Safe Sex and the Sexual Challenges in Non-Monogamy

The sexual landscape is constantly changing, and if you, like so many out there are delving into your first non-monogamous adventure, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed at having to have that safe sex talk, or thinking about sexual obstacles. Things have probably changed since the last time you were out dating, and let’s be honest, having sex with new people, or more than two, brings with it some unique challenges. So rather than discovering everything out the hard way, let me share a few things that will better prepare you for sex outside of monogamy.

While this may seem like the most common-sense place to start, it is often overlooked, until of course you begin to suspect something may be wrong or you get asked about it. We have a tendency to assume that as you have only been with one person for X amount of years, you must be fine right? Wrong! Before starting your first non-monogamous adventure, get tested, and make a plan to make it a regular part of your life. Depending on your sexual activity level, this could entail yearly, quarterly, or even monthly testing. If you are uncomfortable asking for a full STI panel from your family doctor, there are amazing clinics that specialize in testing, (Planned Parenthood for example) and there are even a few online companies that now provide tests in a box, discretely shipped right to your door. So do a little internet searching and find out what options will best suit your lifestyle and budget.

One note of caution that I have heard time and time again is that many physicians will only screen for the basics. Be sure to ask for HSV, blood work, and anything else that is available to ensure a full panel screening, especially that first visit. You may even want to look into getting the HPV vaccine. Knowing your full status is the first step in being an ethical and responsible member of the non-monogamous community. And if anything shows up, you can make a plan to remedy it, or protect future partners. While nothing is 100% safe or without risks there are many things within your control, so let’s take a closer look at how to disclose and have the safe sex talk with new partners.

Talking About Safe Sex with New Partners and Disclosure

I know that the first time feels awkward and uncomfortable, and I would be lying if I said if it ever got easy, but as we all know it is necessary. I mean, wouldn’t you want to know if your new partner had the flu the day you hooked up, especially just before that huge work presentation the next day? Yes, safe sex has everything to do with your health, and anything that you are aware of should be disclosed. Whether your screens came back negative, positive, or you are still waiting for the results, it is important to talk about your status each and every time you meet a new partner. My rule of thumb is to disclose my current and past STI status, even if it is inconclusive. I would rather err on the side of too much information, than not enough. This may seem like a strange stance; however, I am about to trust someone with my body, and I believe full disclosure is the only way to ensure they understand the respect I have for my own body, and set the bar for what I want in return. In nearly 10 years of employing a full disclosure method, I have not had one single person balk, or get mad at me for asking. But how do you actually do that? Here are a few ways to have those discussions:

The only time I recommend someone putting disclosure on their online profile is when they have an active STI/STD status, or something that is incurable i.e. HSV, or HIV. These are diseases/infections that are very polarizing in non-monogamy, so I highly recommend filtering out the hard no’s right from the get go. Respect goes both ways in this instance, so accept a pass, or if reading choose to pass with kindness. This shouldn’t be a place for shame, and being honest should be promoted and encouraged. If you are non-monogamous and are looking for other people who are also positive, there are a few groups and chat rooms specifically for herpes, HIV, Etc. It is not a lost cause, you just may have to dig a little bit deeper.

And as a side note, if someone has right on their profile that they are clean or disease free, I would absolutely still have the safe sex conversation, in fact, I would be more apt to have it. Who knows when that person wrote their profile, or when the last time they were tested was. Never assume.

This is by far my favorite method to employ. Having something in writing that I can reference does wonders for my piece of mind. Also, I can take my time with writing something personalized to our situation, and provide actual dates of my last tests, etc. Here is an example: “I think we are really hitting it off, but before we go any further I would like to be honest that I have had ____ in the past, and as of my last STI test one month ago, I am clear, with nothing awaiting further results. Can you please let me know when your last test was, and if there is anything that I need to know about it? Looking forward to our next hang out, and please let me know if you have any questions or concerns.” Short, simple, and direct.

This is the most difficult method for most of us, and also the one you are going to use most often, especially in the heat of the moment. An easy opener is to pull out a condom, and say, “just so you know I always use condoms when playing for the first time for my safety and yours”. This usually gets the conversation started, and you can almost always see the other party breath a sigh of relief that they didn’t have to bring it up first. Then by all means, give a quick disclosure of your most recent test, and ask them if there is anything that they want to disclose. If you make this routine, and don’t think of it as a chore, it will get easier!

A note of caution, when you do this, watch their body language. While I want to believe that everyone in non-monogamy is completely ethical, there are a few bad apples out there who just want to get laid, and have zero concerns for safety or consent. If you feel for even a moment that they are being untrue, or shifty, trust your gut. Give a polite no thanks, and excuse yourself. Or, agree that any play time will be separate for the evening, and re-visit the situaion in the morning. Believe me when I say, that this will not be your only opportunity to have sex with someone new. 1 out of every 5 American’s (according to the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy published in 2016) has admitted to at least experimenting with non-monogamy, as such, this pond is not nearly as small as you may think. So choose safety and your personal comfort over settling or worse, waking up with guilt or uncertainty in the morning!

Now that you have asked the tough questions and feel confident that you have an adequate understanding of their status and your own, it is time to come up with a plan for sexual contact. Here’s are a few things you may want to consider, bring up, or just be prepared for.

- Lube (Water based/Silicon/Flavored)

- Fluid Transfer (yes or no)

- Birth Control (Pills, IUD, vasectomy Etc.)

- Safe Words

- Toys, Bondage Gears, Costumes, or any other sexual physical additions (and a plan to clean, protect, or share)

- Venue (Hotels, personal homes, lifestyle clubs, etc)

- Cleanup! Do not forget to have a plan when playtime is occurring or over (waterproof blankets, towels, water)

And finally, ensure that everyone understands the level of sexual contact that is permissible, i.e. kissing, oral, swapping, etc. And when in doubt, ask!

Performance Anxiety and Sexual Obstacles

While a solid plan is key to ensuring the best possible experience, you need to be aware that sometimes there are things that feel out of our control. Or mental blocks that creep up at the most inopportune time. While this could be an entire post in of itself, and something that I have coached many on one-on-one, for the sake of this post, I am just going to share the most common issues, and a few methods to mitigate them.

No, they are not all created equal, and just because you have had a vasectomy does not mean you don’t have to wear one. Girth, length, and material matter. Find a condom that fits you snuggly (you may have to buy a few sizes) and will not come off easily with typical use. Make sure you read the size chart and be honest about a good fit. It’s always nice to ensure that your partner does not have any allergies to specific materials or brands too (showing care and attention is hot!). Once that is established, feel free to experiment with thickness, ribbing, flavors, colors etc. Make it fun!

As a side note, if you, like so many men, lose all sensitivity when putting one on, try putting a tiny dab of lube inside the tip, as well as outside (for your partner). There is nothing you can do to make it feel like you aren’t wearing one, but isn’t it better to use a condom and get laid, than to be rejected because you refuse to wear one? Don’t be that guy who makes his new partner have to choose between you or the condom.

When was the last time you were naked around someone other that your partner, or if single, anyone besides yourself? Have you ever been naked around more than one person? These are situations you may soon find yourself in, and let me tell you that the first time can be intimidating. Actually, scratch that, thinking about it and preparing for it can be even more nerve wracking.

I have encountered many situations where people try to combat their specific body image by employing methods that end up ruining a fun night. For example, not eating the day of the party, drinking or doing drugs in excess to take the edge off, or getting so worked up that they end up ghosting or cancelling at the last minute. We have all felt self conscious in the wake of having sex with someone new for the first time, but it is in that stream of thought that should give you the most comfort. There are two (or more) in the exact same boat. No one, and I mean no one, is 100% confident all the time. Feeling insecure, or comparing yourself to others is a very real way of perceiving new people. But acknowledging that the other parties are doing the exact same thing is a trick that I use almost every time I am faced with a new situation. And honestly, if you are seriously doubting yourself, read all the posts on social media where people are feeling the exact same level of insecurity you are, its reassuring to know you are not alone. Or you could always just picture them naked!

There is no shame in using lube, in fact I keep a bottle in my “sex purse” at all times. Female lubrication is not an indicator of arousal. There is zero shame in using it, and in fact should be encouraged. In the same stream of thinking, the same can be true of erections. I have encountered many men who are aroused, enjoying the scene around them, and yet cannot create or maintain an erection. This is completely normal. There is a lot going on. So, using things like cock rings, or erectile pills, shouldn’t be something you dismiss out of hand. Read the label, and use responsibly. Don’t shame yourself or others for using all the sexual artillery in your box!

Consent

If you take only one thing away from this post, I want it to be about consent. My only bad experiences in non-monogamy have been when people have touched me without obtaining my consent first (and believe me, I have written a few doozies over on my personal blog). Consent, in non-monogamy is the difference between someone just looking to get laid or “off” by any means necessary, and someone who is an ethical member of this incredible community, and will be invited and encouraged to have so many more sexy times ahead. There are two foundational layers to consent; one is saying no, and the other is receiving a no.

Learning to say no, with intent and purpose is a skill-set that goes a long way. And if I am being completely honest, the point that I have struggled the most with. Equally important is hearing the word no, and then stopping immediately. You are not owed any further explanation in that moment. A no, is the end of the conversation. If we, in the community work towards using and receiving no in calm, and respectful way, it opens the door to incredible sexy adventures, built on a solid foundation of trust.

Once you master the word no, I recommend that you seek out some of the amazing articles out there that encourage people in non-monogamy to use an enthusiastic yes, instead of focusing on no. Hearing the word yes, is such a turn-on. And while I fully subscribe to this, especially for people who are active in non-monogamy, there is no getting around the fact that no, is the most important word in non-monogamy today.

Do you have a safe sex tip of your own? Or perhaps a specific question about sexual anxiety in non-monogamy? I would love to hear from you either below, or via my social media! Be safe, and have fun being your best sex positive self!

Krys is a sex positive blogger, writer, and a lover of craft beer. breakingawayfrommonogamy.com.

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