"You Gotta Have the GUTS to Have Sex!" Featuring Sex & HIV Educator, Giovanni N. Dortch
Whether you call it bumping uglies (my least favorite), humping, hunching, carnal knowledge, the Mo' Betta, or quite simply fucking, it's imperative that we/you/I have "the talk."
Let's about sex baby! Let's talk about you and me... well maybe not you and me together, but certainly you having sex and me having sex, I mean not with each other, unless. Ok, ok I digress. Before we go any further in the bedroom... chronicles, we gotta have a pretty serious talk about sex. I invited my good friend and kick-ass Sociologist, Activist, Educator and Scholar Giovanni N. Dortch to help me help you have the conversation we should all be having before doin' it.
Malaika Salaam: Hey Giovanni hey! So, we have had the conversation about the the importance of "the talk" many times as friends and colleagues, so what exactly is the GUTS?
Giovanni Dortch: That’s a great question! It is basically the conversation that everyone, regardless of gender or sexuality should have before becoming intimate.
GUTS actually started with my children…I was a single mom for over a decade, and at a certain point, I felt ready to begin dating. I was seeing a person, and my oldest, who was maybe 8 or 9 at the time, had a list of questions he crafted for any man I wanted to date. I loved his questions, and they sparked me to write out similar ones from an adult perspective. I started to think seriously about my safety and the level of clarity I needed to really be able to trust someone. I had questions for every aspect of relationships, including sex. After dating a guy who I had great compatibility with, it was time for the “Sex Talk” which I affectionately named the “grown up sex talk.” Some of the questions were run of the mill questions like, when was the last time you had an STI screening? Others were much more personal and in depth; they were completely relevant to sex and sexuality, but in ways that many of us tend to hide or sweep under the rug.
This led me to speak to other women about the “sex talk” and I realized that so many of these smart, beautiful, accomplished women were not asking pertinent questions to maintain their health and protect themselves. I realized most of us engage sexually based on our assumptions, not on actual data and facts… You know- we think a person “looks” healthy, that we’ve known them for x amount of time so they are healthy. Or we assume that because they have xyz resources (money, education, social prestige) that they are also sexually healthy. So, from my son’s inspiration to an actual grown up sex talk, the Grown Ups Talk Sex (GUTS) presentation and workshop was born.
MS: They say out of the mouths of babes, right... Speaking of babes, you know other kinds, like us... I have encountered in my relationships and conversations with other queer women some resistance to having the sex talk. I have found that it's more around how to have that conversation with a same sex sexual partner. What advice do you have?
GD: Anyone involved with another person sexually should be having this conversation. In same sex relationships, you may not have to ask questions like “Should our contraception fail, how do you want to proceed?” but you absolutely need to know things like when they were last tested for an STI or have they ever experienced domestic violence/intimate partner violence (IPV) because these are factors that can have long term effects on a persons' sexuality and sexual behavior. The same goes for queer, pan and especially poly relationships. Safety is something everyone wants, so we make that the focus. I’d also add as a woman, for women in same gender loving or lesbian relationships, the grown-up sex talk is especially important due to the prevalence of sexual assault and abuse among women. We know statistically, women of color are at a higher risk for sexual assault, so in lesbian relationships, this is something that must be addressed as we know previous sexual trauma can be a trigger for unhealthy behavior or even a barrier to healthy sexuality.
The way to begin the conversation is the same as if any other couple were having it…when you’ve decided you’re ready for intimacy, these conversations need to begin. Just as I would encourage a “straight” couple to begin these convos well before intimacy and far away from the bedroom, I’d encourage a queer couple to begin talking early and frequently about these issues as well.
MS: Ok Gio, we know that we are supposed to be having this conversation and why, but when and where do we need to bring it up?
GD: The ideal time to begin Grown Ups Talk Sex (GUTS) is when you’re feeling an intimate or mutual sexual attraction to a person. It needs to happen well in advance of actual sex, because there can be revelations that need to be discussed, supplies that need to be purchased, tests that need to be taken, and maybe even a delay of the actual intimate activity until certain issues can be addressed.
The LAST place you want to have GUTS is in the bedroom or just before sex!! This is a conversation that must begin well in advance of intimacy. You want to do this at a time when you and your partner have established some level of trust, are relaxed, comfortable and have enough time, quiet and space to get in depth about all of the topics covered in GUTS. It’s a good idea to spread the conversation out over time, because often we don’t remember things until after we start talking about them, and they have a few days to marinate.
MS: Ok, got it! Have the GUTS in safe space outside of a sexual context. One last question, what is your response to, “But only Bi/Curious/Questioning women need to worry about STIs & AIDS?”
GD: Anyone who’s having sex needs to worry about STIs – including HIV. Women and Men have different anatomy and physiologies which means we carry, transmit and maintain STI’s differently in some cases, but that does not mean that we can’t transmit infections. Everything we use to engage sexually – mouths, hands/fingers, genitals, sex toys even, can be spaces that we risk transmission or infection for one or more of the nearly sixteen STIs. Fortunately, unlike most other STI’s right now, HIV infection can actually be prevented with a daily dose of a new drug called PReP, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. This means that even if you’re involved with a person who is HIV positive, you can prevent the virus from infecting your body. It takes about 30 days for the medication to protect your entire body, but once you’re on the regimen, the likelihood of contracting HIV drops dramatically. So again, when we think about safety and security, the “grown up sex talk” is so necessary, because there are solutions and options available, but you can only get there by being transparent! One way we facilitate this is through GUTS which provides the training, language and even various scenarios to help individuals and couples address some of the topics and questions that may come up in this conversation.