Growing up, I went to secular schools and had progressive parents. My mom even worked in public health and spent a lot of time educating women in developing countries about family planning and sexual health. Yet somehow I still managed to grow up totally oblivious to a lot of seemingly intuitive information about the facts of life.
I think on the sex-ed side of things, conservative agendas paired with a litigious culture (people love to sue in America) led to a sex-ed curriculum that aired on the side of caution, in order to cover the school district’s ass and to subtly push Christian purity propaganda.
The cheesy made-for-TV special movies they showed in health class went above and beyond to scare you about having sex. I was convinced I would get pregnant or contract HIV years before I even ended up losing my virginity.
On a familial level, I think my mom’s aloof, New England WASPiness led her to respect my space to an extreme degree. It’s typical for a teen to shut down their parents when they start talking about things that make them uncomfortable: “Ew mom, leave me alone!”
But unlike a lot of parents who push through the emotional discomfort to get their message across, my mom resigned herself entirely – probably working under the assumption that I was intelligent enough to educate myself on such matters.
To a degree, she was right. But it’s taken years of practical experience to come to realizations about sexual health that – had they occurred sooner – would have saved me countless hours of worry. A big part of the anxiety I experienced regarding pregnancy and STD scares stemmed from a conflicting internal narrative I had about myself.
On the one hand, I was this hedonistic, sex-loving slut who took on lovers in all shapes and forms, ranging from sugar daddies to one night stands abroad. On the other hand, I was a total hypochondriac who was well aware of the sexual health statistics and full of shame every time I let a boundary be broken.
Whether it was a drunken hookup with someone I was super attracted to or a 60 year old daddy who was literally just incapable of staying hard with a condom on, I made exceptions when it came to having unprotected sex more times than I’d like to admit.
I was always pretty good about asking, “Hey, have you been tested recently?” but on some level, I always knew this play was a bit of a ruse. In the heat of the moment, of course a horny dude is gonna respond with, “Yes of course, I’m clean,” even if he hasn’t been tested in months and has been raw dogging bitches left and right.
The people pleaser in me feared coming off as difficult or prudish, while the pragmatist in me knew full well that if I was exchanging sex for money, refusing to appease someone who couldn’t cum unless there was no condom involved meant that I would be left with a dissatisfied customer.
This of course could result in one of two things: not getting paid and / or losing the chance to establish a repeat customer relationship. So I satisfied the wishes of my sexual partners to the detriment of my own physical and emotional health time and time again.
It’s hard to even fathom the amount of time I’ve spent agonizing about what I should have done during sex. “Oh my god, what if he pre-cummed inside of me? I should take Plan B just to be safe” or “Fuck that guy is a total sex fiend. There’s no way I don’t have herpes now. My life is over.” would be the sort of thoughts that would run through my head.
Ironically, there was one daddy in particular who I would turn to for solace when such doom spirals would activate within me. A doctor, man whore, and married man, he was just as concerned about unwanted pregnancies and contracting STDs as I was, but he possessed more knowledge – through his medical training plus a couple decades more of experience than me being a slut – about the birds and the bees.
When I would call him freaking out that an ingrown hair might be a herpes lesion, he would calmly tell me to send him a picture and then assure me that I was in the clear but that this blown-out of-proportion-panic I was experiencing was unhealthy and that I would be well served to downgrade the level of nefarious sexual encounters I was partaking in, or at the very least, get better at standing my ground.
Amongst the woo woo crowd, many say that you’re more likely to contract an STD if you have negative emotions surrounding the experience, such as shame or guilt. While I won’t go so far as to endorse this claim, I will say that feeling shame around sex and sexual health is an incredibly draining experience – one that can prevent you from living your most empowered life. Here’s four things I wish they had taught me in sex-ed:
There’s only 6 days out the month that you can get pregnant.
Your ovulation period, which typically starts 14 days before you period and which lasts around 6 days, is the only time sperm can successfully fertilize an egg. I believe the reason why sex-ed teachers tell you that you can get pregnant at any time during your cycle is two fold.
Firstly, the majority of women are so out of tune with their bodies and their cycles that most of them don’t even know when their ovulation period is and therefore, it’s safer to tell them to always use a form of birth control when engaging in sexual activities.
Secondly, even when you do track your cycle and know exactly when you are supposed to be ovulating, factors like stress and changes in environment can alter your cycle and shift the days in which you’re ovulating.
I’m not gonna tell anyone to let a dude cum inside of you when you’re not on birth control 22 out of 28 days of your cycle, but I will say with certainty that you should feel safe to do so when menstruating. As someone not on birth control, this is the only time I’ll let a (trusted) partner cum inside of me.
Taking Plan B multiple times isn’t going to make you infertile.
I’m not sure when or where I even got this misinformation from but I remember growing up and being worried that if I took Plan B more than three times, I was going to become infertile. In the last decade or so I’ve probably taken it 4 or 5 times and while I understand it’s not an ideal choice to use on the reg because it majorly disrupts your hormones, the fact of the matter is that’s all it will do.
Honestly, I think the long-term use of birth control probably has more risks than taking Plan B a handful of times when it comes to potential issues with fertility. With all this said, it’s best to minimize usage. Being aware of when you are ovulating is helpful for this.
For instance, if you’re on day 7 of your cycle and the condom breaks, you probably don’t have to go through the agony that is the Plan B emotional rollercoaster – especially if you’re already on another form of birth control. Health class taught me that it was always best to use two forms of birth control because no one form of birth control (with the exception of getting your tubes tied) is full proof.
But as far as I’m concerned, this advice is overkill. More than that, it’s dangerous because it’s making young people scared of something beautiful and also putting them in a position where they will unnecessarily take Plan B. The second time I took Plan B around the age of 20, I had an 99.99% effective IUD and used a condom. But when the condom broke, I freaked the fuck out and ran to the pharmacy just to be safe.
Knowledge is power and while I can’t fault schools for doing the best they know how to advocate for safe sex, I think we would be better served learning to be more in tune with our bodies and tracking our cycles. Knowing the risks of sex is important, yes, but it should be done in a way that doesn’t make people feel ashamed when things don’t go exactly according to plan.
You don’t have bacterial vaginosis (BV) because you’re dirty, you have it because a sexual partner transmitted it to you.
There’s so much shame around having a fishy smelling vagina. It’s a burden that falls entirely on the woman and it’s bullshit because men can have the exact same bacteria in their penile microbiome, but because their sex organs are outward facing, it’s much less likely that an imbalance will occur.
Women’s vaginas, on the other hand, are complex containers that can’t just be rinsed with soap like a man’s penis can. This is why women are also more likely to contract yeast infections, as well as STDs and HPV-related cancers.
Gardnerella vaginalis is the type of bacteria that is responsible for BV. It’s not even that this bacteria is “bad” per say, it’s just not so great when there’s too much of it because it throws the ratios of other bacteria strains out of whack, disrupting the entire vaginal microbiome in the process.
According to my doctor daddy friend, uncircumcised men are more likely to be carriers of Gardnerella vaginalis bacteria. As such, a woman who has unprotected sex with a man that is uncircumcised is more likely to contract BV.
But the main transmitter of Gardnerella vaginalis is actually oral sex. Gardnerella vaginalis is commonly found in the microbiome of the mouth and therefore, when a man (or woman or non-gendered person) goes down on a woman, there is a higher chance of her contracting BV from this than from normal sex.
The good news is that having him (or her or them) brush his (or her or their) teeth before going down on you mitigates this risk significantly. It may seem like a vibe killer but if you pose it in a, “Hey babe, let’s shower and freshen up before we get this party started” kind of way, it doesn’t have to be.
If you do end up raw dogging an uncircumcised guy and letting him go down on you without making him brush his teeth first, it’s not the end of the world. Some women are just blessed to have a microbiome composition that makes them less susceptible to an overgrowth of Gardnerella vaginalis.
But even if you’re not, avoiding sugar, processed foods, and alcohol, as well as tight, synthetic clothing (no to leggings and thongs, yes to cotton granny panties or better yet, going commando under a moo moo) in the week after your hot and heavy night will do wonders for your yoni. Drinking tons of water to flush your system out will too!
You should probably be more concerned about HPV than you are.
If you’re sexually active with multiple partners, HPV is statistically inevitable but there’s only two kinds (out of 100+) that you really need to worry about when it comes to cancer. Growing up, I was inundated by Gardisal vaccine commercials. Their slogan was, “I wanna be one less,” as in one less statistic.
While I understand the hesitance of peers or parents of peers to get this vaccine (there hasn’t been long term research done on potential side effects), I am glad my mom pushed me to get it, and even more glad that I got a booster in my mid-twenties.
I think if you’re the kind of gal whose only had one or two sexual partners in her life, there’s no need to get it, but as someone who has had her fair share of partners – lot of whom are high risk themselves – having the vaccine has given me peace of mind.
The scary thing about HPV is that new strains keep developing and mutating. At the moment, there are more than a hundred different strains – 13 of which can cause cervical cancer, and at least one of which can cause vaginal, penile, anus, and neck cancer (yes, you can get HPV / cancer from giving oral sex and from taking it up the ass!).
Of these 13, two are most prevalent – types 16 and 18. While the vaccine unfortunately doesn’t protect against all 100+ strains, it does protect against these two. It’s never too late to get this vaccine and I would highly recommend it to any one in the sex work game.
I would also emphasize the importance of going to your OBGYN on an annual basis to get a pap smear done. When a pap smear is abnormal, more steps are taken to ensure that it hasn’t developed into cancer. The majority of the time an abnormal pap smear is nothing to worry about, but it is important to monitor.
Because the science around HPV is relatively new and still evolving (it wasn’t mentioned in the media until 1985), it wasn’t even taught about in my sex ed class. Hopefully this has changed now, but I think in general, HPV is the silent and oftentimes symptomless STD, we as a society need to be more cognizant of.
Most other STDs give us clues (despite what they teach you). A man with gonorrhea or chlamydia tends to have a distinctively foul smelling penis. If you’re going down on him and notice it, don’t be afraid to address him about it because both of these diseases can be contracted orally – especially if you’re into deepthroating like I am. Herpes, meanwhile, can be spread when there’s no outbreak but it’s rare.
As my doctor daddy friend is always reminding me, it’s important to get a good look under the hood before getting nasty. Fuck the whole mood lighting thing – on a first date at least. Observe it, smell it, and if there’s any doubt in your mind, stand up for yourself. Don’t get an STD because you were a people pleaser or because you needed the money. It’s not worth it.
In a perfect world, people would always opt to have protected sex with casual partners. But that’s not reality. Dental damns and blow jobs with condoms only exist in sex-ed videos, at least as far as I’m aware. Life happens and things get messy. But as long as you’re going into sexual encounters with your eyes wide open and getting tested on a regular basis, you have absolutely nothing to worry or feel ashamed about.