A recent participant in the Staying Negative campaign discussed with me the way he goes about negotiating what he is and isn’t comfortable with in a romantic or sexual partner. Whilst we may negotiate many things in our day to day activities, it is sometimes very difficult to begin these discussions in such an intimate setting. This can be due to a variety of reasons such as nerves, low self esteem, or a general discomfort when discussing issues around sex.
So what types of things are good to negotiate? Well it depends on the setting. In a relationship you may want to negotiate if the relationship is open or monogamous, when to get tested, when to stop using condoms, and what happens if the relationship rules are broken. In a sexual encounter some things that you might want to negotiate could be what you are (or aren’t) into, sexually. If, for example, you prefer to top or bottom or what strategies you are going to use to look after your sexual health can all be talked about. There are of course lots of other things that you could discuss but it really just depends on what you want out of your interaction with the person/people you are negotiating with.
Gareth’s story discusses his strategy which is to open the discussion with a quick 30 second pitch which says, “Hi, this is what I’m about, this is what I’m into and this is what I’m not into”. This can be quite an effective way of opening the discussion up. In this process it immediately lets the other person/people know how you are matched, where you aren’t and what still needs negotiating. Of course not everyone else is as comfortable laying it on the line like this. Some people when negotiating safe sex do it by simply ensuring that condoms and lube are visible which indirectly makes a statement that you prefer to have protected sex. There are a range of strategies that can be used to indicate to your sexual or romantic partner what you want and what you don’t want. What are your strategies? Feel free to post these on the Staying Negative Page
So what is the best outcome? Well this is really up to you, what do you want to get out of your interaction with the other person/people? This type of discussion is valuable because it gives all parties a good understanding of where each other is coming from and what they are looking for. Ultimately whatever your strategy is for having this discussion, good communication is important when meeting people for sexual or romantic encounters as it empowers people to make informed choices about what they do and don’t want to engage in.
Ilan Werbeloff • VAC/GMHC