In order of least terrifying to most, here's my list of situations that sound less scary than having a mature conversation about sexually transmitted infection (STI) status with a new romantic interest:

  • Fighting a shark
  • Fighting a bear
  • Having a mature conversation about STI status with a shark or a bear

Importantly, one thing that doesn't make the list is contracting an STI—though just barely.

Particularly in a new relationship, conversations about STI status can seem unromantic and unsexy at best and accusatorial and harrowing at worst.

"Bringing up our STI status feels like such a daunting prospect because we're not given practical and relevant examples of how to have that conversation," said Jenelle Marie Pierce, C.S.E., executive director of the STI Project in Asheville, North Carolina. "And that's just the thing, it's a conversation. People often feel like a disclosure conversation is an admonition of guilt or shame, that you are