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Next, we see him standing in his driveway as a woman steps out of a car. She looks nothing like the photos on the model’s Facebook page and, in fact, it’s someone he knows from high school. She’s been creating fake profiles online to establish relationships. She’s a catfish and he’s confused. He’s been betrayed and his hopes have just been crushed.
In the last year, both the success of the show “Catfish” and the Manti Te'o fake girlfriend hoax have elevated the discussion about just how far people will go to be dishonest in relationships. While these are extreme examples of deception, they do pose valid questions for all of us. What can you trust? And when? And what should we be asking people before we fall in love or fall into bed with them?
Recently, the BeforeWeDo team conducted a series of interviews with men and women about testing for sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). Frequently, those surveyed told us they had not been tested or had not brought up the discussion about test results with partners because they “trusted” them.
And want to know what the impact of that “trust” is? For at least one of our interviewees, it resulted in a sexually transmitted disease, a course of antibiotics, and the break up of an important relationship.
Understanding that people are engaging in risky behavior as a matter of what they call “trust,” generated a lot of questions for me.
Isn’t Trust the Foundation of a Relationship?
First, I started to wonder if it’s possible that people have misunderstood the rule that trust is the foundation of a relationship. Obviously, it is true that trust is a critical component in our relationships with everything from people to the products we use. However, to ensure we don’t misuse this idea, it might be worth looking more closely at this analogy.
When new structures are being built, the foundation cannot be poured until other preparation takes place first. The land has to be tested and graded, and then some rudimentary systems need to be put in place. Only after these steps are taken, can the foundation be poured.
So if we want to hold to the idea of trust as a foundation, it should be understood that questions and getting to know someone are simply the necessary first steps.
Trust or Blind Faith?
Next, I started to ask myself if people are labeling behavior correctly.
According to Dictionary.com, “trust” is “reliance on the integrity, strength, ability, surety, etc. of a person or thing; confidence.” So, trust builds based on consistency between words and behavior. We can rely on someone because he has shown that he does what he says he will do. Characteristics of trust include a basis of knowledge and repetition that provide a sense of certainty.
Meanwhile, “blind faith” is defined by Dictionary.com as “belief without true understanding, perception, or discrimination.”
The term “blind faith” seems to better fit a situation in which someone believes a partner is STI-free without having any reason to believe.
Is This Just Excuse Making to Avoid Difficult Conversations?
Is the concept of trust simply being used as an excuse to avoid difficult conversations? Rather than acknowledge that they are uncomfortable with testing and STI discussions, are people calling themselves trustworthy because they don’t want to refer to themselves as scared?
If this is the problem, it’s time to confront those fears because getting an STI is scarier than asking a question. Imagine how you might have to adjust your sex life and the conversations you will have to have if you contract an incurable STI like genital herpes. For more information on the complications that occur after getting an STI, check out this blog post that explains the problems: “Ask Dr. Sherry: He Gave Me an STD and Now I Can’t Move On.”
Don’t Trustworthy People Get STI’s?
Every year millions of honest, trustworthy people contract STI’s and in many cases, they may not be aware that they are infected. According to the CDC, more than 50% of sexually active adults will get human papillomavirus (HPV) and most will not be aware they have it because they do not have symptoms. Meanwhile, strains of HPV can cause everything from genital warts to vaginal, anal, and penile cancer (among other types of cancers). In the case of HPV, if a person has not received the vaccine against it, they can get infected even if using condoms. And while HPV is the most widespread STI, it is estimated that more than 50 million Americans are infected with genital herpes. As many as 90 percent of those infected may not be aware.
Sources: U.S. Census Population Clock and CDC Fact Sheet: Incidence, Prevalence, and Cost of Sexually Transmitted Infections in the United States
Questions to ask?
So what are some of the questions that should be asked in order to make an educated decision about sexual health? Below are a few to get you started:
· When were you last tested for STI’s and what were the results?
· Which tests have you taken?
· Have you had other partners since you were last tested?
· How often do you get tested?
· Want to see my results? (Results can be shared via services like Qpid.me).
If you need more help figuring out how to talk with potential partners, visit Tips and Scripts for Talking to Your Partners on SoTheyCanKnow.com. You can also find suggestions in “The Hookup: Let’s Talk about STD’s” on MTV’s It’s Your Sex Life site.
But Don’t You Trust Me?
For people who care about their sexual health, questions from you about STI’s and testing should not be upsetting and instead welcomed. Conversely, be leary of people who do get upset when questioned because it can indicate they have something to hide or don’t have the emotional wherewithal for sexual involvement. Below are a few responses in case a potential partner protests with the question “Don’t you trust me?”
- No, I’m just getting to know you and trust builds over time.
- Yes, I trust you but there are 20 million new STI infections a year in the U.S. and I don’t know your past partners and their histories.
- You may not be aware that you have an infection. People are often carriers and able to transmit some STI’s without even knowing they are infected.
- Because I trust what I know of you so far, I want to have sex with you. And because I want to have sex with you, I need to ask questions about a topic we haven’t discussed yet.
You might also just decide to end things right there if asked “don’t you trust me?” No one deserves to be manipulated or bullied into having sex without getting the facts straight about a potential partner’s STI status. Writer La Truly explains how this becomes an issue of self-worth in her blog about a man who questioned her trust when she refused unprotected sex.
Questions for You
Our mission at BeforeWeDo.com is to eradicate STD’s and we are constantly seeking to understand better the dynamics of testing and having conversations about sexual health. Please help us learn by sharing your answers to the below questions in the comments section.
- Do you bring up the conversation about STI’s with potential partners?
- If not, what stops you from addressing it?
- Have you ever trusted a partner wasn’t infected only to learn later that he or she was? What happened?