The Verse’s Genevieve Orsi answers some questions in her new Sex and Dating column.
I want to celebrate the growth of our sexually liberated society! With a rise in dating apps, polyamory and smashing up patriarchal norms I think it’s important we safeguard ourselves during this exciting time. We have been brought up with a sex education system that failed us, so how can we ensure we are living our best love lives without compromising ourselves?
In this column, I’ll be answering your burning questions using my experience as a sex coach on Channel 5’s “Lesbian’s guide to straight sex”, work in the medical side of sexual health, and public health studies.
I hooked up with a guy off Grindr and the condom broke. I tried going walk in clinic but it was full as soon as I got there. What can I do? B, 21
Hi B, first off I think it’s brilliant your looking to tackle the situation and safeguard your health instead of ignoring it! Unfortunately, walk-in clinic’s have lost a large amount of their funding and it’s now near impossible to get an appointment as a walk-in. Fortunately, you can do the same tests without having to leave your house. Head to http://brightonsexualhealth.com/homekits/ and order your free testing kit. They offer 6 different kits, all of which tests for different nasties depending on your exposure risks. For your situation, I would recommend kit 6. This tests for chlamydia, gonorrhoea, syphilis and HIV. If the encounter was less than 72 hours ago and with someone from a high-risk group you can get PEP which reduces the chance of HIV transmission. The sooner you take PEP the more effective it is.
f you are having a lot of casual encounters, I would recommend considering PrEP. I think of it as the pill but for MSMs. PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. “Pre” as in something to take before a risk of exposure (in this case to HIV) and “prophylaxis” as in a treatment you can take to help prevent disease. PrEP won’t protect you from other STD’s, but it will protect you from HIV. You can find out more about PrEP here: https://www.iwantprepnow.co.uk/about/
There’s this girl off Tinder I like. We’ve been talking for 3 weeks now and I want to meet her but I’m too scared. What if she’s not who she says she is or a psycho? I’m super shy and don’t want to be stuck with her and be too polite to leave. Shy, 20
Hi Shy, congratulations on making an exciting new connection. First up you don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do- if you don’t feel ready to meet her be honest and tell her that. If she doesn’t take it well then it’s a bullet dodged as that’s not respecting your boundaries. Talking through your concerns with her might make you feel more confident in meeting too- communication is sexy after all!
If you do decide to meet, follow this 4-step safety guide:
1. Verify they are who they say they are by checking their social media. Most dating apps are linked to Instagram / Facebook, and if you can’t find it check your “suggested friends/ followers” as the algorithm usually slides them in there. Look out for red flags like a low volume of connections, lack of tags or very few pictures.
2. Meet in a public place. For extra reassurance ask beforehand is they have an “ask for Angela” or similar system. This is where you can ask the staff if Angela is working tonight and this gives a subtle prompt for them to help you get out of the situation.
3. Tell some friends who you are meeting and where. Have a check-in system. I usually set my check-ins for 3 hours after the start of the date as that’s ample time to subtly message them during a trip to the loo. Agree on a code word. For example, if you text them the word GIRAFFE it means you want them to help you end the date by calling you or rocking up.
4. Formulate an exit strategy. This can be ‘ask for Angela’ from step 1, or your friends’ assistance from step 3. Whatever your strategy always trust your gut instinct- you shouldn’t have to talk yourself into feeling safe with someone. Instincts happen for a reason, even if you can’t immediately put your finger on why.
I hope this helps you safely enjoy app dating and good luck!
I love my boyfriend, we’ve been together for nearly 2 years and decided to do long distance when we got into different uni’s. During freshers, I cheated on him and I feel terrible! Every time I speak to him it feels like I’m lying. I’m scared he will notice my weird behaviour and figure out what happened. How can I get over my guilt? Anon, 18
The only healthy way to relieve your guilt is to be honest with him- the extent of which is up to you. My first concern, however, would be exposure risk. Did you use protection, is there a risk you could have transmitted an infection that could then be passed on to your boyfriend? If you didn’t use protection (this includes oral sex) I would advise you get checked two weeks after the encounter and not have unprotected sex with your boyfriend during that time. It is important to take physical as well as emotional risks into account.
I can’t definitively advise you whether to tell your boyfriend of your actions or not- that is only your decision. My gut feeling is that telling him may cause you initial panic, but in the long term may be the only way to fully forgive yourself and move on from the guilt.
Regardless of if you decide to tell him about the encounter, I would consider suggesting an open or polyamorous relationship style if you feel you could be tempted to cheat again. This way you can see who you want openly and honestly. I think you’ll find he is experiencing the same temptations as you with freshers week being such a surge of intoxication and encouraged promiscuity. Opening up these conversations may be difficult at first, but could result in strengthening your relationship and identity in the future. For advice on polyamory and having these conversations listen to episode 3 of my podcast “The ethical slut with Ali H” where I interview a well-read, polyamorous queen.
However, your situation pans out, please bear in mind that what feels like the end of the world now will pass in time. We all make mistakes, what counts is if we learn from them rather than continue making them.
Want to hear more about sexual health and empowerment? Listen to my Lesbian health and empowerment podcast Lesbipositive. You can find it on Spotify, Acast and Soundcloud.