a conversation crucial to your sexual & emotional health needs to happen BEFORE the fun in the bedroom begins.

Updated
Let's talk sex
8 min read
A handy guide to the most crucial conversation you need to have with your current sexual partner.
i

(On Valentine’s Day, we are republishing this story on how to keep yourself safe and healthy while hooking up or getting into relationships.)

Snapshot

Talking about sex is the best thing you can do for yourself if you are a sexually active person, especially in your 20s. At this age where the definitions of partnership and sex within those partnerships are becoming increasingly fluid (casual sex, open relationship, one-night stands etc), every time you decide to have sex with a person, you are not only sleeping with them, you are sleeping with everyone they’ve slept with before you. It’s absolutely crucial to talk about having safer, healthier sex, regardless of who you’re having sex with. Infections can pass between two women and two men, as well as between a man and a woman.

Whether you’ve been with someone for a significant amount of time or you’ve only met them for drinks twice, if sex is going to be a part of the equation, it is non-negotiable to talk about it.

Discuss topics like contraception, Sexually Transmitted Infections, risks, sexual histories, much before the moment of truth arrives so that you can go into the experience having covered all bases.

Sure, it can be awkward asking “Have you ever had genital warts?” to the person you’re hoping to get it on with, so here’s a handy guide to what you should be asking them instead.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner

  1. 1. When Did you Last get Tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections?

    This is the most significant question to ask your current sexual partner. Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases (STIs/STDs) are more common than we think and very serious yet treatable illnesses, but because talking about sex is taboo, only one-third of all detected cases of STDs are treated. In most cases, however, a simple course of antibiotics can cure STDs (except HIV-AIDS)!

    More than just the stigma, it is the ignorance about STDs, even among the educated, that has led to an increase in infections, especially in urban India. Since 1981, there has been a mind-blowing 400% increase in STD infections in our country.

    Almost all STDs that are spread through vaginal sex can also be spread by unprotected anal and oral sex. The chances of having an STI increase if you’ve recently found a new sexual partner, have not always used condoms, have had more than one sexual partner in the last year, are a man who has sex with men or have previously had an STI.

    So, ask them when they last went for a test, and don’t be afraid to push for details if you get a vague “few months ago” in response. As an adult, it is as much their responsibility to get tested regularly and share that information with their partners. Also, tests for STDs are usually not included in regular physical examinations and need to be asked for specifically, so if the response is along the lines of “I recently got a health checkup”, ask for more details, especially if they’ve ever been tested for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which leads to AIDS. India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 2.1 million people living with it in 2016.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Graphic: FIT)

    If they’ve never gotten tested before, suggest getting tested together. Their willingness to do so will also tell you if this person is a good sexual fit for you. Get tested yourself if you haven’t either; it’ll make it easier for you to initiate this conversation yourself.

    Ground rule remains: people who are having sex regularly, should be tested regularly. Doctors recommend that men and women get at STI test at least once a year, with women getting an addition Pap test once every three years. As of 31st August 2016 across India, there were 20,756 Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTC), mainly located in government hospitals that conducted extensive tests for STDs and HIV-AIDS along with one-to-one, confidential counselling at affordable costs.

    If your partner constantly dodges the questions or gets resentful, treat it like a red flag and deliberate whether you want to take the risk. (Psst: Not worth it, especially when the basic HIV-test is just a cheek swab.) Just remember you have the absolute right to ask about your partner’s sexual history and whether they’ve ever tested positive for an STI.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Photo: Pinterest) 

    Other than asking your partner these questions, also take initiative to gain awareness about how STIs spread and how you can protect yourself and your partner from it.
    People between the ages of 15-25 years are more susceptible to contracting STIs due to a general lack of maturity to negotiate sexual relationships and a higher tendency of having unprotected/intoxicated/polygamous sex.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Graphic: FIT)

    A lot of STDs are asymptomatic, however, which means they don’t have any visible, outwardly symptoms. There's no way to tell if someone is actually free of STDs unless they have a medical test from a licensed doctor saying so.

    If STDs go untreated, they can lead to serious issues like infertility, or in the case of HIV patients, almost half of them develop the incurable AIDS within ten years. It’s no laughing matter, so just because it doesn’t necessarily go “with the sexy mood” you simply can’t gloss over it.

    Expand
  2. 2. What is Your Approach to Having Safe Sex?

    After you’re clear on the STD front, the second most important thing you need to talk about before you have sex is safe sex practices. Having a conversation about contraception is key to being able to enjoy sex without any worry (or unwanted babies). Especially if your relationship isn’t exclusive, it is important to talk about how you both will continue to have safe sex which can extend back into the conversation of getting tested regularly etc.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Graphic: FIT)

    A lot of men complain of not enjoying sex with a condom as much, particularly if they are coming out of long term relationships. But it is best to set expectations about birth control at the very start so that mistakes are not made when passions run high. There are condoms for men and intra-uterine devices and birth control pills for women, but “pulling out” never qualifies as contraception. Never.

    However, it is important to remember condoms are the only contraception that help prevent the spread of STDs and the frontline to prevent pregnancies. Pills and patches do not affect the exchange of fluid that causes STIs, especially when multiple sexual partners are involved. Therefore, condoms are best used in addition to another form of birth control, but as a general rule of thumb: always use a condom while having sex and let it be known that it is what you expect, period.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Photo: Pinterest) 
    Expand
  3. 3. Are you Sleeping With Anyone Else?

    Don’t assume that because you’re spending a lot of time with your sexual partner, you’re the only one they’re seeing. A presumption of monogamy once you’ve had sex with them in today’s open culture of ‘casual sex’ is setting yourself up for disappointment. Alternatively, if you want to have multiple sexual partners, it is your responsibility to give them that information and establish that you are not looking for an exclusive sexual relationship at the moment. Talking about this topic beforehand can help prevent misunderstandings and gives everyone all the facts they need to decide if the situation is for them or not.

    Specifically ask if they are currently single and/or whether they currently have other sexual partners. If someone says they’re in an “open relationship”, specifically ask if their significant other realises you are seeking another sexual partner and is consenting to it. If they are sleeping with other people and you are okay with that, ask them if those people are aware of your equation as well. Ask them if they have also been recently tested or if anyone is HIV-positive/currently has an STI. The more information you have, the better.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Photo: Pinterest) 

    No one wants to have sex mired in drama, hurt feelings or even lies by omission. Know what you want, ask them what they want, and only when the terms are acceptable to both of you (and everyone else involved), should the fun part begin.

    Expand
  4. 4. Are you Looking for a Serious Relationship or Casual Sex?

    Apart from sexual health, your emotional and mental health are also at stake when you have sex. It is common knowledge that our brains produce the hormone Oxytocin or the “cuddle hormone” in higher quantities (more in women than men) once we’ve had sex with someone, making us feel emotionally attached to them. Also, because sexual values are highly diverse; for some it’s only a physical act (thanks to all the dating apps) while for others it is way to connect at a deeper level; confusion and heartache is inevitable if this topic is left till until after the deed is done.

    The first step is of course knowing what you want.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Graphic: FIT)

    Once you know, bring up the “what are we doing here” topic with your sexual partner. It doesn’t have to be an emotionally-distraught conversation about feelings; you can simply begin by sharing what you are looking for at this point in your life from someone you sleep with and what you are willing to offer.

    Expand
  5. 5. What Are You Into?

    Take some time beforehand to learn what you and your partner like and dislike doing in bed. Setting boundaries and expectations relieves the pressure of taking decisions in the moment not based on our desires but the desire to please the other person. This way you can also relax and only focus on enjoying when you get down to actually doing the deed.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Graphic: FIT)

    For instance, one of you may have a low-tolerance to pain, while the other maybe into BDSM. Or, one of you may be averse to the idea of oral sex.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Photo: Pinterest) 
    Expand
  6. 6. Do You Want to Have Sex?

    Consent isn’t just sexy, it’s necessary. Always, without exceptions. Before you have sex with someone, explicitly ask for consent each time.

    Expand
  7. 7. Bonus: How Do I Have This Conversation?

    A good tip is to not wait until you’re already about to have sex. Your judgement may be impaired in the heat of the moment and you may make decisions you would otherwise think twice about if you had all the information at hand. Talking about things like condoms and protections also tells you about your options so both of you can make the pre-requisite arrangements .

    The only way to have this conversation is with honesty and confidence. Pick a time and place where just the two of you can have a stress- and interruption-free conversation. Share both positive and negative experiences you’d have during sex and ask them to confide in you, as well.

    Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
    (Graphic: FIT)

    A few things to keep in mind are that this conversation is less about knowing the intricate details of your partner’s sexual history. Don’t push too hard for graphic details of their personal life, which has nothing to do with sexual health. It is important to respect their privacy while asking these questions, almost as much as it is important to feel like you have the right to ask whatever you need to before engaging in sex.

    Expand

When Did you Last get Tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections?

This is the most significant question to ask your current sexual partner. Sexually Transmitted Infections/Diseases (STIs/STDs) are more common than we think and very serious yet treatable illnesses, but because talking about sex is taboo, only one-third of all detected cases of STDs are treated. In most cases, however, a simple course of antibiotics can cure STDs (except HIV-AIDS)!

More than just the stigma, it is the ignorance about STDs, even among the educated, that has led to an increase in infections, especially in urban India. Since 1981, there has been a mind-blowing 400% increase in STD infections in our country.

Almost all STDs that are spread through vaginal sex can also be spread by unprotected anal and oral sex. The chances of having an STI increase if you’ve recently found a new sexual partner, have not always used condoms, have had more than one sexual partner in the last year, are a man who has sex with men or have previously had an STI.

So, ask them when they last went for a test, and don’t be afraid to push for details if you get a vague “few months ago” in response. As an adult, it is as much their responsibility to get tested regularly and share that information with their partners. Also, tests for STDs are usually not included in regular physical examinations and need to be asked for specifically, so if the response is along the lines of “I recently got a health checkup”, ask for more details, especially if they’ve ever been tested for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which leads to AIDS. India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 2.1 million people living with it in 2016.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Graphic: FIT)

If they’ve never gotten tested before, suggest getting tested together. Their willingness to do so will also tell you if this person is a good sexual fit for you. Get tested yourself if you haven’t either; it’ll make it easier for you to initiate this conversation yourself.

Ground rule remains: people who are having sex regularly, should be tested regularly. Doctors recommend that men and women get at STI test at least once a year, with women getting an addition Pap test once every three years. As of 31st August 2016 across India, there were 20,756 Integrated Counselling and Testing Centres (ICTC), mainly located in government hospitals that conducted extensive tests for STDs and HIV-AIDS along with one-to-one, confidential counselling at affordable costs.

If your partner constantly dodges the questions or gets resentful, treat it like a red flag and deliberate whether you want to take the risk. (Psst: Not worth it, especially when the basic HIV-test is just a cheek swab.) Just remember you have the absolute right to ask about your partner’s sexual history and whether they’ve ever tested positive for an STI.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Photo: Pinterest) 

Other than asking your partner these questions, also take initiative to gain awareness about how STIs spread and how you can protect yourself and your partner from it.
People between the ages of 15-25 years are more susceptible to contracting STIs due to a general lack of maturity to negotiate sexual relationships and a higher tendency of having unprotected/intoxicated/polygamous sex.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Graphic: FIT)

A lot of STDs are asymptomatic, however, which means they don’t have any visible, outwardly symptoms. There's no way to tell if someone is actually free of STDs unless they have a medical test from a licensed doctor saying so.

If STDs go untreated, they can lead to serious issues like infertility, or in the case of HIV patients, almost half of them develop the incurable AIDS within ten years. It’s no laughing matter, so just because it doesn’t necessarily go “with the sexy mood” you simply can’t gloss over it.

What is Your Approach to Having Safe Sex?

After you’re clear on the STD front, the second most important thing you need to talk about before you have sex is safe sex practices. Having a conversation about contraception is key to being able to enjoy sex without any worry (or unwanted babies). Especially if your relationship isn’t exclusive, it is important to talk about how you both will continue to have safe sex which can extend back into the conversation of getting tested regularly etc.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Graphic: FIT)

A lot of men complain of not enjoying sex with a condom as much, particularly if they are coming out of long term relationships. But it is best to set expectations about birth control at the very start so that mistakes are not made when passions run high. There are condoms for men and intra-uterine devices and birth control pills for women, but “pulling out” never qualifies as contraception. Never.

However, it is important to remember condoms are the only contraception that help prevent the spread of STDs and the frontline to prevent pregnancies. Pills and patches do not affect the exchange of fluid that causes STIs, especially when multiple sexual partners are involved. Therefore, condoms are best used in addition to another form of birth control, but as a general rule of thumb: always use a condom while having sex and let it be known that it is what you expect, period.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Photo: Pinterest) 

Are you Sleeping With Anyone Else?

Don’t assume that because you’re spending a lot of time with your sexual partner, you’re the only one they’re seeing. A presumption of monogamy once you’ve had sex with them in today’s open culture of ‘casual sex’ is setting yourself up for disappointment. Alternatively, if you want to have multiple sexual partners, it is your responsibility to give them that information and establish that you are not looking for an exclusive sexual relationship at the moment. Talking about this topic beforehand can help prevent misunderstandings and gives everyone all the facts they need to decide if the situation is for them or not.

Specifically ask if they are currently single and/or whether they currently have other sexual partners. If someone says they’re in an “open relationship”, specifically ask if their significant other realises you are seeking another sexual partner and is consenting to it. If they are sleeping with other people and you are okay with that, ask them if those people are aware of your equation as well. Ask them if they have also been recently tested or if anyone is HIV-positive/currently has an STI. The more information you have, the better.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Photo: Pinterest) 

No one wants to have sex mired in drama, hurt feelings or even lies by omission. Know what you want, ask them what they want, and only when the terms are acceptable to both of you (and everyone else involved), should the fun part begin.

Are you Looking for a Serious Relationship or Casual Sex?

Apart from sexual health, your emotional and mental health are also at stake when you have sex. It is common knowledge that our brains produce the hormone Oxytocin or the “cuddle hormone” in higher quantities (more in women than men) once we’ve had sex with someone, making us feel emotionally attached to them. Also, because sexual values are highly diverse; for some it’s only a physical act (thanks to all the dating apps) while for others it is way to connect at a deeper level; confusion and heartache is inevitable if this topic is left till until after the deed is done.

The first step is of course knowing what you want.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Graphic: FIT)

Once you know, bring up the “what are we doing here” topic with your sexual partner. It doesn’t have to be an emotionally-distraught conversation about feelings; you can simply begin by sharing what you are looking for at this point in your life from someone you sleep with and what you are willing to offer.

What Are You Into?

Take some time beforehand to learn what you and your partner like and dislike doing in bed. Setting boundaries and expectations relieves the pressure of taking decisions in the moment not based on our desires but the desire to please the other person. This way you can also relax and only focus on enjoying when you get down to actually doing the deed.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Graphic: FIT)

For instance, one of you may have a low-tolerance to pain, while the other maybe into BDSM. Or, one of you may be averse to the idea of oral sex.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Photo: Pinterest) 

Do You Want to Have Sex?

Consent isn’t just sexy, it’s necessary. Always, without exceptions. Before you have sex with someone, explicitly ask for consent each time.

Bonus: How Do I Have This Conversation?

A good tip is to not wait until you’re already about to have sex. Your judgement may be impaired in the heat of the moment and you may make decisions you would otherwise think twice about if you had all the information at hand. Talking about things like condoms and protections also tells you about your options so both of you can make the pre-requisite arrangements .

The only way to have this conversation is with honesty and confidence. Pick a time and place where just the two of you can have a stress- and interruption-free conversation. Share both positive and negative experiences you’d have during sex and ask them to confide in you, as well.

Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby: 6 Questions to Ask Your Sexual Partner
(Graphic: FIT)

A few things to keep in mind are that this conversation is less about knowing the intricate details of your partner’s sexual history. Don’t push too hard for graphic details of their personal life, which has nothing to do with sexual health. It is important to respect their privacy while asking these questions, almost as much as it is important to feel like you have the right to ask whatever you need to before engaging in sex.

(Have questions on sexual health? Write to us at SexEd@thequint.com and we will get experts to answer them for you.)

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