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The Scarlet & Black

Sexplanations: Post-hookup etiquette and STI tests

Sexplanations is an anonymous Q&A column about sex, sexual health, sexuality, gender, relationships and the promotion of respect at Grinnell College. Questions are answered collaboratively by the Sexual Health Information Center (SHIC), the Stonewall Resource Center (SRC) and the Office of Wellness and Prevention. If you have a question or comment, submit it anonymously at or email [howeemil].

I keep hooking up with people and it’s awkward afterwards. Is there any way to avoid uncomfortable diverted glances in the D-hall after a hookup? 

– Post-Coital Confusion

Hi Post-Coital Confusion,

I first want to offer you a validation: sex is primed for uncomfortable situations to bloom. It is naked and vulnerable with funny sounds and slippery things, so even the most sex-positive, body-positive person might come away occasionally feeling weird and needing space. Perhaps nobody understands these realities better than sexual deviants. When dominant sexual scripts we learn from rom-coms and bad sex-ed classes do not apply to a sexual situation anymore — whether this is due to non-normative bodies, desires or sex practices — there is a clean slate for better sex practices to emerge. It is incredibly important to have clear communication about comforts and discomforts when the stakes for vulnerability are raised, for example in sexual play involving anal penetration, humiliation, bondage, impact play, pup play, etc. The kink community attends to these matters by using aftercare.

Aftercare is a discussion between sexual partners that happens before play. It gives the players a space to talk about what they expect after play is over. At Grinnell, aftercare options are important and many: Do you like to cuddle afterwards, or do you plan on heading out soon after? Do you want to get a meal tomorrow? Can I send you a text tomorrow just to check in and see how you are doing? Want to go to Saint’s sometime this week for a coffee? Giving honest answers here is crucial — do NOT just say what you think the other person wants to hear if you will be strongly tempted to flake on the agreement. If your aftercare needs are incompatible, PAUSE. Maybe the hook-up is not worth it if it means a semester of awkward semi-eye contact and half-waves hello. 

Also, if you had sex with someone and they were kind to you, do not ignore or avoid them. That is some shitty shit. 

I’ve heard some rumors about STI testing coming to campus. I think that’s great, but how do I know if I need to be tested? I feel like I haven’t had very many partners, and I don’t think I have any symptoms.   

This is a great question and one lots of people are asking! We will start with background on sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and move into why you should get tested. STDs and STIs refer to the same thing.  First, know that most STIs are curable. There are three different types of STIs — bacterial, viral and parasitic, and since most STIs are bacterial, a simple dose of antibiotics will take care of them. Sometimes STIs are symptomatic and include symptoms like pain, nausea, unusual discharge, sores and burning urination, but most of the time, STIs do not have any symptoms. This can be dangerous because untreated STIs can be harmful, especially to those with vaginas. Again, most STIs are curable, and for those that are not, there are treatments available to control symptoms, reduce the risk of passing on the infection, and live a full life.

So, why does all of this matter to you? You have only had a few partners and always used a barrier. Well, STIs and STDs can happen and be spread by anyone. Any person can have one or give one, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, number of partners, race, class, education level or hygiene. Some groups of people may be more susceptible to them due to cultural or systemic barriers, but young adults between the ages of 20 and 24 have the highest infection rates. So, if you have had sexual intercourse or been in a situation, even once, where you may have shared sexual fluids, blood or genital skin-to-skin contact, you should consider being tested. Sexual health is sexual respect, and getting tested is a great show of sexual respect both to yourself and your partner(s). 

SHACS will be bringing free STI testing to campus on Feb. 6. The test is only a urine test — very noninvasive. This test checks for the most common STIs contracted by young adults between the ages of 15 to 25: gonorrhea and chlamydia. Both are easily treated with a single dose of antibiotics. It is also free! It takes about two weeks to process, and no news means your test was negative. There will be resources on how to talk to partners at the event, and if you do test positive, a health care provider will coach you in that conversation. If you are interested in getting tested for something else like HPV or HIV, talk to SHACS, your primary care provider or check in with Primary  Health Care.

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