Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Loving More workshop: Who needs a safer sex elevator speech? YOU do!!

"If someone asks what your safer-sex protocols are, can you answer in two minutes or less?"

Reid Mihalko's workshop: "Creating Your Safer Sex Elevator Speech" tells you just how to do it. Intriguing twist on that oh-so-necessary poly conversation, no? I thought so, which is why I decided to attend this workshop.

I have to confess that I managed to be late for this one, due to the fact that the friend I attended the conference with and myself were staying across town at my lover's home. I'm lucky to have a wonderful partner in Seattle, but I forget sometimes that driving across the city early in the morning (especially a foreign city) takes a bit of extra time. Oops. Anyway, breakfast was delicious and the portion of the workshop I did manage to see was great, especially the group exercise at the end.

Reid, by the way, is an engaging presenter, well-accustomed to talking about sex. He's a polyamorous sex coach, counsellor and spokesperson for healthy relationship choices. His website, reidaboutsex.com, is packed with great advice and links and I recommend checking it out.

Back to the elevator speech. Reid pointed out that it's important to cultivate self knowledge before figuring out what to tell someone else about your safer sex preferences. Sounds familiar, right? It's also sort of difficult, as I found when I tried to write my own speech. To begin with, figuring out what your physical needs are should be balanced with what your emotional needs are regarding sex. Do you feel you just can't live without a fluid bond with an intimate partner? Make sure you say this, so your partner knows that condoms and testing will be mandatory with their other partners. Do you find latex sexy? Do you find condoms awkward for oral? There are many ways to work out a balance between people if you can actually start with your basic needs.

The other really important question we need to ask ourselves is: "What are you ok with getting?" Some STI's are not life threatening, but they may impose a social stigma on the person who carries the infection (HSV is one example). Since NO form of partnered sex (except maybe for web camming and mutual masturbation across the room from each other) is 100% safe, we use the term safer sex because we need to recognise as responsible adults that we are taking a risk. It's up to each of us to decide what our risk limits are and to express them clearly to our potential partners.

If this all sounds rather unsexy, Reid points out that it doesn't have to be. On the contrary, he's honed his matter-of-fact elevator speech to the point where it can actually be used as a great conversation opener at poly conventions and nightclubs. Another benefit to opening a safer sex conversation with a potential partner is that you get to see their reaction to the topic. If they seem uncomfortable or awed by your amazing sense of planning and forethought, you might want to reconsider sleeping with them, since they probably don't think much about testing or safer sex themselves. If, however, they respond with aware enthusiasm and offer their own list of requirements, it's a good bet they've given safer sex some serious thought and you're good to go!

We were then asked to write our own speeches, composed of how we describe ourselves (eg. poly, queer, kinky librarian), when we last got tested, what we were tested for and the results, our safer sex needs (eg. condoms for PIV and anal sex but not oral, disclosure of the STI status of a partner's other partners), what we like, sexually-speaking (eg. cuddling, blow jobs, spanking) and what boundaries we have that we won't cross (definitely NO sex with the cat in the room!).

The moment of truth came, and we paired up to give our elevator pitches. While it was a bit awkward starting out, it was rather fun and I relaxed once I got into it. Talking about sex -- even safer sex requirements -- can be sexy! Wow, go figure!

I think the most valuable thing I got out of the workshop was the clear message that demystifying safer sex into a planned (and not terribly long and rambling) speech helps to separate someone's STI status from their sexual attractiveness. If you're willing to be creative and communicative, there is always *something* sexy two (or more) people can figure out. And hey.. we all know how sexy communication is, don't we, poly people?

Don't let your safer sex communication style (or lack of it) limit your sexual choices!

I caught Reid presumably trying out his elevator speech on Cunning Minx during the book signing.. she seems to have found it pretty amusing!


  1. Personally, I found Reid Mihalko's workshop on the "Safer Sex Elevator" pitch the most useful at the Poly Living Conference, it forced me to challenge some assumptions.

    My philosphy on getting STI tests to date had been: before starting a new relationship, if anything risky happens to anyone anywhere, or if you have any concerns. Since none of those triggers happened for a while, I hadn't been tested for a while. Reid's workshop gave me a whole bunch more reasons why it's good to get tested: so it's not a big deal to go get tested if something does happen, to set a good example for people in your community, to limit how far issues can spread if something happens, so you're on better ground for expecting your partners to be tested, and more. Go listen to him talk if you get the chance, he's interesting, inspiring, and labrador-puppy cute :)

    Then I had a chat with some poly people locally about what he'd said, and a couple said "I've never been tested, never felt I needed to". I wanted to say, "you really should.. ", but it's hard to say that when you've not done it yourself for a while.

    I had lots of reasons not to get tested.. I have a major needle phobia, I've run across a certain amount of biphobia in the Health Service before, and conversely, I've been told "your risk profile is too low for us to run all the tests you want". But they aren't good reasons if there's any chance I might start a new relationship - and you never know, right?

    There's a free clinic for men up the road - so I called them and booked in. I could have had an appointment an hour after I called - but I went the next day. Despite the "A service for gay men" on the signs everywhere, they were very bi-friendly. The nurse was very supportive and friendly around what I wanted, very supportive of the concept of general sexual health checkups even if you'd not been exposed to any risks, and great supporting me with the needle phobia - probably the least stressful blood drawing Ive ever had. It was a nice nicer environment than the drop-in GUM clinic at home - so maybe when its due again, I'll go to the gay clinic there as well.

    So, my elevator pitch no longer needs to contain the words "Its been a while since I was tested, but I'd get tested before getting involved with anyone new", and when someone says "I dont feel the need to get tested" in a discussion around poly, I can say "Hey, Ive a major needle phobia, and I still get tested because... ".

    === Calum


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