Embarrassment and stigma regarding sexual history often prevent people from having an open dialogue about it.
It is important to educate yourself on STI prevention and other safe sex behaviors.
Talk about your past sex life with your doctors and partners, and get tested for STIs regularly.
Conversations about sexual history are sticky for many couples, but learning to effectively communicate about it is vital to a healthy and happy sex life.
If you've ever been asked by a new love interest what your body count is, you know the immediate panic that sets in. Should you lie if the number is a lot? Should you lie if the number isn't a lot? Everyone has a unique sexual history that affects their physical and mental health. Addressing your past sexual experiences is necessary to keep your health and your partner’s health in check. Release the stigma regarding sexual health and discuss it objectively when you need to with doctors and partners.
Many people feel embarrassed or ashamed of their sexual history but never judge yourself or others. Sex is a beautiful and pleasurable part of human nature, and you should even wear it with a badge of honor.
You decide how much or how little information you want to share about your sex life, but make sure you are honest regarding your sexual health for the protection of yourself and your partners.
What Is Sexual History?
Sexual history refers to your sexual health and personal experiences with sex including partners, types of sex, STI history, protection against STIs and pregnancy, and psychosexual experiences. Knowing about your sexual history is vital to ensure a healthy sex life for you and your partner(s).
When To Share Sexual History
Due to embarrassment and stigma, many people feel secretive about their sexual history or uncomfortable discussing it. It is important to never feel ashamed of your sexual experiences and discussing accurate sexual history needs to be normalized to maintain happy and healthy sex lives.
If you have experienced sexual trauma, discussing your sexual history is often extremely stressful. Take your time to open up and utilize your resources to work on healing.
Just like you should regularly get your teeth cleaned and your eyes checked, it’s important to check what’s going on downstairs too. Sexual health is typically checked during a yearly physical for penis owners and at the yearly gynecologist for vagina owners, or anytime you are inquiring about a possible STI.
When you are tested for STIs and general sexual health, your doctor may ask you questions regarding your sexual history. Remember they are not there to judge you, but rather to protect and take care of you. Be as honest as you can with them. Besides, they hear the sexual history of countless people and will likely forget all about yours!
Of course, there are bad eggs in any basket, so if your doctor shames you for safe sex practices then you need to look for a new practitioner. It is important to feel safe and comfortable with your doctor, especially when it comes to sexual health. This is often more difficult for those who are not cis, heterosexual individuals. Make sure your doctor knows your gender and sexual identity to offer proper care and a safe space for you to discuss your sexual experiences openly.
It is a common misconception that a doctor or partner is able to tell how many sexual partners you have had, especially for women. However, your body does not change from having sex regardless of frequency or number of partners. Nobody can tell how many sexual partners you have had — not even a doctor — unless you tell them.
It is important to discuss sexual history with every new partner you have, and perhaps along the way if either of you are engaging in sex with other people. This conversation is important for STIs and pregnancy prevention. Bring it up early to make sure you’re both square before things get hot and heavy.
Discussing sexual history with emotionally involved partners is tricky, as most people typically don’t like the discussion of their partner having sex with other people. However, this conversation should be as normal as warning your partner that you’ve had a scratchy throat all week. Stay objective in your conversation and give your partner a safe space to be honest about their experiences without judgment. Discussing sexual history is a part of good general health and is needed to have a safe and healthy sex life.
Just as you expect your partner to respect your privacy, make sure you respect theirs. Everyone has the right to decide who does or does not know about their sexual history.
The Five Ps of Sexual History
The five Ps are utilized to address all of the important parts of your sexual history to ensure you and your partner(s) are engaging in safe sex with honesty. Doctors often use these points to cover all of their bases.
Utilize this guideline to objectively discuss sexual history with your partner(s) as well.
When discussing partners as a part of your sexual history, you include the gender of your partners, if you currently have any sexual partners, how many partners you had in the past two months, how many partners you had in the last year, and if these partners were also having sex with other people while with you.
Sexual practices include what type of sex you engage in whether it is vaginal, anal, or oral. Practices also include whether or not you use a condom with each type of sex. If you do not use a condom, it can be useful to address why you didn't.
Prevention of Pregnancy
Prevention of pregnancy refers to whether or not you are actively trying to prevent pregnancy, and if you are, what method of birth control you are using.
Protection of STIs
What are you doing to protect yourself and your partner(s) from STIs? To answer this question, it is important to know how you contract STIs and the best ways to prevent them.
Past History of STIs
When discussing your history of STIs, be sure to include the last time you got tested, if you've ever had an STI, if your past partners had an STI, and if you or past partners ever used intravenous drugs.
When To Get Tested for Sexually Transmitted Infections
Knowledge of your sexual history is a key factor in the treatment and prevention of sexually transmitted infections. Educating yourself and getting checked regularly are key to a healthy sex life.
Sometimes there are no symptoms of an STI so regular testing is recommended based on your age and sexual practices.
If at any time you suspect that you might have an STI, contact your doctor and get tested. If you've had sex with somebody with an STI, contact your doctor to see when to get tested as the infection is usually not detectable on the test immediately.
If you have any symptoms of an STI such as discharge from genitals, pain while urinating, a rash or growth on your genitals, itchy or foul-smelling genitals, pain during sex or unusual bleeding, contact your doctor right away.
Don’t panic if you experience symptoms of a sexually transmitted infection, STIs are easily treated or managed with modern medicine. You were likely taught about STIs in middle school in a terrifying way, but this is not the reality! As long as you are proactive in your treatment, things will be as good as new very soon.
If you or a sexual partner has had sex with a new partner since your last test, it is important to undergo testing again.
If you need an STI test, contact your primary care physician, gynecologist, or health clinic. There are also home test kits available, but results are not as accurate when you collect a sample yourself.
Chlamydia and Gonorrhea
Get screened yearly for chlamydia and gonorrhea if you are a sexually active woman, a man engaging in sex with men, a transgender woman having sex with men, have HIV, or if you were sexually assaulted.
Men who have sex with women are typically asymptomatic if they contract Chlamydia or Gonorrhea, so they are exempt from this rule. However, if you are experiencing symptoms or believe you have come in contact with an STI, get tested regardless of your gender or sexuality.
HIV, Syphilis, and Hepatitis
Everybody between the ages of 15 and 65 needs to be tested at least once for HIV.
If you are at risk of infections, it is recommended you get tested at least once a year. Someone is considered at risk of HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis if they have another STI, have multiple sexual partners, use intravenous drugs, are pregnant or trying to become pregnant, were sexually assaulted, or if they are a man engaging in sex with other men.
Individuals that have symptoms of genital herpes, especially sores on the genitals, should be tested to see if they are infected.
Otherwise, it is usually only necessary to be tested if you were exposed. Genitals herpes tests are tricky because even though the test is most accurate during an outbreak, not everyone that is infected with herpes ever exhibits symptoms of the infection.
Women ages 25 to 65 should be tested for HPV every three years. This test is a part of your annual gynecologist visit during the infamous PAP smear.
Testing is only necessary for men with genital warts or an at-risk partner. Ask any male partners if they are vaccinated for HPV because they are often carriers without even knowing.
Psychosexual history is the way you see, feel, and think about sex due to sexual experiences in your life. Culture, religion, society, parents, relationships, and anything else that has had an impact on your views of sex contribute to your psychosexual history. Many people are unaware of their psychosexual history because it is not often talked about, and it is difficult to understand how your thoughts on sex influence your sex life.
Your psychosexual history has likely been unaddressed unless you knowingly experience issues in your sex life due to them or a doctor has suspected you have a notable psychosexual history.
According to an article published by the National Library of Medicine, Doctors Garima Tarun Narang and Shubh M. Singh claim that “sexual problems that are psychological in origin, rather than physiological, are called psychosexual disorders. Multiple factors, such as general health of the patient, chronic illnesses, psychiatric/psychological disorders, and socio-cultural factors, alone or in combination can be attributed to the development of psychosexual dysfunctions.”
Symptoms of psychosexual dysfunctions vary for every person based on their experience and identities. These issues are often misidentified when they manifest through physical symptoms. This is largely due to patients not sharing their psychosexual history because of shame or lack of realizing physical issues are caused by psychological issues.
Psychosexual history is key in identifying and treating these disorders. Many doctors ask if you were sexually assaulted, so make sure you are honest. If your doctor does not ask, but you have such a history, bring it up to your doctor or psychologist. If you feel shameful or embarrassed about sex due to culture, religion, society, or any other influence in your life, consider talking to a psychologist with experience in this area.
Just as you ask your partner about their physical sexual history, ask them about their psychosexual history as well. Understanding their views on sex along with their life experiences surrounding it is important to connect with them. Ask your partner what their culture, religion, parents, and society think about sex. Everyone has their own idea of what a normal sex life is. Try to see the world of sex through their eyes and better understand their psychological relationship with sex.
Discussing a negative psychosexual history with a partner is extremely difficult. Consult your doctor or online resources if you need advice and support to have this discussion. Letting your partner know about your difficult psychosexual history is needed for them to create a safe space for you to engage in fulfilling sex. Let them know what you have experienced, how it affects you, and what you need within the relationship to nurture this.
Discussion of Sexual History in Relationships
Discussing your sexual history with a new partner is frequently a tricky situation. Some people feel better not knowing anything about their partner’s past due to jealousy or insecurity, as ignorance is bliss. However, if you communicate statistically and objectively without too much information, this conversation is necessary for your sexual health. If you mindfully discuss details, you may learn more about your partner and deepen your connection to one another.
Your sexual history should not affect your current sex life negatively. Partners shouldn't judge you for your past or feel jealous about people you were with before them. You can both learn from your own experiences as well as from one another.
Learning more about your partner’s intimate past and desires strengthens the trust in your relationship and gives more insight into pleasing one another. Be vulnerable and honest with one another to strengthen your trust, deepen your bond, and improve your sexual compatibility.
Keep It Objective
If you or your partner experience feelings of jealousy or insecurity, it may be better to leave the nitty-gritty of your sexual history a mystery. There is no harm in starting a new relationship with a clean slate. However, discussing your statistics and the five Ps is important to ensure safe sex. Covering each of these points in an objective conversation creates a healthy sex life with proper STI prevention and pregnancy planning.
Keeping this conversation statistical and straightforward eliminates feelings and protects each of your emotions. Even if you struggle with jealousy, knowing that you are having safe sex is the bare minimum!
Don't Skimp on the Dirty Details But Don't Do Them Dirty
As long as you and your partner feel secure within your relationship, discussing more specifics of your sexual history may strengthen your bond and contribute in understanding each other more deeply. Before starting the conversation, you must ensure both parties are comfortable with having the conversation. The language you use in this conversation is important, and make sure you never compare your past lovers to your current partner.
Keep an open mind when discussing. Never judge them or compare yourself to their past experiences. You have likely changed as a person since many of your sexual experiences, just as your partner likely has as well. A sexual history does not define who you are, but simply provides insight into your intimate life.
Be careful not to overshare. Leave out the identities of past lovers, how big their penis is, or the fact that they gave you the best oral sex ever. This is unpleasant for a current partner to hear and doesn’t contribute anything substantial to the conversation. Remember to be sensitive!
To learn more about what your partner likes and what they would like from you, inquire about what has worked for them before. Ask about fantasies, favorite positions, turn-ons, turn-offs, what draws them to partners, if they prefer initiating, and how they best feel present in their body.
When your partner shares their experiences, create a safe space for them by letting them know you are curious to learn more about their mind, body, intimacy, and pleasure. This vulnerability strengthens the bond and trust between you which translates to deeper intimacy in the bedroom.
Sexual history has little to do with past lovers, but more to do with what brought pleasure to your partner and what they may want in the future. This is a perfect opportunity to learn what your partner likes and doesn’t like while having sex.
Allowing your partner to discuss this typically private matter gives them space to feel emotionally safe and understood by you. Allow your curiosity to flourish and strengthen the trust in your relationship by having a free conversation, no strings attached. If either of you feels jealous or judgmental the conversation is going to be counterproductive, causing hurt feelings and weakened trust. Navigate the conversation with care and aim to get to know your partner on a deeper level.
Gauge What Is Best for Your Relationship
There is no cookie-cutter method to having this discussion with your partner. Every relationship is unique and therefore you and your lover need to determine yourselves when and how to have this conversation. Starting with the five Ps is the perfect place to begin the conversation, then decide together if you want to go into detail from there.
If you and your partner decide not to disclose intimate details of your sexual histories, still facilitate a conversation to strengthen your bond and learn what pleasures your partner by asking about their preferences.
Not enough people share what they like in bed with their boos, but this simple conversation can seriously make things better for both of you in bed and in your relationship!
Discussing sexual histories should not be a taboo subject. It is vital for sexual health and pleasure. Sharing your five Ps with your doctor and sexual partners ensures a safe and happy sex life protected from STIs and unplanned pregnancies.
Sexual history may impact your relationship, but it doesn’t have to carry beyond protecting your health. Discussing your sexual history, experiences, health, and mentality early on in a relationship is key to having a healthy and happy sex life. Let your partner know about the pleasures and displeasures of your sexual history without comparing them. This creates a deeper level of trust and intimacy for your relationship and sex life.
Sharing a personal sexual history with your partner often strengthens the bond between you, helps you to understand each other more, and creates more intimacy in the relationship. There is no better way to learn what pleasures your partner than explicitly asking them.
Get regularly checked by your doctor and tested for STIs to maintain your sexual health. Let them know about your partners, practices, prevention of STIs, plans for pregnancy, and any history of STIs to understand your risks. If you have a psychosexual history, find a psychologist who guides you through this. Let your partner know how it may affect your sex life with them.
Take care of yourself and your partners by being honest about your sexual history and responsible in your current sex practice. Everyone deserves to enjoy a happy and healthy sex life!