Talking with your partner about preventing STDs and unplanned pregnancy is one of the most important things you can do to protect your sexual health.

Why do I need to talk about condoms and birth control?

Talking about protecting your sexual health is an important part of being sexually active. It’s normal to feel nervous about bringing up condoms and birth control, but you can totally handle this. And imagine how much more difficult it would be to bring up your STD or unplanned pregnancy.

If you have penis-in-vagina (vaginal) sex, it’s really important to use both a condom and another form of birth control (like the pill or the IUD). That way you’re protected from both pregnancy and STDs. So talk about both.

If you have anal sex, you need to use a condom and lubricant. For oral sex, use a condom or a dental dam. Using all this stuff is sometimes called “safer sex,” since you’re lowering your risk of pregnancy and STDs.

Talking about STDs is just as important as talking about preventing pregnancy. And just because you’re not having vaginal sex doesn’t mean you don’t have to talk - STDs are a possibility with any kind of sex.

If you’re not sure what to say, practice beforehand. Then, choose a good time to talk (not in the heat of the moment). If your partner refuses to use protection, then they aren’t showing respect for you or your health.

How do I talk about safer sex?

DO

  • Find a time when you’re relaxed and can focus.

  • Use “I” statements — like, “I want us to protect each other,” instead of, “You need to get on birth control.”

  • Remind them that safer sex benefits BOTH of you.

  • Clearly state that you want to use protection if you’re going to have sex. No protection? No sex.

  • Tell them that using protection will allow both of you to enjoy sex more, since neither of you will have to be worrying about STDs or unplanned pregnancy.

  • Use positive language. For example: “I want to talk with you about this because I care about you.”

  • Make sure the conversation is a 2-way street — so talk AND listen. Try to understand their point of view and ask questions.

  • Work together to get the protection you need. This means talking about how to get the protection you need and who’s going to pay for it, both now and in the future.

DON’T

  • Start the conversation when you’re about to have sex — that can get awkward (or a problem if you don’t have the protection you need with you). Talk about it way before you have sex, so you can make sure you’re doing all you can for protection (like going to the doctor and getting a really effective birth control method if you’re having vaginal sex).

  • Assume they don’t like condoms. Most people use condoms, so they’ve probably thought about it, too. Saying you’re into condoms might make them more comfortable saying that they are, too.

  • Be judgmental, aggressive, or controlling.

  • Assume that using condoms means they’re cheating on you. People use condoms because they care about themselves and each other.

Want more help with these conversations? Check out It Takes Two for more.