Sex is an especially important part of life for us humans.
Once a source of cultural shame and anxiety (especially for women!), thanks to the cultural shifts that began in the 1960’s and continue to today, sex is now an accepted, encouraged, and normalized part of life. We are forever grateful to those early activists for fighting for our rights as liberated sexual beings who can take charge of our sex lives!
As women have become more empowered to embrace their sexualities, this means we have to race to keep up with some of the implications that come with more sex; the good and the bad. And by “the bad'' we mean… the increased risk of STD’s. After all, if more sex is happening, that logically increases the risk of sexually transmitted diseases being transmitted.
Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) refers to a condition passed from a person to another via sexual contact. STD’s are contracted by having unprotected vaginal, anal, or even oral sex with someone who has a pre-existing STD. STD’s hide in semen, blood, vaginal secretions, and sometimes in saliva.
STD’s are caused by:
- Gonorrhea (“the clap”)
- Pubic lice (“crabs”)
However, there are some incurable STD’s:
- Hepatitis B
In this blog we will not be exploring all the details of STD’s, but rather we will examine why we women are more susceptible to STD’s compared to men.
Indeed, experts concur that women are at high risk of STD’s owing to a few reasons:
- Anatomy: As beautiful and self-cleaning as our vaginas are … they are a little more exposed and vulnerable than a penis. There is more area of the vagina that is exposed during sex: more folds of skin, which makes the risk factor much higher for women. Secretions have more surfaces to cling to, thereby providing any STD ample real estate to latch on to. So, biologically women are predisposed to contracting STD’s.
- Gender roles: There are still women who are unable to or do not feel comfortable with insisting on safe sex.
- Birth Control: Preventing an unplanned pregnancy is often the immediate concern for women and their partners, and often using a condom for sexual health is overlooked.
- STD’s can be asymptomatic: Most STD’s don’t immediately present themselves and are left untreated, in women this can cause infertility and irreversible damage.
Well, if you choose to be sexually active, then you need to pay close attention to your sexual health. Serious complications can be avoided if you take appropriate steps to protect yourself.
- Practice Safe Sex: Insist on using a condom, and the condom is used correctly.
- Get tested: Schedule in regular STD screenings. Early detection is key.
- Get treated: If you suspect you may have been exposed, or if your partner was diagnosed, get treated... do not put it off.
When it comes to STD’s you will not always have warning signs, so take precaution to protect yourself. Here are some myths we examined:
Myth #1: A close examination of your partner will reveal if they have an STD: Many STD’s have mild to no symptoms at all, especially in women. STD’s will damage your body and can be spread even if there are no obvious symptoms.
Myth #2: STD’s are bothersome at most, and don’t have serious consequences: Left untreated, STD’s can cause infertility, UTI problems, cancer, and some can cause death (syphilis/HIV). No STD is harmless.
Myth #3: You can’t get a STD more than once/you build immunity: With the exception of hepatitis B, your body does not build immunity to STD’s. Both partner’s need to be treated to avoid reinfection. Also, if you have contracted one STD, chances for contacting another is higher.
Myth #4: If you have sex during your period, you can’t get an STD: You are still susceptible to STD’s while menstruating, so precaution is still necessary.
Myth #5: Vaginal Douching after sex prevents STD’s: Douches do not offer any protection; unfortunately they actually make the vagina more susceptible to getting an STD by stripping off the healthy bacteria that could prevent an infection.
Signs to watch out for:
- Sores, rashes, warts, unusual discharge, swelling, discoloration or pain in and around the genital or anal area
- Difficulty in urination
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting outside of the cycle
- Pelvic pain
- Sore mouth or rectum
- Flu-like symptoms which are persistent and unexplained
- Swollen lymph glands
- Clean sex toys: they can spread STI’s and other infections, so wash and sterilize between uses.
- Be careful of the products you use: while douching is a no no, make sure all your products you use down there are vaginal friendly and do not damage your condom or cause it to tear.
Take charge of your Sexual Health, communicate, and be honest about your past, preferences, and decision to practice safe sex. STD’s are sometimes life threatening, and the risks are real. It can be uncomfortable to communicate to a new partner, but it is in the best interest of both parties. Be proactive – prevent heat-of-the-moment decisions. It is your right to protect your body and you should feel empowered to do so.