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The Scarlet & Black

Sexplanations: Reading signals and testing positive


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].

Question: How do I know if the cutie who asked me to Netflix and chill is actually looking to chill, or if they have something hotter in mind?

— Netflix&NotThrilled 

Hey Netflix&NotThrilled, 

You’re coming in with one of my all time biggest frustrations about hook-up culture. As titillating and exciting as it can sometimes be to play that will-they-won’t-they game of whether or not that cutie wants to kiss you, it’s anxiety producing! And that anxiety is doubly extra when we only want to watch a movie and discourse about it over a cup of tea afterwards, and definitely not have sexy times. Yikes. 

It’s hard to prepare mentally when we aren’t given clear indications of desires and expectations, and that extends into our bodies. If I’ve readied myself to have a relaxing evening getting to know a cutie and suddenly they’re giving me the eyes, my whole body gets thrown out of whack. If the cutie isn’t receptive to my response, this usually results in me being very clearly flustered and then running away. Sad! Not ideal for either of us.

And even more, say I adjust to the intimate advance and decide that yes, I’d really like to get pounded that evening. If I didn’t plan for doing more, then I just might be shit out of luck because for me to feel comfortable and confident in getting intimate, I want to know what the evening has in store. If this clown hasn’t given me the proper heads up to know in advance that they’re more interested in being more intimate than watching David Letterman’s miserable new talk show, then it becomes both of our problems. With just a dash of added clarity — “Hey, want to come over and watch some Netflix and maybe sometime after get plowed?” — I would happily mentally and physically prepare for the encounter and continue the conversation when we meet in case either of us feel like doing something different. Plus wow, what a hot-as-heck proposition! 

While I’m advocating here for explicitly expressing sexual desire when asking to hang out with people, the reality is that sometimes we don’t know what we’re looking for, and maybe we really do at first intend to platonically hang out but then during the hangout get a better look at that undercut and WOOF we’ve got the hots and so do they. That’s absolutely fine! In fact, those moments of discovering desire and affection are some of my favorites. But make sure you verbalize your wants and desires to your bae so that they are able to respond with their needs and wants as well. When we do very well know what we want whether it’s chilling or getting sexy, ask for it! It’s so much better than missing opportunities for raunchy, ready fun. Or, if you attended the workshop by Isabel Cooke ’16 last week, you’ll know there are lots of ways to get intimate besides sexual intercourse. Be creative and consensual! 

Question: I got STI tested last week, and I’m really worried that I might test positive. What do I do if it is positive? How will I know? Do I have to tell my partner(s)? 

First of all, it’s okay if you test positive. Almost all STIs are treatable, and the chlamydia and gonorrhea which were tested on campus for last week are treated with a prescription of antibiotics. If you test positive, you will receive a call from Primary Health Care. If you don’t test positive, you will not receive a call. They will help you set up an appointment to receive free treatment, antibiotics, at their mobile clinic on Monday afternoons and evenings in Grinnell or Marshalltown offices. You can also see your primary care provider, but the antibiotic prescription will not be free. 

Your provider will coach you on how to talk to your partner(s). It’s best practice to talk to your past partners in person, whether that be in your dorm room or via Facetime. When you talk to a partner about STIs, make sure you find a good time where you will be uninterrupted and that you’ll both be comfortable. Know your facts on the subject, ask your questions to the provider who calls with the test results or get information from trusted sources such as SHACS nurses, Scarleteen (every CA and SAM has their book), Planned Parenthood, Go Ask Alice or the American Sexual Health Association. 

Ensure that you communicate to your partner that you are telling them because you care about them. Try to remain calm as possible throughout the conversation, and offer to go to the testing with your partner. Work hard not to play the blame game. It’s normal to be worried about a partner’s response. If you feel like you are unable to tell a partner or past partner, for whatever reason, there are many online sources you can use to tell them anonymously. You should talk to all your partners since your last test. If you have not previously had an STI test, you should tell all your previous partners. Just like you need to process the news of having an STI, your partner may also need some time to process it. 

If a partner or friend approaches you about having an STI, try to be receptive, have empathy (this is a challenging conversation!) and avoid blame. Your partner is telling you because they care about you and your health, and although the initial response may be panic, there’s a remedy — antibiotics, communication and support.

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