You’re at a house party. You spot The Perfect Couple™. You make eye contact. You flash your eyebrows, they smile back at you. You’re in!
The four of you start chatting and it turns out you’ve got a ton in common. Chatting turns to flirting. You’re into them and they seem like they’re into you, too.
“I’d really like to touch you right now. May I?”
“Oh! Yes, please!”
And, like that, flirting becomes petting. Eventually, someone suggests you all find a space to play, so off you all go.
“But, wait!” you realize, “I never told them that I can’t stand having my fingernails touched. Or that I love having the inside of my nose licked. But we’re already headed to bed, and now it’s going to be super awkward to tell them about our limits. I don’t want to kill the mood!”
Hey, whoa, it’s okay! All is not yet lost!
It’s never too late to have “The Talk”
It never feels like there’s a good time to discuss rules, limits, and health status, does it?
You worry that if you bring these things into the discussion too soon, you may turn off some folks with whom you could have a great connection. Those folks are still deciding whether they have chemistry with you, and the fear is that the sudden appearance of a laundry list of Don’ts might scare them off.
However, wait too long and it feels like it becomes an awkward game of “Wait, wait, just one more thing before we play…” And yeah, sure, ideally you’d have discussed rules and limits with The Perfect Couple™ once it was clear that the night was going to end in the bedroom (and before it did). But it doesn’t have to be awkward just because you’re already in bed. In fact, if your play space provides any amount of privacy it can actually make the conversation more comfortable than in a crowded common area and, therefore, easier.
So, when do you actually have this conversation? I guess the answer is it depends.
When Kira and I meet new folks at a club or a party, we typically err on the side of early disclosure–we’ll show you an example of this in a minute when we get to the script. Our feeling is that if the folks we’re talking with have some needs we can’t meet (or vice-versa), it gives us a chance to gracefully end the conversation sooner so we can all seek partners who more closely match our play style.
But that’s just the conversation about rules.
Given the cultural stigma attached to STIs and sexual health, while we do discuss screening schedules in that early conversation, we understand that folks may feel more comfortable discussing specific results in private. We hold a space for that before we actually settle in to play.
Of course, waiting to have that conversation means that there may be times where everyone’s ready to play and you have to say, “We appreciate your candor. That’s not a status that we’re comfortable with, but thank you for disclosing.” That conversation never feels good. But it’s been our experience that folks who value enthusiastic, fully-informed consent may be disappointed, but will understand.
Just tell me what to say already
If you’re still feeling uncertain, having a good script will help you feel confident opening this discussion. Remember, it doesn’t have to be an awkward conversation. You’re meeting people who (we hope) want to have sex with you. It’s only natural that you’d talk about what turns you on and what you’re not interested in pursuing.
This script–the same script we’ve used for years–covers three major areas that we feel are essential for informed consent:
- What we’d like to do
- What we won’t do
- Sexual health: barriers, screening, and status
Starting the conversation
As I said, we try to have this part of the conversation early. If it’s feeling like you may want to transition to play with The Perfect Couple™ but no one’s suggested it yet, we’ll open with:
We’re feeling like we have chemistry, and we’d love the opportunity to play with you this evening. Would you be open to discussing what that might entail for you two?
You’re looking for permission to move the conversation forward. Naturally, there’s a possibility that you may receive a polite rejection at this point. But assuming that goes well, you’ll want to scroll down to discussing boundaries to continue the conversation.
If you’ve just been invited to play and haven’t had the boundary conversation already, that’s a good time to add something like:
Before we play, we’d love to share what we’re interested in this evening, and to learn what you’re looking for. Shall we discuss rules before we head back?
What you’re interested (and not interested) in can and will change from partner to partner, night to night. Having opened the conversation, this is your opportunity to discuss what you’re looking for and to lay out any hard limits. Don’t worry if this feels awkward at first. Even if you don’t have 100% overlap with The Perfect Couple™, it’s unlikely you’ll be in complete opposition either.
Try something like this, substituting your own interests and aversions:
It would really turn me on if you would [motorboat my armpits]. And I enjoy [having my earlobes sniffed], but too much can be overwhelming. I’ll let you know if I need you to pull back.
I’m not into [having my tongue bitten]. And I don’t want [my leg hair braided]. So those are off-limits tonight.
Finally, sexual health
You’ll probably find this the most awkward part of the conversation if you’re not used to having it with new partners. Please don’t use that as an excuse to skip this piece. Be direct and matter of fact. Practice with each other at home until it doesn’t feel weird, but don’t skip talking about sexual health. For example:
We require condoms for penetrative sex. We are comfortable with oral barriers, but only require them for known health issues. We get tested every [however often you’re tested]. Our last test was on [date of your last test], those tests covered [everything, hopefully, unless you know otherwise] and the results were [negative or positive as appropriate].
If you’re on any relevant medications–PrEP, for instance–you may wish to include that as well. And, of course, this is a good time to ask your prospective partners for their script, if they haven’t already offered it in the course of the conversation.
As you get more practice with this conversation and start to feel more comfortable having it, you’ll naturally adapt the script to your own needs.
Have you had this conversation before? How did it go for you? Have suggestions to improve this script? Tell us about it in the comments.