Another winner for GQ.com. Illustration by Cecile Dormeau.
Many monogamous relationships grow from love. Many other, less lame monogamous relationships grow from a desire to stop using condoms. The DTR (define the relationship) conversation is a great time to talk about having unprotected sex, but the reverse is also true: A conversation about unprotected sex often leads to a conversation about Us. Physical sensation aside (going condom-free also feels fantastic for women), it’s a bonding experience. A newly condom-less relationship is cause for celebration. Forget wedding invites, start designing your invitations to your “we don’t use condoms anymore” dinner party. There’s emotional intimacy and a greater physical connection in becoming fluid-bonded, but that also means your genital germs are becoming your partner’s genital germs. For the sake of your relationship and the general public’s health, there are three conversations you must have before you toss out your rubbers.
1. Test Results
You have the right to do whatever you want with your body. You can get as many tattoos as you want and smoke as much weed as you want. Those things don’t really hurt anyone else, and they might even make you look really cool. But you gotta get tested. Talking about viruses and bacteria of the loins we may have picked up from sexual decisions past may make you squirm. The joy of being a grown-up is that we can drink beer, have sex, and stay up late, but the downside is we have to talk about the clap.
Worrying about your STI status is kind of like when you were a kid and you worried you’d get abducted by aliens. You probably thought you were the only freak kept up at night by that thought, but so was every other kid in the class. Rest assured your partner has not practiced perfectly safe sex his or her entire life either, so just take advantage of the mutual anxiety and say, “Let’s get tested, because I really want to make love to you without either of us having to stress about anything.” Skip the “I know I’m clean” route, without getting tested, because ya don’t know. It can also be a surprisingly romantic experience to get tested together. Go out for ramen after.
2. Birth Control
Some people think children are a source of love and joy, but I think babies are the most dangerous sexually transmitted infection of them all. They affect your lifestyle the most, they’re expensive, and they’re bad for the environment. I doubt you clicked on this article because you’re ready to become a parent, but if you have a functioning penis, you can make babies. Is she on the pill? Would a more long-term method be a better option, such as an IUD? Are you on the same page about reproductive rights? You don’t have to decide if you ever want to have kids there and then. Just check in with your lady lover with an easy “Are you happy with your birth control? Because as beautiful as our babies would be, I’m not there right now.” Offer to split the cost of her birth control. If she’s going to be the one dealing with side effects of hormonal birth control or the pain of an IUD insertion, it’s the polite thing to do.
Having sex only with each other, after getting tested and discussing birth control, is the safest way to bone without condoms—end of story. You just have to talk about it. If you know you’re into monogamy, say, “I’d love for us to only sleep with each other, how do you feel about that?” But that’s not always how it goes down. Some people prefer open relationships. If you’re non-monogamous but you want to talk about unprotected sex, say, “Hey, I trust you, so if you’re comfortable with it, I’d love to talk about us having sex without condoms.”
There are plenty of couples who agree to not use condoms with each other, but with anyone else. If you go this route, just please make sure that everyone else you’re sleeping with knows that you and your primary partner do it raw, so they can decide how they feel about that. Remember that some STIs, such as HPV and HSV (herpes), can still be transmitted from skin-to-skin contact, and that condoms only reduce the risk. Condom companies love to brag about how they are 98 percent effective, but that’s not factoring in human error.
TL; DR: If you’re in an open relationship, communicate with everyone and accept the risks before quitting condoms. If you’re monogamous, actually be monogamous. Cheating is always more trouble than it’s worth.