Expand Your Sexual IQ: How to have compassionate conversations about STIs

by Gina Garris

If you can’t talk about it, don’t do it (yes, this means have s-x)! This month is STD/STI Awareness Month and I’m here to invite you to be more aware, more open, more direct and more curious about your sexual health.

Thank you for reading this as it will expand your Sexual IQ and awareness. Sexual health is a personal value – it’s why we have the conversation so we can be more informed, careful and respectful to ourselves and others. Does this feel important to you?

A lot of humans have STD/STIs and live in shame about it – more than you can probably imagine. The stigma towards sexual health can be very harsh. Sex positivity is about being in acceptance to all forms of sexuality, including sexual health. Accepting and respecting humans with STD/STIs is part of being sex-positive, which does not mean you have to have sex with them. Disrespecting, demeaning them, or being cruel is not sex-positivity, nor humane.

One way to really help is to remove the language “clean” from anything to do with STD testing. Please consider changing the language to “clear”. I received “clear” test results. To suggest one is clean, would suggest that one who may have an STI (like me, since I have herpes) is “dirty”; that just isn’t true.

Placing your sexual health in line with self-care/health-care allows one to prioritize sexual health and intimacy.

Not only is it important to understand your personal sexual values with regard to other humans’ bodies, but also to understand what your own personal boundaries are for your body. How will you respond if someone discloses they have an STI? If they won’t use a condom/barrier? Do you know your body boundaries? Every situation is different, and getting educated and curious about your personal beliefs and boundaries is an important role in creating safe(r) sex scenarios. Use those questions above as a starting point to really explore.

*HOT TIP* Can this conversation be used as a filter? I’ll share a personal story. Most of the time when dating or looking for new lovers, I now lead with “Hi, I’m Gina and I have herpes!” You see, I’m an Energetic and I have been known to fall in love pretty quickly. I used to get my heart broken because I would invest time and energy getting to know new humans, wait to have any conversation around “the talk” until I felt nice and safe (and pretty attached)….only to find out (sometimes) that some humans don’t even want to have the compassion or decency to even have a conversation about sexual health.

This conversation is my favorite filter with new lovers. If a human isn’t able to have a conversation with compassion and respect about any STI disclosure, boundaries or pregnancy prevention, then they are not for me. Finding this out, in the beginning, has saved me a whole lot of heartache and time! The conversations may be uncomfortable, but communication about this isn’t negotiable to me.

One of the biggest questions I get, particularly if someone has an STI to disclose, is: “how do I have the conversation?”

There are two sides to this: it’s not a big deal and it is a big deal. In other words, this conversation is really important and it doesn’t have to take on the energy of DEFCON 5. We make it huge in our minds, which is why I decided to use it as a filter and get it out of the way quickly and casually. Talking about sex can be as easy as ordering coffee. “I love to play all afternoon, with lots of deep connection, intercourse and snuggling after. I prefer using protection…and I have herpes. Tell me about you.”

Practicing helps with the nervousness, shyness or embarrassment that may come along with these conversations. If you are wanting to dig in a little, start to get curious about the emotions that come up from reading this, the thought of having the conversation and even as you practice talking about it more, the emotions and body sensations you experience. They are all clues that can lead you to more freedom if you are willing to take some time to explore them.

I get why this is scary.

In my work, I’ve spent a lot of time with humans who have herpes and I’ve honestly seen and heard really horrible ways people respond to certain disclosures. Those people are probably not for you. Now you know!

This is why STI Awareness Month is so important. Genital health is no different than digestive health or heart health or oral health. We talk about different illnesses very openly and often. I would not wish the things I have seen, the stories I have heard, and the personal experiences that I have had on anyone.

Please be kind to each other. This blog is not to cause shame or harm; it’s to promote deeper connection and love. Love, love, LOVE!

We are all amazing, sexual, erotic beings. The opinions other people have about our health doesn’t change that. They emerge from preferences, fears and desires. The work of the Erotic Blueprints™ is to first understand and celebrate ourselves, to be liberated in our sexuality and to celebrate our pleasure.

I love that there is a month dedicated to creating acceptance and communication around STIs, something that most sexually active people will come in contact with, whether or not they have one. Can we accept and celebrate everyone in their eroticism, whether or not we choose to be with them? Can we treat each other with compassion, respect and love?

Here are a few tips on having conversations based on the Blueprints™; start with yours, then meet the other human in theirs if you know it. All of this is about safety, comfort and respect. What can you do to create that for yourself?

Remember, this conversation is not an apology! You are sexy, you are incredible. The more you know this about yourself, the more you let yourself be turned on by you before the conversation starts, and the less it matters how it is received that you have an STI (or that you are afraid of them.)

Energetic – Remember that most Energetics need safety and connection. How can you offer yourself that before you start the conversation and what does that look like from the other person? Does it mean asking while on a walk in nature, in a private place rather than a restaurant, in person so you can see body language and eyeballs rather than by phone? Sometimes it’s better to be bold and rip off the bandaid, coming more from your Sexual Blueprint™ so that if they choose not to engage with you, you won’t get a broken heart. What are your wants, needs and desires? (On the flip side, sometimes texting this conversation may be easier on an Energetic. Feel into what’s true for you. Experiment. Practice.) Lastly, you can’t rely on or fully predict any person’s reaction, so be as comfortable in you as you can.

Sensual – For Sensual Blueprint™ humans, this is all about the atmosphere. What are you wearing? Is it cozy? Can you touch something that keeps you in your body and your pleasure? Be in a place where you are comfortable. Ignite all your senses and slow your voice down. Give yourself the spaciousness to be fully immersed in the conversation. Over a meal together is a great way to stay connected to your senses and include delicious flirting with your food as you explore the conversation.

Sexual – A Sexual Blueprint™ conversation gets to be fun, casual, and generally very direct. A fun opening line: “I love to geek out about genitals and genital health, how about you? How are your genitals these days? Wanna go get tested together?” Doing an STI testing date is often a hit with Sexual Blueprints.

Kinky – On one level, you’re already being kinky just having the conversation – something quite taboo in our current society. And…ahhh, the games you can play, Kinky! What an exceptional time to play Dr. and Nurse. Or, make it an internal game of submitting to your “condition”. Maybe even allow it to be the speaking voice. Open wide to whatever the response is. Imagine the entire thing as a scene – and even set it up like that. “I want to create a scene where I tell you a secret.” If you’re feeling shame about it, perhaps you can even enjoy the sensation. Let your creativity fly. And, if you do the “rip off the bandaid technique”, enjoy the pain of it!

Shapeshifter – Pick your favorite! Feel into the moment and decide what works best for you in the moment with this person. Feel free to practice all the styles suggested here.

*HOT TIP* This conversation will be uncomfortable until you get comfortable with it. Please be sweet to yourself as you practice…and please practice! Talk about it with your friends, partner(s), and even your older children. Every one of us deserves to be treated with respect and kindness. Can you practice that for yourself and with others?

Feeling better, sexy darlings? Do you remember how amazing you are? Breathe that. Be that.

To conclude, here is a simple framework from fiveactionsteps.org (in conjunction with National Coalition for Sexual Health). Take these in as food for thought. You are loved, valued and worthy of your desires.

  1. Value who you are and decide what’s right for you.
  2. Get smart about your body and protect it.
  3. Treat your partners well and expect them to treat you well.
  4. Build positive relationships.
  5. Make sexual health part of your health care routine.

P.S. If you’re looking to dive deeply into the link between health and your sex life, the Erotic Blueprint Breakthrough Course™ has a module for that! Check out the course to delve deeply into all aspects of your health so you can turn those obstacles into pathways to pleasure!

Free Masterclass

Gina {GG} Garris (they/them or she/her) is a lover of SEX, LOVE and all things RITUAL. For over 20 years, she has infused her life with sharing love as a gender-queer woman, healer, teacher and mentor. Being in GG’s presence allows you to relax into more of yourself. Without judgment, Gina naturally creates a sacred space of awareness, acceptance and appreciation of all aspects of you, light and dark.

This permission from within calls forth new ways of BE-ing. Lightness, wholeness, juiciness, and life without shame are just some of the ways Gina’s clients describe the results of her work. Whether you encounter GG while in the realms of the Erotic Blueprints™, or Ritual, Ceremony & Magic, they meet you wherever you are on your journey and just loves you. Unconditionally. As part of the LGBTQIA community, it is GG’s pleasure to serve all orientations.

“Our compatibility has gone through the roof…how to be pleased. How to ask to be sexually pleased. How to please you (your partner) sexually. How to experience not only the orgasms we were already having and the ecstatic pleasure that we were already living, but now to have it magnify and multiply and go to whole new levels. It feels like we’re starting our relationship again!“

Satyen and Suzanne Raja

Embrace what has been buried and shamed in your body for thousands of years.

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