Sleeping with someone new can be exciting and the start of something great. However, before you two (or three, or four — you do you, friend) get down to business, consider having a conversation about everyone’s wants, needs, and desires. After all, communication is key and it can make for a safer, more comfortable, and playful time.
To get a sense of some of the most important questions to ask your partners pre-sexy-time, we spoke to sex educators Dr. Danielle Forshee, Dr. Logan Levkoff, and Dr. Stephanie Buehler.
Here are 9 questions to ask new and/or returning sex partners.
Let’s get started. Pencils and notebook paper out? Okay!
1. Are you ready to have sex?
Make sure you and your partners are on the same page about entering into a sexual relationship. Be aware this topic could be awkward for those who are more sensitive to the idea or perhaps new to the dating scene. Even so, it’s crucial to get consent before anything sexual goes down.
2. Are you sure you’re ready to have sex?
Even if your partners say “yes” to sex, Dr. Forshee says you need to be aware of their non-verbal cues and behavior. Your partners may have said they’re ready for intimacy, but maybe they seem distant and rigid when talking about it.
If this is the case, open up the conversation to what you want out of sex as an individual and what you want from your partner(s). Be clear and assertive to show you have respect for yourself and for them.
If you and a consenting partner are shy or find it difficult to talk face-to-face about some important logistics to prepare for sex, shoot them a text, Dr. Forshee suggests. Draft a message along the lines of “I’m attracted to you, I just want you to know that I’m the kind of person who protects myself whenever I have sex with someone,” and lay out your expectations. “[Gloves, condoms or other barriers] will always be used. I have them in my house, etc.”
Dr. Buehler similarly recommends having a “dating elevator speech” ready in case one has to explain their want for taking things slow. “Perhaps on the first date, they would not want to bring up sex per se, but to let their date know it takes them awhile to warm up to someone or that they believe it’s better to get to know someone before becoming overly attached,” she explains. “If that doesn’t get the message across and the date is more forward, they can say something like, ‘My timetable is different than yours. Do you mind if we talk a bit before we get physical?’ Then they can talk about their desire to take things slow, and perhaps why.”
3. Is there a word or phrase you’d like to use as a safe word?
It’s always okay to change your mind about having sex, even if you’re in the middle of all the action. Make sure you and your partners know saying “no,” “stop,” “red,” or “pineapple” (an example of a random safe word) is always an option if things ever feel uncomfortable.
Consent should be given throughout the entire act of sex. “If someone says “No,” then all action needs to stop and both partners should check in with each other,” Dr. Buehler tells us. “If “No” doesn’t work, then it’s time to state clearly that you are not giving consent.”
4. What kind of relationship are we in?
Though it’s not necessary to label a relationship, you might want to gain a better understanding of the role your partner sees you playing in their life — are you a potential long-term partner, a sexual hookup, a one-night-stand?
If you’re looking for a no-strings-attached sexual relationship, it’s best you make that known in order to protect yourself and the other person/people involved, Dr. Forshee says. It’s courteous to let someone know where your head is at before sex, just to simply clear the air and let the other person make an informed decision.
5. Are you sleeping with other people right now?
First, it’s good to know if there’s one or several other people in the equation so you can manage the risk of potential STIs. If your potential sex partners are sleeping with other people, you can ask if they’ve been tested recently.
Secondly, if you want a monogamous relationship, it’s important to be upfront about that and ask if others are involved before going forward so you can set expectations for yourself.
“If you are OK with a non-monogamous or a no-strings-attached sexual relationship, that’s totally fine,” Dr. Levkoff tells us. “But you’re probably going to want to be on the same page with a partner so that you don’t have any misinformed expectations.”
6. Have you been tested for X, Y, and Z recently? (And how recently?)
You’ll want to get this question out in the open no matter how your partner(s) answers the above question. Whether there are others involved or not, sexually active individuals should get tested regularly to ensure they’re keeping themselves and others healthy.
While using condoms, gloves, or other barriers can be highly effective, these methods aren’t always enough to completely protect you from skin-to-skin STIs. Also, note that lambskin condoms do not protect you from HIV.
7. What form of birth control are you on/do you prefer?
If they’re anti-condom and you’re pro-condom, you’re going to want to come to a compromise before things start to get hot and heavy, or simply call the whole thing off if they’re not willing to use a condom when/if you want to. The same goes for if your partners want you on the pill, for instance. If that’s not something you’re comfortable with, maybe the best plan is to go to the doctor or Planned Parenthood together and discuss your options.
Dr. Levkoff tells O.school, “You want to be on the same page [about condoms]. Also, if you have a partner who is allergic to latex, you need to know that in advance.” There are perfectly great non-latex condoms on the pharmacy shelves.
8. What do you like and what don’t you like?
Again, this conversation might come more naturally to those who are confident in talking about sex. However, even if it’s a bit awkward to talk about, learning what your partners like will be beneficial for everyone.
Examples of questions you could ask:
1. Do you like using a toy in bed?
2. How do you like to be touched?
3. Are there any areas on your body that you want me to focus on?
4. Are there any areas on your body that you don’t want me to focus on?
5. What kind of lube do you like?
6. What’s your favorite position?
Never guess what your partners might be into. Just ask. Communicate with your partners before, during, and after to ensure you’re having the best experience possible.
You can always fill out our Orgasm Order Form as an easy way to show your partners what you like.
9. Are you open to trying new things?
If the conversation about trying new things (testing out new toys, positions, etc.) comes naturally, then go ahead and open up the floor. But if you sense this might be too much or too fast for your partner(s), steer clear for now.
It’s important to make communication a process that is part of your sexual routine. Never be afraid to stick to your high standards and talk to your potential partners about how you value yourself and them.
If this these types of conversations are something you have trouble with, practice. “If you have a trusted friend, practice role-playing what you’d like to say,” Dr. Buehler tells us. “If not, the mirror is your friend. Prepare what you’d like to say and repeat it to yourself several times. And add in there, ‘What you value is worth talking about!’”
Correction: A previous version of this article included a quote that incorrectly stated "condoms have pores through which disease can travel." The article has been corrected to instead state that lambskin condoms do not protect you from HIV.