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How to ask my boyfriend if he has an STD?
February 15, 2009 6:19 PM   Subscribe

I noticed a suspicious-looking sore on my boyfriend... how to sensitively ask him to get tested?

My boyfriend and I just started dating pretty recently, and we're both fairly young. I didn't ask too many questions about his history because I knew he had only dated one girl... but that may have been a mistake. I noticed (with my TONGUE) a sort of bumpy red spot on the underside of his penis. Looking at pictures I would guess it would be Herpes or HPV (I'm hoping HPV since I am vaccinated and maybe didn't get it if it was). The thing is, we're both kinda shy and bad at talking about this stuff. How do I tell him what I noticed/ask him to get tested in a sensitive way? I don't want to sound like I'm implying that he's disgusting but it's kinda freaking me out.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (32 answers total)
 
Don't worry about being sensitive.
posted by delmoi at 6:20 PM on February 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


You certainly don't have to be particularly sensitive. "Hey, we're getting frisky a bunch, and that really should mean we both get tested, to be responsible and mature."
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:22 PM on February 15, 2009


The thing is, we're both kinda shy and bad at talking about this stuff.

The first step is to get better at talking about this stuff, since if you can't talk about it you're not mature enough to be having sex in the first place. In fairness that's obviously what your question is about - getting better at talking about it!

My advice: Suggest you both get tested for STDs such as herpes. That way you're not singling him out. Plus it's good for you to get tested anyway even if you have no reason to believe you have any STDs.
posted by Justinian at 6:23 PM on February 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Just because he's only dated one girl doesn't mean that his penis hasn't been in contact with many others. Just ask him. ("The other night was totally hot. But there was a sore on your penis and before we hook up again, you need to get that checked out. I'll get myself checked out at the same time too. Okay?")

It's your health at risk. And if he's the kind of guy who gets angry when you inquire about his sexual past, then he's not the guy for you.
posted by meerkatty at 6:24 PM on February 15, 2009 [19 favorites]


Also, remember that when he goes to get tested, he needs to indicate he wants to be tested for herpes--since herpes is a considerably more expensive test, places like Planned Parenthood won't typically test for it in the absence of symptoms. And they won't be look at your boyfriend's junk, either, so he needs to specifically NOT lie on the form about that.

In the meantime, you definitely need to cease unprotected activities (and really, probably all activity, since there's high risk here) until you know. It could also be just something weird.

Oh, that and HPV is notoriously difficult to test for in males. (Though I'm not sure if that's true in the presence of symptoms that can be scraped...)
posted by disillusioned at 6:38 PM on February 15, 2009


What meerkatty said. Tell him to get tested, and if he refuses, he is dangerous and you can do better.
posted by Electrius at 6:39 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


You definitely need to tell him what you discovered and ask him to be tested (and for future reference, as far as STDs go, one partner is all it takes, you know). The combination of fear and not gettin' any should be enough incentive to make him comply.

Be aware though that it isn't at all unusual to get acne or other, non-std skin blemishes on the penis. Red bumps pretty much all look the same. Don't ignore this, but there's no guarantee your boyfriend has an STD so try to relax until he gets tested.
posted by nanojath at 6:44 PM on February 15, 2009


On review: Please be more forceful than I initially suggested, and yes, make sure he knows that he needs to ask for herpes specifically. If he won't play ball, you have a game-ending problem.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:44 PM on February 15, 2009


It's totally ok to just say "hey, I noticed something down there, and even though I'm sure it's nothing" -- (little white lie for social harmony, he knows and you know that you aren't so sure it's nothing) -- "I really need you to get things checked out before we, you know, get naked again." He may not be aware that there's something there, so he needs the heads up for his own sake, not just yours. (And just to underline what's been said before, make sure he gets checked out before you guys do anything else sexual, condoms or no condoms. An STD isn't the end of the world, but it's not something to ignore, either.)

That said, there are all kinds of ways to get a red bump on your willy without it being an STD. Too much jerking off or rough oral sex can do it, or abrasion from the stubble from when you shaved your pubes a week ago; so can getting it caught in a zipper, or having an allergic reaction to the soap in the shower in your apartment or a condom with spermicide. And some dudes have pretty weird and ugly scars from circumcisions that can get kind of red and angry when aroused. Oh, and there are other bumps and lumps that are normal on penises, including ingrown hairs (usually down lower on the shaft, but everyone's different) and so on. You can even get a regular old zit, like the kind on your nose, down there (as can women, for that matter).

So stand your ground and make him go to a clinic, but don't go overboard on self-diagnosing, either.
posted by Forktine at 6:45 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


You won't be implying he's disgusting. Your disgust is entirely up to you.
You're implying he's infectious, which is quite different.
You'd tell him to see a doctor if he had some other medical worry woudn't you? This is no different.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 6:46 PM on February 15, 2009


Change your way of thinking. If you have a flu, is it disgusting? How about chickenpox -- disgusting? No, those are miserable, but not disgusting. Herpes is the same -- a virus living in your body. Something that's miserable, so you go to a doctor to get help and to make sure you don't give it to somebody else. This is no different.

Or, here's another way to change your thinking: Say something that makes him embarrassed for a few minutes, or don't say anything and maybe both of you are embarrassed when you both go to the doctor -- and you will, if it's a disease.

Here's a final thought: If it's herpes, it might hurt quite a bit. So, he might already know, but is too embarrassed to talk about it. In which case, ONE of you need to get it out in the open, and mention it.

Ok, so what if it was a bump on his hand? "You have a bump! I bet it hurts! Let's have someone look at it."

Similarly with this one: "Hey, you have a bump on your penis. I bet it hurts! Let's have someone look at it."
posted by Houstonian at 6:47 PM on February 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


And they won't be look at your boyfriend's junk, either, so he needs to specifically NOT lie on the form about that.

Huh? Whenever I've had an STD test, the doctor has begun by doing a close visual inspection of my parts, twisting and yanking as needed to see every side, looking right up the pee hole, all of that. Unless my experience has been really unusual, I think that a visual check-over is a pretty normal part of the process.
posted by Forktine at 6:49 PM on February 15, 2009


Note that there is no test for HPV in men. Both of you should still get tested as a matter of course before beginning a new sexual relationship. Just present it as something you want both of you to do. No need to accuse anyone of having anything, present it as a general precaution that you both should take and one that you require of your sexual partners.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:58 PM on February 15, 2009


Forktine: I can say from experience that Planned Parenthood's 'standard' procedure - I didn't ask if there was a more-extensive option, as I was young and foolish at the time - involves just blood tests, no junk-examination at all.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:59 PM on February 15, 2009


Don't just take his word at it either. Ask to see the results. Trust is fine, but this is your health / life you are talking about. People can be stupid about sex and sexual health. As they say "Don't Die (or get sick) from embarrassment". Yours or his.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 7:18 PM on February 15, 2009


Note that there is no test for HPV in men.

This is true, but it's not the whole story.

The problem with HPV testing in men is that most men who carry the virus are asymptomatic most of the time. A guy who isn't showing any symptoms can't be tested for the virus.

But if he is showing symptoms, a doctor can tell him whether they're caused by HPV or Something Else. Warts usually look very different from pimples or moles or herpes sores if you know what you're looking for. And in the event that even the doc is unsure, there's a pretty straightforward test — warts change color if you soak them in a weak acid like vinegar, ordinary spots and blemishes don't.

Long story short, you should still have your boyfriend ask the doc about HPV, test or no test.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:24 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


"Since we're getting pretty serious, we should both get tested so we never have to worry about anything!"
posted by rokusan at 7:34 PM on February 15, 2009


This is not a time to be shy. Simply tell him how you found it, and suggest it might be a good idea that you both get tested. Be sweet when you inform him. If he reacts negatively to it at first, don't be surprised; but if the negativity continues, that is a bad indicator.

It could be nothing; a bump could just be an ingrown hair. But the alternative can be very, very frightening. Please don't delay.
posted by jabberjaw at 7:52 PM on February 15, 2009


Young or old, one of the most important things in any relationship (especially one that is sexual) is open communication. Be open with your concern. It's quite possible that it's harmless, like acne.

I agree that you should both go get tested to make the experience easier.

Bottom line though: You owe it to yourself not to risk your own health in the name of being sensitive.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:05 PM on February 15, 2009


His feelings aren't worth your health. If you're mature enough to use your tongue to fellate him, you should be mature enough to use that tongue to ask him WTF is on the underside of his penis.

Get him tested, get yourself tested.
posted by hal_c_on at 8:22 PM on February 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Since you mention you have been vaccinated I would just like to remind you the length of its effectiveness is unknown, and it is effective against only four types of HPV. There are more than one hundred types of HPV and at least thirty can be transmitted sexually. Don't rely on the vaccine for a false sense of security.
posted by saucysault at 9:32 PM on February 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


In the words of President Reagan, "Trust but verify"
posted by JohnnyGunn at 10:33 PM on February 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


To put things in perspective for you:

There is nearly 100% probability that this relationship isn't going to be a life long one. Most STDs are. Tell him to get his shit checked out =)
posted by JFitzpatrick at 10:52 PM on February 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


Whenever I've had an STD test, the doctor has begun by doing a close visual inspection of my parts, twisting and yanking as needed to see every side, looking right up the pee hole, all of that. Unless my experience has been really unusual, I think that a visual check-over is a pretty normal part of the process.

STD tests do not require the presence of a physician or anyone who is qualified to perform a physical exam, just a phlebotomist and a lab to send the sample to. And frequently that is all you get.
posted by grouse at 10:59 PM on February 15, 2009


Maybe you could approach it out of concern for his health at first. Something like, "I saw a red spot down there and it looks like something to be concerned about. You should get that checked out." And then if he refuses say, "You know, it's a good idea for both of us to get checked anyway. Let's make an appointment and go together."
posted by christinetheslp at 3:58 AM on February 16, 2009


hal_c_on is spot on. Tell him to have it checked out.

And get tested yourself. It is extremely important to talk about this kind of stuff with your partner. Believe me, I know how hard this can be, but it takes practice and it's best to start building confidence in that area as soon as possible.
posted by Bearded Dave at 5:44 AM on February 16, 2009


STD tests do not require the presence of a physician or anyone who is qualified to perform a physical exam, just a phlebotomist and a lab to send the sample to.

I think that we are throwing around different meanings of the phrase "STD test." The most minimal, and probably most common, is what you are describing -- you go in and they give you an HIV test, usually by drawing blood. That's all, nothing more, and possibly no contact with anyone above the level of phlebotomist and receptionist.

That's important, and everyone should do that once in a while -- it's part of being a sexually active adult in the modern world.

But then there's what I think of as the "actual" STD testing, like when maybe a condom broke with someone you have some real concerns about, or your girlfriend noticed something funny down there, or you are starting a new relationship and you want to get a more comprehensive "all clear" from the doctor. This has (in my experience; I'm not a doctor and don't know what standard protocol is for this) always involved a visual and manual inspection of my genitals, a limited discussion of my sexual history and risks, a blood test for HIV, and then a really fucking painful couple of swabs up the urethra to test for things like chlamydia.

But as has been mentioned above, not everything can be easily or accurately tested for on a guy, and (as has been delved into before on AskMe with great detail) some things like herpes are a lot more useful to test for if you are actually presenting with symptoms. So he needs to get his ass into the doctor's office ASAP, while he still has the little bump, rather than waiting a few weeks until it goes away.
posted by Forktine at 7:00 AM on February 16, 2009


Long story short, you should still have your boyfriend ask the doc about HPV, test or no test.

Absolutely. I didn't want to imply that he shouldn't have it looked at, just to be clear. OP, what is important is that don't let new dude tell you he didn't test positive for HPV. There is no test. The doctor will examine the thing.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:35 AM on February 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


There is nearly 100% probability that this relationship isn't going to be a life long one. Most STDs are.

Not quite; just herpes, HIV and HPV among a whole bunch of others that are cureable.
posted by thisjax at 9:47 AM on February 16, 2009


There´s a difference between getting tested as a precautionary measure, and going to the doctor because you have a thing you are worried about that you can see. If there´s something visible to be worried about, getting medical help for it should involve an inspeciton of the visible thing in question.

Getting tested means different things to different people, and some tests don´t give a positive result for a very recently contracted infection, so be clear on what tests you want and what the results mean.
posted by yohko at 9:50 AM on February 16, 2009


Not quite; just herpes, HIV and HPV among a whole bunch of others that are cureable.

Yes, most STDs do have a cure(chlamydia, gonorrhea, PID, syphillis, and tons of other bacterial stuff), and the three you mention (along with Hepatitis B) are incurable. Incidentally...they are all viral.
posted by hal_c_on at 2:39 PM on February 16, 2009


ACK PLEASE STOP WITH THE BAD INFO!!! STOP!!!

Anon, please do NOT listen to anyone here about what an STD "test" does or does not include, how they do one or don't do one or what is curable or not.....there is more horrible misinformation here than I can wrap my head around.

Please just ask him to get tested, and you get tested, too.
posted by tristeza at 1:16 PM on February 17, 2009


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