Whether you’re in a polyamorous relationship or dating multiple partners and have yet to settle down, practicing safe, consensual sex is vital for everyone involved. Naturally, there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to managing your sexual health and multiple sexual partners. And since the National Library of Medicine explains that women with five or more partners are eight times more likely to contract an STD–it’s easy to see why regular testing comes so highly recommended.
While the subject of addressing sexual wellness with your partners may be discouraging at first, it doesn’t have to be. With clear and open communication, it can be easy to mitigate risk and ensure the safety of all parties. In this blog, we’ll discuss how to navigate not just your sexual health but the health of all your relationships as well.
Understand The Risks Involved
According to World Population Review, the United States has some of the highest STD rates in the developed world. While this isn’t meant to scare you, it should get you thinking. If you’re involved with multiple partners, there are a few questions you should be asking each partner. These include:
- How many people are involved in these relationships? The total number should include all of your partners AND all of THEIR partners
- Has everyone undergone testing recently?
- What (if any) protocol is in place should one of your partners (or their partner’s partners) contract an STD or STI?
- What kinds of protection are being used? And who (if any) is fluid-bonded or practicing unprotected sex?
- Do all parties involved understand their risks and the fact that not every STI is detectable?
- Does everyone also understand that not all STIs/STDs present visible symptoms?
While you certainly don’t want your relationships to feel procedural in any way, these questions are vital for laying the groundwork for any safe sexual relationship involving multiple partners. Once you and your partners are on the same page, the chances of contracting an STD begin to decrease.
Be Up Front with Your Partners
As mentioned in the previous paragraphs - communication is key when dealing with multiple partners. And so are boundaries. When it comes to the risk-reward ratio for sex, the decision is a personal one. In turn, you may not always see eye to eye with your partners.
While you must respect your partner’s decisions, you must also assert your boundaries. For instance, if you feel that your partner's sexual practices are too risky for your personal comfort, you are always at liberty to turn down sex. If you’re in a relationship with multiple partners, be sure to establish these boundaries ahead of time.
In the spirit of being upfront, another important topic to discuss with each partner is your separate sexual histories. Begin by asking your partner(s) if there is anything that would like to share about their sexual history while offering a transparent look into yours. In the end, you can exchange whatever information you’re comfortable with, including your STD/STI testing history.
Seek Testing Regularly
The Centers for Disease Control recommends yearly testing for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. However, those having sex with multiple or anonymous partners should seek testing on a more frequent basis (about every 3 to 6 months). The same goes for HIV testing. If for one reason or another you feel as though this is too frequent or infrequent, we recommend consulting a medical professional you trust and with whom you are comfortable enough to discuss your sex life.
When considering how often you should get tested, there’s one other thing to keep in mind. That’s the fact that some STIs can take up to three months before becoming detectable. In turn, even when every sexual partner tests negative, a nonzero risk of STI transmission still exists. This means there’s still a chance of STD/STI transmission in the meantime.
Discuss One Another’s Expectations
Whether you’re new to having multiple partners or have recently taken on a new partner, one thing is for certain–knowing each other’s expectations upfront can prevent a whole lot of confusion and unnecessary harm. For instance, are you only looking to hookup or have a friends-with-benefits type relationship? Or are you seeking something more serious with some degree of commitment?
If you are someone with multiple partners, that fact should never be kept from anyone involved. Instead, take the time to discuss one another’s expectations so the proper precautions can be taken in terms of safe sex. Otherwise, you and/or your partner(s) risk spreading sexually transmitted diseases and infections unknowingly.
Talk About Birth Control/Protection Options
If you’re having sex with multiple partners, chances are you aren’t looking to reproduce. Unless, of course, you are in a committed polyamorous relationship. However, if the former applies, you and your partners will want to touch on this subject as well. Take the time to ask your partners about which types of birth control they prefer while sharing your preferences. Together, you can decide on an option that pleases everyone. The same is true for protection methods. Remember, proper condom use is always the best method for preventing the spread of STDs.
Safe Sex with Multiple Partners is Not Only Possible, But It's Also Easy
It’s no secret that the world is changing. Today, modern relationships look quite different than they did even twenty years ago. In fact, Newsweek says 1 in 9 Americans have been in a consensual polyamorous relationship at some point in their lives. While practicing safe sex with multiple partners might seem challenging in the beginning, employing the above tips will make things not only easier but also much less complicated. And if it’s your time to get tested, consider 247Labkit’s comprehensive at-home STD kits for a complete screening in the comfort of your own home.