Few men get hot and bothered discussing matters of contraception and infection prevention, but men should try to keep in mind the fact that responsibility and a high level of comfort can be very sexy traits. No partner wants to deal with a man who grumbles, sighs and laments the use of condoms; one might as well tell his partner right off the bat that he’s not planning to enjoy himself. And nobody wants to have an awkward conversation about sexual history or protection preferences, but those conversations are important for vaginal and penile health, and they don’t need to be awkward. A man who brings knowledge and ease to such topics can start things off on the right foot.

The following are important things to discuss before having sex with a new partner:

Back-Up Method

If a man’s partner is female, he may want to know if she uses another form of birth control, such as the pill or the Nuva ring. Condoms can break or slip off; though it’s rare when they are put on correctly - something every man should be very skilled at - it’s still possible, and the couple may be more comfortable if the female partner has a back-up contraceptive method.

Infection History

Many people have had one or more sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the past. Some people still have active infections, whereas others have been treated and cured. Be honest.

Testing History

Sexually active individuals should receive regular STI testing, at least once a year. This is true even if no symptoms are present, as some people don’t exhibit symptoms of infections but can still pass them on. Gonorrhea, chlamydia and HIV are commonly tested for. Syphilis and some forms of HPV can be tested for as well. But it’s important to understand that not all STIs can be tested for, so even if no symptoms are present and tests have come back negative, there’s always a chance of passing something along. That’s why condoms are never a bad idea - they don’t prevent the spread of all infections 100%, but they go a long way to inhibit transmission.

Previous Partners

Many people like to discuss how many previous partners each has had. Some prefer not-so-specific information, focusing on a general feel for how many, and a number for those with whom one has had unprotected sex in particular. Good questions to ask are: Have previous partners had STIs before, during or after their time together? How many partners since the last round of STI testing?

What If?

Whenever two people are having sex and wish to avoid getting pregnant, it’s a good idea to ensure that both are on the same page concerning what to do in the event of accidental pregnancy. One partner might be strictly opposed to the pregnancy being completed, while the other might want to keep the child or go the adoption route. A disagreement here could turn into a major life problem for both partners. This is something best discussed before it has a chance to occur.

Safe sex is one of the primary elements of penis care. Others include practicing proper hygiene and making sure to give one’s member plenty of exercise. In order to ensure everything is in good working order, guys should perform self-checks regularly. Anything out of the ordinary? How is the skin condition? If a man notices dry, chafed skin, he should attend to that. Cracks in the skin can provide a welcoming home for viruses, bacteria and fungi. Also, constant friction can cause the skin to toughen, reducing sensation over time. Men would be wise to use a penis health crème (health professionals recommend Man1 Man Oil) to moisturize the skin daily, protecting it from the various frictions it encounters from condoms, clothing, other bodies and a man’s own hand. Skin health, along with safe sex, is a vital component of overall penile health.