Having sex with someone new for the first time is really exciting. Every kiss, every touch is uncharted territory. But let’s be honest, it can also be really complicated and even a bit intimidating. You want it to be amazing for both of you, and that can create a lot of pressure. While you can't control everything, there are some things you can do before having sex, specifically talking about certain things before you get busy, to make sure it’s a safe and satisfying adventure for everyone.
Having a "talk" before having sex may sound very, well, unsexy. I mean, how often do you see love scenes kicking off in the movies with a mature and adult conversation about consent and STI status? But the truth is, having the awkward conversation first will actually make the experience so much better for both of you, because you can relax and just be in the moment when the moment actually comes.
So what exactly should this pre-sex chat cover? How in depth should the conversation be? What are the absolute must-ask questions? Here is what experts had to say.
The first thing you need to discuss, according to certified sex therapist Sarah Watson, is consent. “Taking consent into the discussion is a must, that consent is ongoing always,” she says.
More specifically, enthusiastic consent is required before sex. Are you both enthusiastic about what is about to happen, and do you both understand that consent can be withdrawn at any time? What's also important to know is if there are any off-limits acts or behaviors between you and your partner, and how you will communicate if you’re approaching them. Consider picking a safe word as shorthand for when something makes you uncomfortable.
In addition to knowing each other's boundaries, it’s good to have an idea of what your partner enjoys and to clue your partner in on what turns you on and gets you off. “Ask them about what turns-ons are in bed and what they may not like,” says clinical sexologist Dr. Dawn Michael . “It can be a fun conversation as well, and when you approach it that way, then the two of you can enjoy the experience better.” Because communication is an essential factor in having great sex.
What kind of relationship do you have with this person? What do you hope the relationship will look like after your sexy times? If you’re not sure, sexologist Stefani Threadgill says the time to ask and figure that out is before you have sex. “It is important to be aware of your level of investment in the relationship. Transparency is the most important element in communication about sex,” she says. While it can be hard to bring these things up, it’s how you protect everyone’s heart. Make sure you two are on the same page, and be sure to practice radical honesty with yourself, too. It can be tempting to try and tell yourself you are feeling (or not feeling) something you aren’t (or are) in the moment.
Michael also suggests asking if they've used protection in past sexual experiences, because she says “this will also give you a clue as to their sexual practice of safe sex.” While it can feel awkward at first to broach the subject, Michael says that this question is just as important as asking about their STI history because “it will show if they are concerned about safe sex and take it seriously.” “This is extremely important because there should be no confusion when it comes to safe sex and using protection,” she continues.
Of course, this is a biggie: What is their STI history and HIV status? If this seems like a scary or unsexy question, that’s just further proof that the question needs to be asked, because in doing so, you are helping to de-stigmatize and normalize these types of conversations. STIs happen, they aren’t the end of the world, and we need to lift the shame if we’re ever going be sexually healthy (figuratively and literally).
“Safety comes first and an answer should be expected," says Michael. "This shows that both people involved are able to have a mature conversation about safe sex and shows that you respect yourself enough to make sure that you know what you are getting into.”
While having the conversation beforehand may feel awkward and unsexy, having the peace of mind afterward can be a real libido boost.