Honesty about sex…er…

One of the questions I asked my Human Sexuality students last week was whether any of them had ever stretched the truth – or perhaps even flat-out-lied – about their sexuality.  Everyone giggled nervously and looked shifty eyed.  One brave young soul rolled his eyes and raised his hand saying, “Yeh, hasn’t everyone?”  More nervous giggles.  But slowly at least 3/4 of the classroom raised their hands.

I asked the question in the context of sexuality research – whether the results could be counted on to be true and accurate.  But I intend to come back to the point when the class has come together more and we’re able to go deeper into the topic of conversation between sex partners and – perhaps even more importantly – potential sex partners.

Heather Corinna recently answered a question on RH Reality Check from a young woman who had been diagnosed with HPV and wondered how – and whether – to tell her boyfriend.  Heather came down on the young woman pretty severely, and rightly so.

Honesty with our sexual partners is critical.

I’m having difficulty fully expressing how important it is to offer complete disclosure to our sexual partners.  This is how I tend to express this point to teenagers:

Entering into a sexual relationship with someone puts you and that person as close as you can possibly come to another person physically.  If you don’t feel comfortable being completely honest about yourself or your past with that person, if you aren’t ready for a deep emotional closeness, maybe you aren’t ready for a deep physical closeness either.

The problem is that in class, students tend to say, “Oh, yeah, tell the truth.  Open up completely about everything.”  But there can be a cognitive disconnect between class and actual experience.  So, I turn to YouTube, where there is a video that opens up the discussion very nicely by posing this question: How much honesty is too much?

So what do you think?  Is this much honesty too much?  So where do you draw the line?  What are some good rules of thumb that will allow young people to walk the line between sharing critical and necessary information with a sexual partner while still maintaining some shred of dignity?

About Karen Rayne

Dr. Karen Rayne has been supporting parents and families since 2007 when she received her PhD in Educational Psychology. A specialist in child wellbeing, Dr. Rayne has spent much of her career supporting parents, teachers, and other adults who care for children and teenagers.


  1. That was pretty funny, although I think it was less about honesty and more about overthinking the situation!

  2. Good question. My short answer is it’s going to take time and conversation to figure out how much honesty is too much honesty. Enumerating some list is probably inappropriate at the on a first date, and ineffectual in the heat of the moment. For one thing, you and your partner will need to understand what is important to each other. Aside from potential disease vectors, what other information is important? Your male-male kiss, your latex allergy, your love/hate of oral sex, the fact that you daydream about Micheal Shanks, Billy Piper, and yourself in a menage a trois? Each of these might be important or irrelevant to your partner. The only way to know is to talk about it beforehand until you and your partner are comfortable with your levels of honesty.

    Will it always work out? Of course not. We will occasionally experience some level of miscommunication. At that point, you learn from your (and their) mistakes, address the problem and move on.

    Good clip. I might need to save that to disk for just this kind of discussion.

  3. Thanks, Don, I’m glad you like the clip and the conversation it can engender.

    Feel free to send the link to this post to the OWL listserve – I might even do it myself if I were on it yet! 😉 Still looking forward to taking part in that conversation too.

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