Hey so did y’all know that Austin is a sunnier, calmer Boston? Cuz I sure didn’t. Austin is so fabulous, in fact, that I've been doing a lot and am more interested in getting out there and doing more stuff instead of blogging. Writing is usually such a joy for me, but here it feels like a chore. This post will be a little different than usual (more sex though!), but I'd like to start by dispelling some myths:
I’ve done some really amazing things over the last few weeks; I’ve eaten at some truly incredible restaurants (Vespaio, Odd Duck, Loro), gone on dates with a bunch of hot dudes, and went on a few adventures! Here is a sampling of a few of them:
Yeah. It’s been pretty fucking incredible. Let’s talk dudes for a second though.
The men here are gorgeous. There’s no two ways about it. But here’s the thing—I’ve heard that because of the local college (Austin is technically a college town in the same way that Boston is technically a college town), a lot of the men here have Peter Pan syndrome. And because it’s the South, many did not have access to adequate sex ed growing up so nooooooo one gets tested around here. No one. So it’s a lot of dudes fucking a ton of people not-so-safely and not wanting to be in a relationship anytime soon. The second part isn’t a big deal to me because I’m not in a position to date seriously either, but I take huge issue with the first part. Because casual should not mean careless. So am I going to be celibate in Austin? No. And here is how I handle this unfortunate situation.
Let me paint a picture:
A former NFL player came over to my apartment. I wanted to climb him like a tree. He legit had one hand up my shirt and the other down my pants when I pulled back and asked when he was last tested. “No one around here gets tested,” he told me. Not exactly the answer I was hoping for. He asked if he should leave (which, hey, kudos to him for not pressing me on the issue) and I was like DUDE I’m a sex writer. We can have a ton of fun without adhering to the “normal” definitions of sex. Because here’s the thing: anything that requires consent is a sexual act. I hate when sex is put into this box where it’s like “if there was no penetration, it’s not sex.” Because that, my friends, is bullshit.
Now here’s the best part. I didn’t feel safe having penetrative sex or oral with a dude who’s never been tested. And he’s a FORMER NFL PLAYER WHO LOOKS LIKE A MODEL AND IS RETIRED WITH NOTHING TO DO so clearly he is slaying a ton of puss. But you know what? Sometimes you lay naked next to another person and jack each other off (I mean... I give great Handrew Jacksons) and then you lay over that football player’s lap while he spanks you and fingers you while you’re on all fours and it can be EVEN HOTTER THAN PENETRATIVE SEX. Seriously. I’ve been fucked by dudes where the experience was lackluster (not much anymore because I’ve gotten better at pickin’ ‘em, but still). Do you know how sexy it is to drape your leg over another person’s thigh and touch each other’s bathing suit parts? And then to be like fuck it, I’m lying across your lap? It’s a pretty cool thing.
So yes. This is a reminder that you can have super hot, fulfilling, enjoyable sexual experiences while keeping your body safe. I’m getting better at sticking to my guns in this regard. Trust me, having this 6-month rule is hard because I love sex. I will literally drop my pants and bend over for any hot guy who can make me laugh. But if someone who hasn’t been dating monogamously (aka just got out of a relationship), is on Tinder looking for the same thing I am, and the date of their last test was over 6 months ago, I don’t feel super comfortable with that.
And, also, guess what? The STI rate in Austin is off the charts. That should be enough motivation to protect myself, but there’s another reason why I’m so careful: I’ve had an STI before. Twice, actually.
Now, I had never had an STI my entire life—and I slept around a lot in my mid-twenties as a cute lil’ blonde spitfire in NYC (and had a GREAT time). Then, after a breakup right after my twenty-ninth birthday (that’s right! I went 29 years STI-free!), I hit up an old f-buddy, asking him to meet me at a hotel in the Village. He’s a Scorpio, so I barely had to say anything before he agreed. Plus, when a Playboy writer texts you, “I already paid for a bougie ass hotel room, you don’t have to do anything but show up and put it in my butt,” what kinda idiot is really going to turn that down?
Between the last time we hooked up years ago and us hooking up at the hotel (in which we kept getting interrupted by hotel employees gifting us free champagne and then cookies because I knew someone who worked there LOLOL), Scorpio had only slept with one other person. Having gotten out of a year-long monogamous relationship, I missed condomless sex (I know, I know), and I had a history with this dude. We were friends. I trusted him. I told him I had gotten tested recently and that I knew I wasn’t within my ovulation window (I used rhythm and pullout method before I got my IUD—I only recommend this if you have a very regular cycle, know how to track your cervical mucus and know your body very well). “I’m clean, too,” he told me.
A few weeks later, I went for my yearly exam at my gyno and got tested. The test came back positive for chlamydia.
I have never felt the panic I have felt upon being told I had an STI. I was mortified even though it’s a very curable STI (you take one pill, you avoid sex for a week, and then you’re good). It’s like having a cold in your vagina. It seriously isn’t that big of a deal, it’s the most common STI, and, as stupid as it sounds, it really put things into perspective for me. I did internalize a lot of the stigma that comes with STIs—that they happen because you’re not careful and/or don't have self-respect. But I legit had done all that I could do (I had gotten tested right before I had seen him) and it still happened because of his ignorance. It also made me realize that STIs happen all the time, people weren’t “bad” for having them, and the fear of STIs is worse than the STI itself.
But regardless of how low-grade the illness is, I was incensed. I texted Scorpio. “You said, ‘I’m clean, too,’ so when was the last date of your test? I’m not sure how this could have happened.”
“Oh, I wasn’t tested,” he responded. “I just only had that one partner between you now and you then and didn’t have any symptoms, so I thought I was clean.”
I wanted to reach through the phone and chop off his (albeit perfect—length and girth-wise—besides for the chlamydia) dick.
When you don’t know your status, you put other people at risk. Because Scorpio didn’t know what was going on in his own body, he not only didn’t know if he had chlamydia, he also didn’t know if he had herpes, gonorrhea, hell, even HIV. And even though he gave me something that was curable with a pill, he could have given me something that wasn’t.
“Never say ‘I’m clean’ unless you know your status. Got it?” I asked. He got it. And here’s the thing. I like Scorpio. Yes, he’s super-hot (and one of those dudes who doesn’t really realize it, WHICH IS EVEN HOTTER) and there’s a reason he was the first dude I texted after my breakup—he’s not an asshole. He didn’t do it to be a jerk. He just didn’t know. 90% of men are carriers, meaning they can have something and show zero symptoms. He didn’t know about things like incubation periods (the amount of time it takes for an STI to show on a test if you have it—for example, if you contract herpes one day and get tested for it the next day, it won’t show), how yearly testing is only recommended for people who use protection every time they have sex, how no symptoms does NOT mean you’re free of STIs, how you have to ask for herpes and HIV on your full STI panel because if you walk in and say “I would like a full STI panel” those two infections are not considered part of standard testing. He didn’t know any of this and, truthfully, most people don’t.
And so, months later, when I started the trip and got to Boston, I began asking about testing before I started hooking up with any dude.
A fighter I fucked in Boston said he had to get tested for STIs because there was potential for bloodshed and illnesses that are spread by bodily contact in fighting—this meant getting tested for herpes and HIV. For some reason, I didn’t think to ask about other STIs because those are two of the big ones. And then he put the condom on incorrectly (I was stoned and he DIDN'T PINCH THE TIP uggghhhh, which didn't cause the condom to break, but it caused spillage) and gave me chlamydia for the SECOND TIME six months after getting it from Scorpio. I honestly should have known because fighter was CRAZY DELICIOUS and gave off the I-fuck-a-lot-of-college-girls vibe. (And you know what, Fighter? Bless you. Go fuck those college girls because you’re amazing in bed and will bring those co-eds so much joy. But people under 26 have the highest rates of chlamydia.)
That’s right. 29 years STI-free and then, boom, the clap twice in a year. Goddammit. (And both were due to my partners’ ignorance. Not mine.)
So needless to say, I’ve learned lessons. And one of those lessons has been that I can do everything I can to be safe—I get tested regularly (99% of the time that means monthly), I use protection consistently (I’ve had some slipups in the past, but now it never happens), and I talk about testing with everyone before anything goes down. But at the end of the day, I don’t have control over other people. So if you ever do come down with something, this is my chance to say: please don’t beat yourself up over it. Try your best, be as safe as you can, but, yanno, shit happens and you’re not a bad or dirty person if it does.
So as much as this stuff isn't ideal, the silver lining is that it’s a great litmus test. I’m a lot of fun in bed. I’m a respectful hookup and I’m not clingy (I never sleep over and as one of my favorite friends told me the other day: “Unless you have an engagement ring or a cock ring, you’re not sleeping in my bed” – my motto as well). And if testing is too big of a hoop to jump through for you, I don’t want to fuck you. You don’t deserve this pussy. Decent people hear my rule and say “Oh shit, I’ll get right on that.” And those people have been great.
And another reminder: just because a dude gets tested doesn’t mean he can fuck you without a condom. Because a clean test is NOT a free fuckpass. It means “Great job. Keep baggin’ your junk!”
So listen, Austin. I like you and all, but I’m not getting the clap for the third time in a year because your men are hot and stupid.
Passionate about everything having to do with the body, Dana Hamilton writes about sex, dating, relationships, body image, and eating disorder recovery. She is a regular contributor to Playboy and her work has appeared in VICE, Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire, New York Magazine, Teen Vogue, and SELF, among other publications.