Why We Need National Condom Week

HaveAcondom-1National Condom Week 2015 is here!  From Valentine’s Day to February 21st, we are celebrating by providing a new article every day by prominent sexual health advocates focused on condom use and education. To kick it off, here is a little trivia for you:

If National Condom Week started campaigning in the 1970s, a time when the birth control pill had come into fashion and the HIV crisis was just around the corner, how is it still relevant today?

Here are seven important reasons why Condom Week remains pertinent today.

This article was originally published here

BY LARA WORCESTER | CondomMonologues.com

What is condom week?

Condom week is a national campaign to raise awareness not only about the importance of safer sex, but also how condoms can add to your sexual pleasure. Yes, contrary to popular belief, condoms don’t make sex less good. Many studies have found that those who report condoms reduce pleasure are men and women who do not use condoms, or don’t use them often. In other words, people who use condoms often- because they approach it with a better attitude and because they’ve learned what condoms they like- report greater pleasure with protected sex. Attitude, condom education and experience all play a role in sexual satisfaction.

That, my friends, is why we need National Condom Week.

Condom Week lands at a time in our calendar when people are puckered up with Valentine’s sweets. From Valentine’s Day to February 21st, while the air is plush with intimacy, what better time to integrate safer sex into the national conscience and give out lots of free condoms!

Condom Week originally began at the University of California in the 1970s, and has grown into a educational event for high schools, colleges, family planning organizations, AIDS groups, sexually transmitted disease awareness groups, pharmacies and condom manufacturers. Planned Parenthood and Advocates for Youth are just a few of the hundreds of non-profit organizations who participate in Condom Week, setting up sex education booths at universities all over the country and distributing over 50,000 free condoms. These booths, as well as open public seminars, will discuss topics such as safer oral sex, using lube with condoms, internal condoms, consent, and how to talk safer sex with your lover.

So again, if National Condom Week has been celebrated to raise awareness since the 1970s, why do we still need it today?

Because…

– Only 19 states require that, if provided, sex education in school must be medically, factually or technically accurate. That leaves schools in 31 states without fact-based sex education oversight!

Over 19 million people in the United States are diagnosed with an STI. That number increases dramatically if we account for those who do not know their status.

Two-thirds of all individuals who acquire an STI are younger than 25.

– In 2013, 66 percent of sexually active male high school students reported that they or their partner used a condom at most recent sexual intercourse, compared to only 53 percent of females.

More than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 7 (14%) are unaware of their infection.

– The United States continues to have one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world (68 per 1,000 women aged 15–19 in 2008)—more than twice that of Canada (27.9 per 1,000) or Sweden (31.4 per 1,000).

If I haven’t convinced you yet to celebrate National Condom Week, jump over to this article by Heather Corinna which debunks all the condom myths you’ve probably faced.

Do your part in public health and stay aware.

condom ad condoms too loose

LARA WORCESTER is co-founder & editor at Condom Monologues and a Lucky Bloke contributor. She’s a published social researcher with a Master’s in Gender & Sexuality studies and has worked with various HIV/AIDS organizations including Stella and the HIV Disclosure Project.

condom-monologuesCONDOM MONOLOGUES Affirming safer sex and sexuality one story at a time… Condom Monologues dispel harmful myths about safe sex and sexual stereotypes that permeate our ways of understanding what is “healthy sexuality”. They accomplish this through sex-positive, pleasure-focused approaches to sexuality that affirm the diversity of people- genders, sexualities, kinks and relationships.
Find them on twitter @CondomMonologue

Should You Provide Sexuality Education to Your Patients?

Photo credit: Eva Blue

Photo credit: Eva Blue

It is a rare thing these days to receive comprehensive sex education from a health care practitioner. When it is offered, it’s typically limited to the health of sex organs. However, as Melanie Davis explains in the following article, sex and sexuality go beyond the biological. Crucial aspects of sexuality that influence one’s individual choices are often overlooked by health care providers- such as one’s degree of autonomy as well as knowledge about safer sex tools.

The article speaks to health care providers and offers concrete examples of how sexual health envelops aspects about identity, relationships, and intimacy- all of which impact a person’s overall health.

This article was originally published here.

BY MELANIE DAVIS, PhD | MelanieDavisPhD.com

Physician involvement in sexuality education began in 1904, when dermatologist Prince Morrow, MD published Social Diseases and Marriage. His goal was to protect women whose husbands were bringing home sexually transmitted infections (then called venereal disease) from sex workers.

Sexuality education and medicine became more enmeshed when other physicians and the American Purity Alliance joined Morrow’s work to reduce STIs as a way to promote sexual morality. Today, healthcare providers don’t usually discuss sexual morality with patients, but you are an important source of information about sexuality.

Sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values about identity, relationships, and intimacy. Sexual health and decision making are critical aspects of sexuality education, and you may have more opportunities to educate patients than you may realize.

The Breadth of Patient Sexuality

If you limit your exam room consultation to discussions of the function and health of sexual organs only, you risk missing out on information that could have an impact on a patient’s sexual health and overall wellness. There are five categories of sexuality that comprise every person’s sexual being:

  • Sensuality = awareness, acceptance and enjoyment of our own or others’ bodies.
  • Intimacy = the degree to which we express and have a need for closeness with another person.
  • Sexual identity = how we perceive ourselves as sexual beings in terms of sex, gender, orientation, expression.
  • Sexual health and reproduction = attitudes and behaviors toward our health and the potential consequences of vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse.
  • Sexualization = using sex or sexuality to influence, manipulate, or control others.

The area of sexuality in which healthcare providers address most often is sexual health and reproduction for two reasons: 1) It is where most acute medical issues fall, and 2) There are fewer gray areas that can be time-consuming to discuss. However, the other areas of sexuality are less concrete but equally important to discuss, as these examples illustrate:

  • Patients may avoid sexual intercourse or masturbation because they believe genitals are ugly or shameful.
  • Patients may not experience sexual pleasure because they don’t understand their sexual anatomy or the sexual response cycle.
  • A partner’s turn-ons may hurt your patient emotionally or physically.
  • A patient may be struggling with gender identity or sexual sexual identity.
  • A patient may be too embarrassed to disclose sexual coercion/abuse.
  • Research shows that patients often fear being judged by their providers or being embarrassed, so they may not bring up their concerns. Be sure to open the door to conversations about sexuality — One quick way to begin is to ask, “If there were anything you would change about your sex life?”

Contact me if you’re interested in learning more about essential, yet easy educational conversations you can have with patients about sexuality.

melanie_davisMELANIE DAVIS, PHD, consults with individuals and couples to help them build sexual knowledge, comfort, and pleasure through the New Jersey Center for Sexual Wellness. Through her firm Honest Exchange LLC, she provides professional development in sexuality. She’s a popular speaker on self-esteem and body image, and the sexual impact of cancer, menopause and aging. She’s an AASECT-Certified Sexuality Educator. On Twitter @DrMelanieDavis

Before You Stop Using Condoms….

before you stop using condomsIt is very common for couples to start off the relationship using condoms and then, as the relationship lasts, their reliance on condoms decreases until perhaps they wish to stop using condoms altogether. But there are some steps to take in order to make this transition away from condoms a healthy one. In this article from Bedsider, Jessica Morse lists things to consider and explains how to follow through when taking condoms out of your sexperience. Prepare to take yourself to a health care provider.

In summary, here are important points to consider if you plan to stop using condoms:

  • Condoms and internal (or “female”) condoms are the only form of protection against sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • Many STIs do not show symptoms all the time. It’s worth taking a trip to the health clinic and getting a full-screen STI test. As well as making sure you or your partner’s Pap smear is up-to-date.
  • Depending on your test results, follow through with the appropriate waiting time until the next test and/or complete your treatment.
  • Have discussions with your partner. Is pregnancy a risk? Which birth control method should you use?  Are you quitting condoms in order to get pregnant?

This article was written by Jessice Morse, MD, MPH, and was originally published here

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Condoms are great— they’re available in almost any drug store or clinic and they protect against pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs). More than half of U.S. couples use a condom when they have sex for the first time, and over 93% have used condoms at some point.

The number of couples relying on condoms tends to go down as relationships last longer, so it’s safe to say a lot of couples start off using them and then switch to another method of birth control when they become exclusive. Starting a new method of birth control (maybe one that’s more effective for preventing pregnancy than condoms) doesn’t have to mean forgoing condoms. Doubling up with condoms and another method is a great option for many couples. But if you and your partner have been using condoms and want to stop, here are a few things to square away beforehand.

Get your test (GYT)

Male and female condoms are the only methods that can protect against STIs. That includes the ones that can easily be treated—like gonorrhea and chlamydia—and the not-so-easily treated—like herpes and HIV.

Just because neither of you have bumps or rashes doesn’t mean you’re necessarily in the clear; STIs can be there without you even knowing it. So even if you’re pretty sure you don’t have an STI, you should both get tested for common infections like chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and HIV. You may also want to ask about a herpes test; your healthcare provider will usually ask questions to figure out if it makes sense to test for that too. It’a also a great time to make sure your HPV vaccine series (3 shots!) is done and your Pap smears are up to date.

All of these tests can be done without a physical exam:

  • For chlamydia and gonorrhea, you just need to provide a urine sample. Yup, it’s a simple as peeing in a cup.
  • For HIV, syphilis and herpes, it’s a blood test. That means providing a small sample of blood at a lab or clinic.

Then just a few days of awkward waiting and you’ll have your results!

Drumroll, please

Once you get your test results, you may have a few more steps to take before it’s safe to stop using condoms.

Positive for chlamydia, gonorrhea, or syphilis
These STIs can all be cured with antibiotics. You may take pills, get a shot, or both. The treatment depends on the type of infection. You may be done after one shot, one pill, or a week of pills. Your healthcare provider may recommend that you get tested again in the coming months to make sure the infection is cleared up. If you have any symptoms or concerns after you’ve finished the treatment, talk to your provider and decide what to do.

Positive for HIV, herpes, or hepatitis
These STIs can’t be cured, but they can be managed with medicines that reduce the viral load (the amount of the virus in your body) and a partner’s chance of getting the same infection. Although the medicines reduce the chance of giving the virus to a partner, they don’t guarantee it. That means that you’d need to talk to your partner about how you both feel taking this chance without condoms. (If you decide to keep using condoms, you’re in good company. About 10% of U.S. couples of all ages rely on condoms.)

All clear

If you’re both in the clear, you can have the “let’s stop using condoms” conversation.

If you’re not ready for kids yet: This is a good time to talk about what other method you want to use for pregnancy prevention. Obviously whoever is using the method should have final say, but it might be nice to have both partners involved in the decision. You can also talk to your healthcare provider to help you figure out which method is best for you.

If you’re quitting condoms in order to start trying for a baby: It’s a good idea to check in with your healthcare provider a few months ahead of time. Even for women without health problems, there are some basic things you can do to have a healthier pregnancy. For example, taking prenatal vitamins prevents certain types of birth defects. Your provider can also give you good tips for how to increase your chances of getting pregnant. Good luck!

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

How Do I Share A Dildo?

 

72- how-to-share-a-dildoHow safe is it to share a dildo or use the same dildo on yourself as on your partner?

This question is posed to Megan Andelloux of The Center For Sexual Pleasure and Health (the CSPH). Sharing sex toys can be very safe with low risk of passing on STIs (sexually transmitted infections). However, in order to maintain that safety, you need to use a body safe toy  that can be sterilized- made of silicon- and/or use a condom.

In this video, Megan breaks down the things to be aware of when you’re using dildos on others.

Here are key points to sex toy safety. Enjoy your toy!

  • The material of the dildo matters. Stick with silicon!
  • If you don’t know what the sex toy is made of, use a condom.
  • Wash the dildo or change the condom each time you switch activities, such as anal to vaginal play.
  • Using condoms with sex toys means less time in the bathroom washing and more time playing!

BY MEGAN ANDELLOUX | ohMegan.com

If you have a question for Megan Andelloux about anything from sex toys, to gender, to fantasies and sexual health and reproduction – Just ask!

megan_andellouxMEGAN ANDELLOUX is a Clinical Sexologist and certified Sexuality Educator, listed on Wikipedia as one of the top sexuality educators in America, her innovative education programs, writing, social media presence, and ambitious speaking schedule has made her one of America’s most recognized and sought-after experts in the growing field of sexual pleasure, health, and politics.
Follow Megan on twitter @HiOhMegan

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

Monogamous? This STI Doesn’t Care

From the award winning documentary, "Under Our Skin" (2009)

From the award winning documentary, “Under Our Skin” (2009)

New research published this year suggests that Lyme disease may be sexually transmitted between humans. These new findings could fundamentally change the way we think about STIs.

The study (headed by microbiologist Marianne Middelveen and an international team of medical researchers) is the first to officially investigate sexual transmission between partners. However, it has been suggested for over a decade that Lyme disease could transmit sexually. The bacteria that causes Lyme is a type of spirochete which is related to the same cork-screw shaped bacteria of syphilis.

“It would certainly explains why the disease is so common,” Dr. Raphael Stricker, one of the researchers of the study stated. According to the CDC, there are 300,000 new cases of Lyme each year and this rate is rapidly increasing making it one of the most urgent epidemics today.

In this article, Melissa White interviews Lyme literate doctors who have recommended patients to use condoms to prevent transmission. She also reached out to people living with Lyme who believe they have transmitted the infection to their sex partner and who wish that their doctors informed them earlier about this possible risk.

This post was originally published on The Good Men Project

BY MELISSA WHITE | LuckyBloke.com

If there were a new sexually transmitted infection (STI, aka STD) on the rise –-say, one that was an unexpected concern, especially to monogamous couples– when would you want to know about it?

Say, when it’s a scientifically proven possibility with mounting evidence –even if it took three to five years before it could be officially confirmed?

And when would you expect government and medical organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) to share this information with you? At what point does a serious potential threat warrant disclosure?

Finally, to what extent and at what point should doctors inform patients? When does it become their responsibility to do so?

It’s important to note that this potential new STD may initially be transmitted even without sexual contact. Your partner may pick it up from a tick in the woods –or be born carrying it. And while currently a “silent” epidemic, the numbers of cases have been climbing so rapidly that it won’t be kept under the radar for much longer.

Perhaps most alarming is the lack of a reliable test or conclusive go-to cure for this infection. Also, with over 300,000 new cases a year in the United States alone, a global epidemic is perhaps already underway.

In fact, leading researchers are likening it to the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, due to similar rapidly rising infection rates, as well as a widespread lack of comprehensive testing and treatment. Many conclude that a majority of those infected do not get properly diagnosed until years after contracting it, when chronic stages have already set in.

The infection gains traction in the body in much the same way syphilis does. Also, like syphilis, the symptoms of the infection are so varied that it has been called “the great imitator”, making it perhaps the most complicated, multilayered infectious disease today. Some researchers, such as Dr. Raphael Stricker, are proposing a nationwide HIV-style “Manhattan Project” in which a uniform standard of testing is established and long-term treatment is the norm.

Commonly known as Lyme disease (aka Borrelia burgdorferi), you might assume this potential sexually transmitted infection (STI) can only afflict those bitten by a tick. Sadly, it may be time to ditch that notion. Emerging information indicates that, if you are having unprotected sex at all –even in a monogamous relationship– you’re at risk of infection.

Lyme symptoms have often been dismissed as stress or aging. They include fatigue, joint pains, muscle aches, headaches and flu-like symptoms. However, left untreated, the infection can travel to the nervous system, dwell in your tissue, and mimic chronic illnesses such as arthritis, paralysis, epilepsy or even Alzheimer’s disease. In fact, the International Lyme and Associated Diseases Society (ILADS) suggests that Lyme should be considered in diagnoses of chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, Lou Gehrig’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and many other multi-system illnesses.

The work of Lyme-aware healthcare providers is being hampered by faulty testing and an outdated treatment protocol. As if that wasn’t enough, these professionals are also up against a medical community and agencies that seem rather averse to examining the rise of Lyme infection, with many institutional leaders clinging to the dangerous, antiquated notion that chronic Lyme doesn’t even exist. The status quo is making it incredibly difficult for severely ill patients to receive the treatment they desperately need.

I’ve interviewed many leading Lyme literate doctors and researchers, including microbiologist Marianne Middelveen and internist Raphael Stricker. Both are involved with the most recent study investigating Lyme as an STI.

For practitioners like Dr. Christine Green on the boards of ILADS and LymeDisease.org, it is important to assume patients wish to be fully informed:

I inform my patients that it is possible Lyme disease could be sexually transmitted as the bacteria has been found in sexual fluids. But I inform them that proving transmission has not been done, possibly because it is not sexually transmitted or possibly because those studies are expensive, controversial or/and we do not have an agreed upon test that confirms active Lyme.

On the other hand, I have been shocked to learn that it’s common practice to not discuss new research findings about Lyme in order to avoid fear and recrimination. Until more large-scale peer reviewed studies are published, some doctors simply disregard the latest findings.

Unfortunately, despite mounting evidence seen by doctors in their own practices, even leading Lyme organizations are hesitant to suggest barrier methods as a precaution.

Yet all of the above offers merely a glimpse of just how difficult it is to battle Lyme disease. People living with Lyme often have to navigate medical settings in which
mainstream doctors subscribe to the myth that Lyme is “hard to catch, easy to treat”.

Those affected are forced to do their own research. According to ILADS, the average Lyme patient sees five doctors within 2 years before being properly diagnosed. The CDC surveillance criteria used for diagnosis of Lyme are so insensitive that they miss more than half of patients with the tick borne illness.

After watching Under Our Skin (2009), an award winning documentary investigating Lyme as one of the most serious,controversial modern-day epidemics, I recognized that the stories of people living with Lyme need to be more widely shared. I have now heard from hundreds of people around the world living with chronic Lyme.

Most have been misdiagnosed due to false negative Elisa testing or doctors simply not considering Lyme. Many don’t recall a tick bite or telltale bullseye rash (in fact, the ILADS reports that fewer than 50% of Lyme patients recall being bitten by a tick); also, many are convinced they’ve transmitted the infection to their sexual partner or vice versa.

Joanne, who travels to Belgium from the Netherlands to see her doctor, strongly feels she transmitted the infection to her partner and expressed relief that her doctor informed her about this mode of transmission:

I am personally really glad my doctor said it is likely to be an STD. Because of this I had my boyfriend tested right away when I found out I had Lyme. He’s now also receiving treatment and is recovering much faster. With Lyme, the earlier you discover it, the better your chances of recovery, so no, I wouldn’t wait.

Barbara* has a story like so many Americans. Her infection wasn’t detected until many years after transmission:

I may have sustained a tick bite in 2008, but the circumstances were such that I brushed the incident off. I never had a bullseye rash. Lyme wasn’t identified until 2014 (after a year trying to find a diagnosis that explained my symptoms). Although Lyme crossed my mind my initial test was negative. My treatment might have been completely different if I had known and understood what IS NOT KNOWN about Lyme. I might have sought aggressive treatment for the tick bite, not ignored it. I might have been able to protect my husband who now also has Lyme.

Desi lives in Europe, and like Joanne, travels to Belgium to meet with her physician:

There are too many people with Lyme at the moment, it cannot only come from a tick bite anymore. Whole families are infected with Lyme. Including my family and my husband. I have Lyme. My husband never had a tick bite but had a positive test. He also has Lyme disease because of me. I think every practitioner has to tell their patients it’s sexually transmitted, there needs to be more information told about it.

According to Dr. Stricker and Ms. Middelveen, researchers of the 2014 study on Lyme as an STD, it was suggested over a decade ago already that Lyme disease could be sexually transmitted because the Lyme bacteria, called a spirochete, shows activity similar to the syphilis spirochete. Yet not until 2014 did research findings compellingly suggest this type of transmission may be possible in humans.

“It would certainly explain why the disease is so common,” Dr. Stricker stated in our phone interview. “This is a big game changer”, Stricker said. “It would mean we should no longer think of Lyme based on geographical high risk zones.”

Just this week, a woman diagnosed with genital ulceration was linked to Lyme disease for the first time. Based on a recently released abstract, it is now a possibility that women with Lyme are being misdiagnosed with genital herpes.

In our interview, Dr. Sticker said a more comprehensive study of sexual transmission of Lyme disease is currently underway. He is hopeful this will offer more conclusive results regarding how this epidemic is spreading at such a rapid rate.

Given all the uncertainties with Lyme, prevention is more important than ever. We know condoms will be the most effective way to protect against its spread as an STI. Drawing from what people living with Lyme have voiced, my personal opinion is that if there is any chance whatsoever that Lyme could be sexually transmitted –and the evidence is rapidly increasing– more people need to be made aware of this possibility.

Everyone has the right to choose how they protect themselves and their partners. This is not about inciting panic or stigma. It is about encouraging an up-to-date public discussion regarding Lyme. It’s about allowing people an informed choice. And finally, for safer sex educators, it’s about informing people on how they can enjoy sex and remain infection free, and for those who are infected, how to best protect their partners.

*Some names are changed, at patient request, to protect privacy.

15 Warning Signs He Doesn’t Support Your Contraceptive Choices

Image from Bedsider.org

If any one of these warning signs relates to your experience, you are not in a balanced, healthy relationship.

Some of the warning signs may seem extreme (like “Do you find him poking holes in condoms?”), but the fact is that these things do happen. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF) one in five young women say they have experienced reproductive coercion. Reproductive coercion is when one partner forces the other into sex without contraception.

Even more common is facing a partner who dislikes condoms and tries to convince the other to have condomless sex (read our post for the best lines of defense against excuses not to have safer sex).

As Lynn Harris points out in the article below, such an interaction is ultimately about one person having power over the other. It is the opposite of a healthy, loving and respectful relationship.

Here Lynn Harris offers tips on what to do if your partner is showing signs of disrespecting your contraceptive choices. Ultimately, it’s not about the birth control. It’s about another form of control.

This article by Lynn Harris was re-posted with permission from Bedsider.org

BY BEDSIDER | Bedsider.org

Alice’s boyfriend really didn’t want to wear a condom. “You don’t know how good it feels without one,” he’d say—over and over—or “I can’t come with one,” recalls Alice, 23, of Seattle. “He’d been able to before, so I should have realized that was bullsh*t. But he’d slowly talked me into it.” When she finally let him go without, she says, “I was like, ‘Fine, if it makes you shut up about it, go ahead.’”

That was the day Alice conceived her son, now 4. But don’t call it an “unplanned pregnancy.” It wasn’t just that Alice’s boyfriend liked the feel of condomless sex. He wasn’t in denial about the consequences. Alice hadn’t planned the pregnancy, but her boyfriend had. Guys like him want to get girls pregnant. As Alice now knows: “He really wanted a son.”

As I noted in a previous article for The Nation, and others have noted, stereotypes about women being the ones to “trick” their partner into pregnancy are extremely misleading and potentially destructive. Experts have put a name to the phenomenon of reproductive coercion, where it’s men who force women into sex without contraception. According to the Family Violence Prevention Fund (FVPF), one in five young women say they’ve experienced pregnancy coercion; one in seven say a guy has sabotaged her contraception. Though other abuse may not be occurring, it sure as heck might: women who have been abused by a boyfriend are five times as likely to be forced into not using a condom and eight times more likely to be pressured to get pregnant.

Guys like Alice’s boyfriend hide birth control pills or flush them down the toilet; they sweet-talk, threaten, even rape. Why? Not because they’re dreaming of booties, blankets, and Daddy-baby yoga. “It’s about one person controlling another,” says Leslie Walker, M.D., chief of adolescent medicine at Seattle Children’s Hospital. (Talk about control: experts say some men force their girlfriends to get pregnant—and to have abortions.) It’s the ultimate form of control: of your body itself and—if you have a baby, or get an STI, some of which cause infertility—of the rest of your life.

Reproductive coercion happens to teens and adults, rich, poor and average; any race or religion; women in long-term relationships, hookups, and in-between; women like Anya Alvarez, 21, who was having sex with a guy she’d just started seeing when she spotted her NuvaRing on her rug—which, needless to say, was not where she had put it. Yep: he’d yanked it out. “He said he’d done it to other women and they didn’t mind,” she says. Even in a new relationship, or something you wouldn’t call a relationship at all, you need to be careful.

Red Flags

“One clear warning sign: a partner who doesn’t support your using whatever contraception you want,” says FVPF senior policy director Rebecca Levenson. “Even if it’s subtle, like weird-supportive, it still gets him what he wants.”

  • Does he refuse to wear a condom? “That’s near-universal with reproductive coercion, and can start on sexual-date-one,” says Heather Corinna, founder and director of Scarleteen and author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-To-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College.
  • Does he equate birth control with cheating? As one woman (“Erika”) reported to the FVPF: “He said the pill made women want to have sex all the time, and that I’d cheat because I wouldn’t need to use a condom.”
  • Do you go behind his back to get contraception? “Erika” snuck to a clinic for the pill. “For a year, I made sure he never saw them,” she says.
  • Does he say things about hormonal birth control (Pills, implants, IUDs) like (MYTH ALERT!!!!). “Those make you gain weight, which you struggle with. I love you so much I wouldn’t want you to do that”?
  • Does he threaten to hurt you if you use contraception—or consider abortion?

There’s also sweeter-sounding baby-making talk. “It can seem like he’s trying to express commitment or get serious,” says Corinna. “Only people who love you want to make babies with you, right? Wrong. Some people want to create a family for the best reasons. Others want to control you, make it harder for you to leave, or create new, smaller people to control. The folks with the good motives will not ever pressure or trick you.” Does he:

  • Say things like “If you have a baby we’ll always be connected” or “If you really loved me you’d have my baby”?
  • Refer to sperm as mini-hims? Alice: “My boyfriend would congratulate himself for sending in his buddies to get the job done.”
  • Say someone who uses contraception doesn’t love their partner? Or contraception keeps people from being close?
  • Talk about pregnancy or parenthood without including your needs or your body?

New guys may deploy all sorts of lines. Check your gut; don’t take a chance. If something sounds off to you—like “I had a vasectomy” or “I smoke pot so I’m infertile”—it probably is.

And some actions say it all:

  • Do your pills keep disappearing?
  • Does the condom keep “breaking”? The third time this happened to “Libby” in Illinois, her boyfriend admitted he’d removed it. After that, he began raping her without one.
  • Have you caught him messing with your birth control or poking holes in condoms?
  • Does he break his promise to “pull out”?
  • Does he sneak off the condom (NuvaRing, etc.) during intercourse?
  • Does he physically force you to have sex without protection?

What to do?

If even one of the above sounds familiar to you…one is too many. Steps to take to protect your health:

  • If on date one refuses a condom—“ground zero for safer sex,” says Corinna—kick him out.
  • If sex suddenly feels different, check the condom.
  • Consider contraception you can hide, or that’s tough to sabotage, like Depo-Provera or IUD. (Note: This alone does not prevent STIs.)
  • Get tested for STIs (see our post on how easy it is to get tested). Some are symptomless, but can do future damage. Talk to a health care provider. If it doesn’t make sense for you to leave the relationship now, you can at least try to prevent STIs or pregnancies.
  • Imagine a healthy relationship. No pressure, no tricks; just love, support—and, if you’re ready, sex that feels right. “If a female patient whose partner refuses condoms says, ‘They don’t feel good for me, either,’ I say, ‘That’s because he’s not sharing a real, intimate relationship with you,” Dr. Walker explains. “It’s not about the condom.”

condom ad condoms too tight

bedsiderBEDSIDER is an online birth control support network for women operated by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen & Unplanned Pregnancy. Bedsider is totally independent (no pharmaceutical or government involvement). Honest and unbiased, Bedsider’s goal is to help women find the method of birth control that’s right for them and learn how to use it consistently and effectively, and that’s it.
Find Bedsider on twitter @Bedsider

Warts and Worries. What To Do?

Photo credit: Jamelah E.

Photo credit: Jamelah E.

If you were recently exposed to genital warts would you know what to do? Do you know what to ask your doctor? What tests and treatments are available? Are genital warts curable?

As part of their weekly Q&A series, the CSPH (the Center for Sexual Pleasure and Health) explains what to do if you think you’ve been exposed to genital warts, a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is so common, it has been called the “common cold” of STIs in the United States.

According to the CDC, the United States is facing an HPV epidemic, in which 50% of sexually active adults carry some form of HPV without any symptoms. Yet not enough people know what is HPV, what are it’s sympotoms (if any!), and how it can be treated and prevented.

In this post, the CSPH explains that:

  • About one person in 10 will have genital warts at some time in their life.
  • Because genital warts spreads by skin-to-skin contact rather than an exchange of bodily fluids, condoms are not 100% effective at preventing transmission.
  • Unlike many STIs which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, genital warts are detected primarily through visual inspection. However, not everyone shows symptoms.
  • About two-thirds of people who are exposed to active genital warts will develop them, usually within three to six months after contact.
  • You can reduce the risk of HPV with consistent use of sex dams and condoms, creative outercourse that doesn’t put you in direct contact with genitals (dry humping, vibrator play, etc.), and regular STI testing to keep your status up-to-date.
  • Still confused about testing? Check out our post about when to get tested for STIs.

This post was originally published on the CSPH

BY THE CSPH | theCSPH.org

Image from the CSPH

Image from the CSPH

Each week, The CSPH answers questions asked on our site and through social media outlets like Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. This week’s question is:

Hi! I just recently found out that I was exposed to genital warts and might have it, though I am currently not showing any symptoms. I have a pap smear coming up at the beginning of August and I plan to bring up my concerns then (while abstaining from sex until then). Do you think that they’ll be able to test me although I don’t have any symptoms, only reasonable concern?

Genital warts is a common sexually transmitted infection caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is spread by skin-to-skin contact rather than an exchange of bodily fluids. About one person in 10 will have genital warts at some time in their life. Unfortunately, this sneaky virus can be passed along even if you use a condom—for example, if your genitals touch during foreplay, or if your partner masturbates before fondling your naughty bits. Condom use is still recommended, as safer sex practices can significantly decrease risk, but it should be remembered that barrier methods are not a genital force field.

While HPV is a family of viruses often linked to cervical cancer, the particular strains that cause genital warts are different and distinct. With more than 100 permutations, the volume and variety of HPV could rival Nicki Minaj’s wig collection. Most genital warts, however, are caused by HPV types 6 and 11, which are lower risk but highly contagious. About two-thirds of people who are exposed to active genital warts will develop them, usually within three to six months after contact.

Thanks to high school health class, some people might associate genital warts with magnified images of mutant cauliflower, but in most cases these warts are inconspicuous, subtle, and benign. They can be flesh-toned or gray, raised or flat, singular or in clusters. For vulva-owners, these growths tend to appear on the vagina or cervix or around the labia majora, anus, or inner thighs. A pelvic exam is often necessary for diagnosis, since warts do not usually cause pain or discharge and can reside internally. Genital warts in penis-owners may surface on the shaft, scrotum, testicles, anus, or general groin area.

Unlike HIV and syphilis which can be diagnosed with a simple blood test, genital warts are detected primarily through visual inspection. No lab results can indicate the presence or absence of HPV 6 or 11 before genital warts appear. Once a skin growth is present, a biopsy may be required for confirmation since smaller warts can be difficult to distinguish from normal genital bumps or ingrown pubic hair.

Although there is an HPV test on the market, it was designed to detect high-risk, pre-cancerous strains of the virus (types 16 and 18) in women over thirty. Similarly, a pap smear would not reveal whether or not someone has genital warts. Due to a lack of effective screening and testing, it is hard to know if you or a potential partner might have this contagious, but harmless, skin condition; an estimated 50% of sexually active adults carry some form of HPV without any symptoms.

Fortunately, the Gardasil vaccine can protect against the HPV strains responsible for 90% of genital warts, in addition to the high-risk types associated with 75% of cervical cancers. No longer restricted to empowered women and girls who engage in radical activities like playing drums, skateboarding, or living in designer lofts, this vaccine is now available to members of all sexes and genders. While there are risks and benefits associated with Gardasil (or any vaccine), the recommended age of inoculation is 11 or 12, or prior to becoming sexually active.

The CDC recommends that vulva-owners ages 13 through 26 get HPV vaccine if they have not received any or all of the three doses when they were younger. Likewise, CDC recommends the vaccine for penis-owners aged 13 through 21 years if they have not been received it already.

If you happen to have genital warts, there are several treatment options available, including podophyllin solution, cryosurgery (freezing), and electrocaudery (burning). You can also wait and give the warts some time to disappear on their own; within three months, 20 to 30 percent of all cases of non-cervical warts usually clear up without medical intervention.

When genital warts are treated, symptoms often resolve within one to nine months. Although the virus is most easily spread when active warts are present, you may still be contagious following treatment or removal, especially during the six months immediately afterwards. If you have been with your current partner since a few weeks before the genital warts appeared, more than likely your partner has already been exposed to the virus and abstaining would not prevent an outbreak. However, before engaging with new partners, it would be important to discuss the risk of viral transmission (in addition to what turns you on!), and to use condoms until everyone is comfortable with the potential consequences.

Unfortunately, there is no way for your doctor to conclusively diagnose you with genital warts unless physical symptoms are present. However, it’s wonderful that you’re being responsible in the meantime by abstaining from sex and initiating dialogue on these important issues. Through consistent use of barrier methods, creative outercourse (dry humping, vibrator play, etc.), open communication, and annual exams with a qualified healthcare provider, you can take several proactive measures to help reduce your risk of genital warts and other STIs, while enjoying safe and sexy pleasure adventures.

Special note: Human papilloma virus (HPV), the underlying agent that causes genital warts, actually has over 100 strands, about forty of which can lead to genital warts. Other strains of HPV can also lead to cell division, which may be responsible for a number of throat, genital, cervical, and anal cancers. According to the CDC, nearly all sexually active adults will get at least one strain of HPV at some point in their life; however, when we state the “one person in ten” statistic, we were referring to having genital warts specifically.

condom ad condoms too loose

csphThe CENTER for SEXUAL PLEASURE and HEALTH (The CSPH) is designed to provide adults with a safe, physical space to learn about sexual pleasure, health, and advocacy issues. Led by highly respected founder and director, Megan Andelloux, The CSPH is a sexuality training and education organization that works to reduce sexual shame, fight misinformation, & advance the sexuality field.

Can Pre-Ejaculate Cause Pregnancy?

Photographer Zen Sutherland

Photographer Zen Sutherland

Can pre-ejaculate cause pregnancy? This is an important question for anyone who can become pregnant, or is having sex with someone who can get pregnant. Particularly for those who use the “pull-out” or fertility awareness method, understanding the risks involved is fundamental to making proper health choices for yourself.

The answer to this question, however, is not so certain and still under going research. In this article, Heather Corinna explains what exactly we do know for certain about pre-cum and how best to approach risks with the information that is out there.

Here are her key points:

  • There is far less sperm in pre-cum than there is in ejaculation.
  • Chances of sperm in pre-cum are lowered if one has recently urinated and has not ejaculated before intercourse.
  • Pre-cum can transmit infections.

This post was originally published on Scarleteen.

BY HEATHER CORINNA | Scarleteen

Jess asks:

Can a woman become pregnant off of pre-cum fluid alone?

Heather Corinna replies:

The short answer is that it is possible, yes, but is not very likely.

The longer answer is that there are a lot of variables, and we still need more study to be done on this to give a better answer.

Do we know that pre-ejaculate fluid can contain sperm? Yes, we do. We also know that there are far, far less sperm in pre-ejaculate — when there are any at all — than there are in a full ejaculation: a full ejaculation contains as many as 100 million sperm, whereas when sperm is in pre-ejaculate, it’s more like a few million, if that many. But it only takes one active sperm and a few hundred helper sperm to create a pregnancy, so sometimes there may be more than enough sperm in pre-ejaculate when sperm are present in it to make that happen. However, sperm also need the fluid they’re part of to create a pregnancy, so the limited volume of pre-ejaculate is also an issue, as is the far fewer sperm which may be (and often are not) part of it.

There’s no 100% way to know at the time if pre-ejaculate contains sperm, but it’s generally agreed upon that it is most likely or only likely to when a man has recently ejaculated and has not urinated afterwards (urine flushes the urethra out, removing traces of sperm). It’s generally considered to be least likely to contain sperm when a man either hasn’t ejaculated in a while and/or has recently urinated before he’s pre-ejaculating.

Since you’ll often hear a lot of argument when it comes to whether sperm are or are not present in pre-ejaculate, here’s what some other credible folks have to say on the matter:

Go Ask Alice at Columbia University says:

Sperm could be in pre-cum, but only after a recent ejaculation, after which some sperm may be left hanging around in the urethra. “Recent” means masturbating earlier and then having sex with a woman, or during the same sexual episode of the recent ejaculation. Urinating in between ejaculations flushes the urethra of stray sperm and makes the way clear for the sperm-less pre-ejaculate fluid. If sperm remains after a prior ejaculation, then it’s possible that they can enter the vagina and make their way to meet an egg.

The Feminist Women’s Health Center says about it:

During sex, the penis releases two kinds of fluids. The first is pre-ejaculate or pre-cum, a lubricant made in a gland in the penis. This fluid usually contains no sperm, but can transmit infections. The second, released with ejaculation, is semen, which is made in the testicles and carries thousands of sperm in addition to any sexually transmittable infections that may be present.

Many sources that discuss the ineffectiveness of withdrawal argue that pre-cum can contain sperm. This is because previous ejaculations can leave some sperm behind in the folds of the penis. While there is a need for further study, it is likely that urination before intercourse washes leftover sperm from the urethra, the tube from which both urine and semen exit the penis.

Here’s what Student Health Services at Oregon State University has to say:

Pre-cum is the pre-ejaculate fluid that can be released from the penis during sexual activity. It is usually released before the male reaches orgasm, which results in the ejaculation of semen. Pre-cum prepares the urethra for the semen and helps in lubrication during sexual intercourse. Also the pre-cum may contain sperm. Since the pre-ejaculate can contain sperm, a pregnancy can occur if the man’s pre-cum comes in contact with the woman’s vaginal canal.

However, there is inconclusive evidence as to where the sperm in the pre-ejaculate comes from. Many researchers suggest that the sperm in the pre-ejaculate comes from leftover sperm from a previous ejaculation of semen. These researchers suggest that urinating after the ejaculation of semen will remove any sperm from the urethra, so as to prevent the pre-ejaculate from containing sperm. However, research is still being conducted to support this widely accepted idea.

And here’s what Contraceptive Technology has to say:

Some concern exists that the pre-ejaculate fluid may carry sperm into the vagina. In itself, the pre-ejaculate, a lubricating secretion produced by the Littre or Cowper’s glands, contains no sperm. A study examining the pre-ejaculate for the presence of spermatozoa found none in the samples of 16 men. However, a previous ejaculation may have left some sperm hidden within the folds of the urethral lining. In examinations of the pre-ejaculate in a small study, the pre-ejaculate was free of spermatozoa in all of 11 HIV-seronegative men and 4 or 12 seropositive men. Although the 8 samples containing spermatozoa revealed only small clumps of a few hundred sperm, these could possibly pose a risk of fertilization. In all likelihood, the spermatozoa left from a previous ejaculation could be washed out with the force of a normal urination. However, this remains unstudied.

So again, the only right answer we can give right now is a maybe.

But we also do know that withdrawal isn’t one of the most effective birth control methods, in either perfect or typical use, and that enough people report using it perfectly — saying they withdrew well before ejaculation — and still becoming pregnant (including my parents as well as a close friend of mine, for a personal perspective), that we’d be remiss to rule out pre-ejaculate as a pregnancy risk. Bear in mind that during the Baby Boom in the United States — a period in history when we had more births than any other — that withdrawal was the most common method of birth control people were using. Of course, many of those pregnancies may well have been due to men who said they pulled out on time not realizing they had actually ejaculated, and we have no way of knowing what the real deal was. What we can know, for sure, are the success and failure rates of withdrawal as a method, however it is practiced, and know that most other methods of birth control are more effective.

Too, unprotected sex, period — ejaculate or no — poses risks of all sexually transmitted infections, which should be just as great a concern as pregnancy. And pre-ejaculate can transmit the HIV virus just as much as full ejaculate can.

So, having unprotected sex, period, just isn’t a good idea unless you are trying to become pregnant AND you and your partner have both been practicing safer sex for at least six months, monogamously, AND each have at least TWO full and clear STI screens under your belts. While it’d be nice if we had more data on pre-ejaculate at this point, at the same time, it’s not all that essential. We already have the essential information we need, which is that ANY unprotected intercourse presents risks of pregnancy and STIs, and that people who want to prevent pregnancy achieve that best with the most reliable methods of contraception, used properly and consistently, or by abstaining from the kinds of sex which present pregnancy risks.

If you want to engage in intercourse safely, you need a condom at a minimum, and if, for whatever reason, that or some other reliable method is not an option, then the only good choice is to choose not to have sex until sound contraception can be used.

Here are some extra links to grow on:

heatherHEATHER CORINNA is an activist, artist, author and the director of Scarleteen, the inclusive online resource for teen and young adult sex education and information. She is also the author of S.E.X.: The All-You-Need-to-Know Progressive Sexuality Guide to Get You Through High School and College and was a contributor to the 2011 edition of Our Bodies, Ourselves. She’s received the The Champions of Sexual Literacy Award for Grassroots Activism (2007), The Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, Western Region’s, Public Service Award (2009), the Our Bodies, Ourselves’ Women’s Health Heroes Award (2009), The Joan Helmich Educator of the Year Award (2012), and The Woodhull Foundation’s Vicki Award(2013).

 

scarleteenSCARLETEEN is an independent, grassroots sexuality education and support organization and website. Founded in 1998, Scarleteen.com is visited by around three-quarters of a million diverse people each month worldwide, most between the ages of 15 and 25. It is the highest-ranked website for sex education and sexuality advice online and has held that rank through the majority of its tenure.
Find Scarleteen on twitter @Scarleteen

Shaving and STIs: How to Minimize Risk of STI Transmission

rose

Do you wax, shave or trim your pubic hair? Even if you prefer the wild bushy look, this post by Jenelle Marie, is relevant to you because everyone, regardless of preferences, should be able to make informed decisions about their bodies. Yet medical facts about shaving and how to manage the risks involved tend to get muffled among all the summer party and craze.

The fact is, genital hair has biological purpose. It acts as a barrier to protect abrasions caused by rubbing and friction. When hair is removed it opens up your skin and forms microscopic entry points for STIs and other pathogens.

But let’s be clear: We are not advocating for or against pubic perfection. As Jenelle Marie states, what you do with your body is your own business.

Here we share her article about important medical factors to consider and the ways to manage risks of shaving.

Here are points to remember:

  • Any kind of hair removal can increase one’s risk of contracting STIs.
  • Some professional services reuse the waxing spatula or do not change the wax often enough, both of which violate health codes and can spread bacteria.

Here is Jenelle Marie’s list of what you can do to reduce your risk and shave safely.

The original post is featured on The STD Project.

BY JENELLE MARIE | theSTDProject.com

So, how do you achieve pubic perfection without winding up with an unwanted infection?

Here’s a list of things you can do to minimize inflammation, microscopic cuts, abrasions, and your overall risk of contracting or transmitting STDs:

  • Consider shaving or waxing less of the area you previous manicured or less often
  • Apply hydrocortisone cream or an OTC antibiotic cream after your maintenance routine
  • Only book professional services at salons with fully licensed estheticians and stringent health policies, like soaking tools in hospital-grade disinfectant between procedures
  • Apply pure aloe vera to freshly shaven and waxed areas to speed healing time
  • Don’t shave, wax, etc. directly before engaging in sexual activities – allow time for your body to heal the small wounds that occur but are not always noticeable to the naked eye
  • Always use fresh, clean and sharp razors
  • Moisten the area before shaving with warm water to help soften hair follicles

Yes, you can have the lightning bolt or landing strip of your dreams, but be smart, aware of your risks, and consider some additional steps to negate your risk of infection.

1533882_446848112083407_2051712922_n THE STD PROJECT is a multi-award-winning independent website and progressive movement eradicating STD stigma by facilitating and encouraging awareness, education, and acceptance through story-telling and resource recommendations. Fearlessly led by Founder, Jenelle Marie, The STD Project is committed to modern-day sexual health and prevention by advocating for conscientious and informed decisions. Find them on twitter @theSTDProject

What Is An STI/STD?

In the days before STDs, there was venereal disease, and sex workers where considered the blamed of transmission. Image from TheDailyMail.co.uk

In the days before STDs, there was venereal disease, and sex workers where considered the blamed of transmission. Image from TheDailyMail.co.uk

There are lots of names for it that have come and gone throughout the decades. During WWI and WWII, it was the euphemistic-laden “venereal disease” or VD (and some people still use it today). By the 1980s, the term “sexually transmitted disease” (STDs) became generally accepted. Now medical terminology have progressed to “sexually transmitted infections” (STIs). There is not a lot of difference between these two terms and most people use them interchangeably. (To learn more about the difference between STIs and STDs, visit the Condom Monologues for a semantic breakdown.)

Despite all these different names, the meaning of STI/STD remains fundamentally the same.

From The STD Project, Jenelle Marie defines STIs as “infections that are commonly/have a high probability of being spread from person to person through unprotected intimate contact…Some STIs can also be transmitted via the sharing of IV drug needles after their use by an infected person as well as through childbirth or breastfeeding.”

STIs do not “prefer” one gender over another- no matter your gender, race, economic class, sexual orientation, (dis)ability, or relationship type- we are all susceptible to infections when we engage in sexual contact. Read more on what sexual activities put you at risk for different infections.

What is sexual contact?

The key is to understand what is meant by “sexual contact”. Now, this term is much broader than vaginal or anal penetration. Here Jenelle Maries unpacks its meaning:

BY JENELLE MARIE | theSTDProject.com

Sexual contact can encompass kissing, oral-genital contact, and the use of sexual ‘toys’, such as vibrators.

Most people think that kissing is a safe activity.

Even so, herpes, mononucleosis and other infections can be contracted through this relatively simple and often harmless act.

The use of condoms is commonly thought to protect against STIs, but it’s important to remember, all forms of sexual contact carry some risk. Although condoms can be very useful in decreasing the spread of certain fluid-borne infections, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, they do not fully protect against other infections contracted via skin-to-skin contact such as herpes, genital warts, syphilis, and molluscum contagiosum.

Many STIs are treatable or manageable, but effective cures are lacking for others, such as HIV (human immunodeficiency virus), HPV (human papillomavirus), HSV (herpes simplex virus) and hepatitis B & C. Even gonorrhea, once easily cured, has become resistant to many of the older traditional antibiotics.

STIs can be present in and spread by people who do not have any symptoms of the condition and have not yet been diagnosed.

Therefore, decreasing stigma via public awareness and education about these infections and the methods used to help prevent them is incredibly important.

Read the full article here.

1533882_446848112083407_2051712922_n THE STD PROJECT is a multi-award-winning independent website and progressive movement eradicating STD stigma by facilitating and encouraging awareness, education, and acceptance through story-telling and resource recommendations. Fearlessly led by Founder, Jenelle Marie, The STD Project is committed to modern-day sexual health and prevention by advocating for conscientious and informed decisions. Find them on twitter @theSTDProject