Sunday School: On STI Screening


How soon is too soon to ask your possible partner/recent sexy-friend about an STD check? I believe asking straight up, right away is fine, but perhaps there is some etiquette to it. And if you have many partners? –B.

I’m pretty sure what I’m supposed to say is that if your friend has recently become your sexy-friend, you’ve waited too long. But we don’t live in a perfect world, and I’m not that preachy.

The only real point of etiquette is to avoid sounding like you are accusing your partner of being a disease-riddled [gendered insult here], which I’m sure is something you would have avoided anyway.

You probably don’t want to suggest a date at the nearest Planned Parenthood so you can get swabbed together. (Although I won’t lie, I’d probably agree to that date and suggest going in fancy dress, because the staff at sexual wellness clinics don’t have enough joy in their lives.) But I believe pretty firmly that if you can’t talk about sex, you shouldn’t be having any, and talking frankly about protection needs to be part of talking about sex. Ideally, any partner(s) you have will understand that, and if they don’t–well, I don’t really want to say you should cut them loose, but you should totally cut them loose. If they don’t take their own safety seriously enough to be able to discuss it without blushing and/or giggling and/or hostility (well, maybe a little giggling is okay), it is pretty foolish for you to expect them to take yours any more seriously. You deserve better than that.

Damn, now I can’t wait until my next volunteer day, so I can tell my nurses about that fancy-dress clinic date idea.

And I hate to cut this short, lovelies, but I’ve been dying of death plague since Thursday and I need to get my ass back to bed.

Featured image is the cutest box of STIs you’ll ever see, from GIANT MICROBES.

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  1. One tip I have for asking about this: Frame the question positively. That is, ask “Are you clean?” rather than “Do you have any STIs?” Although both questions ask the same things, a quirk of human psychology means that the second question sounds more accusatory. (I’m not sure exactly why this is – I think it’s because “no” is usually a disfavored response, so asking a question where “yes” is the disfavored response tends to put people on the defensive.)

    Also, one of Benny’s posts a few days ago linked to a real shitbag who would say “I’m positive” in response to a question like this, as if he did have something he didn’t know about (not like he’d check), he could claim that he’d meant he was positive for that infection, and you’d just misinterpreted it. So watch for any weaselly answers.

    • I TOTALLY disagree with you on this. The word “clean” indicates that carrying an STI is “dirty” and is super judgmental. I suggest “Do you know your STI status? What have you been tested for, and when?” It presumes someone is getting tested and sets that as a social standard, which is why I say “when” instead of “have you been tested.”

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