In the world of open relationships, there are lots of benefits for those who desire to engage in sexual practices with other people. It can be both very exciting and fulfilling to explore these realms. There are risks, however, that need to be addressed in order for everyone to feel empowered in the choices they make – before they choose.
I’m specifically referring to the topic of sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
As much as we might want to pretend that STIs don’t exist, they do. In the world of ethical non-monogamy, we need to do our best to educate ourselves and our partners on STIs. This means getting tested regularly, sharing our status with potential playmates, and requesting they do the same.
Granted, the STI conversation may be awkward. And like other emotions, the feeling of awkwardness has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Rather than get stuck on how the conversation might feel, learn to feel the feeling and have the conversation anyway. For example: “I’m really drawn to you and I have a desire to be intimate with you. I feel a bit awkward bringing this up but it’s important to me that we address STIs before moving forward. I get tested every 6 months. My last test was in August and it was clean. I do have HSV2 (genital herpes) which does not come up in routine STI testing. I know I have this because I got a blood test. I’m not excited about having it because there’s a big stigma around it. I’d be happy to share information with you. Before I do so, can you tell me about your STI status, how often you get tested, and when you had your last test?”
Remember, it’s best practice to have the STI conversation BEFORE you are sexually intimate with anyone. Acting first and then asking for forgiveness is never a good option. Be responsible. Have the conversation. Initiate it if you have to. The sooner you have the conversation, the sooner you can relax in knowing what you need to know in order to make a choice that best serves you and the person or people you are with.
The test for Herpes Simplex Virus 2 (HSV2) is NOT part of the standard STI panel offered at most clinics. You have to specifically ask your doctor for the HSV2 blood test. This is not common knowledge. Many people assume that the standard STI test covers every sexually transmitted infection. It does not. What this means is that there are a lot of people who think they are STI free, when they may actually have HSV2. I’m not sharing this to scare anyone. I’m sharing this because knowledge is power. The more we know about our health, the more empowered we can be in making choices that best serve ourselves and others. There have been quite a few recent articles written on HSV2. One of my favorites is http://www.huffingtonpost.com/healthcom/everything-you-think-you_b_8578708.html. This article busts eight big myths about the herpes infection. I highly encourage you to read it and share it with your potential open relationship dates and playmates.