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Fun Friday: Blizzard Babies

snowbabies

This is funny, but Dr. Jacques Moritz says there’s some truth to it. Whether people were just plain bored, trying to get warm, actually had time to reconnect, or remembered to stock up on bread but not contraception, expect to see an uptick in births in 9-10 months. I’m willing to bet that Juno will creep up on the Top 100 Baby Names for 2015!

The New HPV Vaccine

vaccineHPV (Human Papillomavirus) is a viral infection most commonly transmitted through genital skin-to-skin contact and oral, anal, and vaginal sex. There are approximately 100 strains of the virus that exist in the HPV family but only a few of the strains cause warts and cancer, including cervical, vulvar, anal, head, throat and neck cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) about 79 million are currently infected. Approximately 14 million people will become infected each year. The virus causes cervical cancer in over 10,000 women each year and 360,000 men and women will develop genital warts each year. HPV has now become one of the most common STD’s among men and women.

Merck Pharmaceutical company is now manufacturing an updated HPV vaccine called Gardasil 9. This vaccine will prevent five additional strains of (HPV) than the current (4-strain) vaccine. Gardasil 9 will protect girls and women that are between the ages of 9-26 years old from becoming infected with the HPV stains 31, 33, 45, 52 and 58, which are responsible for about 20 percent of cervical cancers. According to the FDA, adding the protection against the additional strains will help prevent up to 90 percent of cervical, vulvar, vaginal and anal cancers. Gardasil 9 is administered as three separate shots, with the first dose followed by a second two months later and then the third shot six months later.

Situations where the vaccine may not be effective:

  • Gardasil 9 has not been demonstrated to provide protection against disease from vaccine HPV types to a person who has previously been exposed through sexual activity.
  • Gardasil 9 has not been demonstrated to protect against diseases due to HPV types other than 6, 11, 16, 18, 31, 33, 45, 52, and 58.
  • Gardasil 9 is not a treatment for external genital warts and does not protect against genital diseases not caused by HPV.

Ask your health care provider about when they’ll have access to this new vaccine.

Condoms

Getting it up to 5 Stars – where to find good condom reviews

I’m a sucker for online reviews. I love them for restaurants, hotels, and all the random things on Amazon that I find myself searching for. And they’re especially great for  things that are a little farther off the beaten path, like menstrual cups. I don’t have the patience – or the budget – to go through a lot of options using trial-and-error, so narrowing down the field is wonderful.

But until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t thought about reviews for condoms. I’ve been lucky to work in places that offer free condoms for ages (you can pick them up at any of our health centers!), and I hadn’t explored very far beyond that.

Now, anyone who’s spent time reading online reviews knows that not all reviews are created equal. Some information is useful across the board – Consumer Reports has a very analytical approach to things that’s helpful in determining what ‘ultrathin’ and other terms actually mean when you’re comparing across different brands. (And their reliability testing is very reassuring, too – none of the samples they tested in their ‘smart picks’ category had any holes or tears.) And size charts are very helpful in figuring out what to try, and what to avoid. Finally, no matter how awesome reviews are for flavored condoms, make sure that you’re not using them for vaginal or anal intercourse. A yeast infection caused by a 5-star condom is still a yeast infection.

Once you’re looking at more specific details, though, you can feel adrift in a sea of information. I can recommend Condom MonologuesBabeland and Good Vibrations’ reviews as sex-positive spaces. Additionally, the staff at Babeland and Good Vibes will always be willing to help you out if you have any specific questions on fit. Amazon is pretty comprehensive when it comes to what they carry, but the reviews can be a bit more hit-and-miss in their approach.

Once you’ve gathered the information you want, some pieces do come down to personal preference and experimentation – finding out what feels good will depend on the bodies in question. You’ll learn very quickly if you’ve got to take a latex allergy into account, but you might also have reactions to the lubricants included in condoms. Some condoms include nonoxynol-9 as a spermicide, which can cause skin irritation on your genitals. Aside from not feeling great, that irritation can make it easier to contract STIs such as HIV; if you’re wanting to add another layer of protection against pregnancy, you can consider some other forms of birth control.

Have a great time taking your new brands out for a test drive!

 

Fun Friday: Leave it to the Swedes…

When you’re a sex educator, people send you all sorts of funny things. Two people sent this video to me this week. The Swedes take their sex education very seriously and start educating very young. There’s not stigma, it’s just a matter of fact, health, and science. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons they have one of the lowest teen pregnancy rates in the developed world.

So, enjoy this little jam from Snoppen and Snippan, the peppiest penis and vulva you’ll ever meet. Happy Friday!

Managing your Health Care Experience: Being a Personal Advocate

doctorOne of the reasons people neglect to get the health care they need is fear. Whether it is fear of the doctor, fear of their symptoms, or fear of what could be wrong, anxiety or emotional disturbance surrounding medical care can make people think that simply denying that anything is wrong or ignoring the problem is the best course of action. Unfortunately there is a lot of judgment and shame associated with sex and sexuality, and also a general lack of knowledge about reproductive health, so this problem of avoiding getting help can be even worse when involving reproductive health care. Here are some tips for managing your fear, and getting your health taken care of!

Recognize Your Fear

If you have fear surrounding reproductive health, try to figure out where it stems from. Are you feeling shame associated with showing your genitals to a care provider? Are you having symptoms of an STD, and scared to get a positive diagnosis because you don’t know what that would mean for your life? Have you experienced a past sexual trauma that has made receiving reproductive health care potentially triggering? Recognizing the root of your fear can help you come up with strategies to deal with it, and also moves you away from the phase where you might simply deny that you need to see a clinician. Additionally, if you realize the root of your fear, you can work with your health care provider to help create a space that is comfortable for you to receive health care in.

Ask Questions!

Another area that can cause fear is the unknown. Once you’ve made a commitment to battle your fear, and get the health care you need, you can find that being an active participant in your health care experience can be hugely empowering. Before you go to an appointment, don’t just think of all the questions you want answers to, but write them down! Bring this list of questions and concerns with you to your appointment, and have your provider address them with you.

Rely on Support

Sometimes having a friendly face in an uncomfortable situation can be tremendously helpful. If you are feeling incredibly nervous about getting the health care you need, bring a trusted friend with you! You aren’t obligated to tell them what you are receiving care for, and can simply let them know you need support. If they are a good friend, they’ll be game, and their presence can be a source of comfort.

The Terrific Testicles

Most everybody knows that testicles make sperm and testosterone. Hopefully, you learned that by middle school. However, while reading this book recently, I came across some information I thought might answer some questions that I often get asked during classes.

  1. Testicles_2012While the debate still rages about penis size, does the size of the testicles matter? Apparently this is where bigger definitely is better. The bigger the testicles the more sperm is made, thus making him more fertile. It’s assumed that this also applies to more testosterone also which translates into a stronger sex drive as well.
  2. How can you tell if a testicle is normal or healthy? A normal testicle is oval shaped and at least 1.5 inches long and one inch across. When felt gently while the testicles are relaxed, like after a shower, they should feel very smooth and should slip around easily in the scrotum. Soft or small testicles could cause problems when trying to conceive. Any unusual lumps or bumps could be a sign of testicular cancer.
  3. Is it ok to sit in a hot tub or Jacuzzi? If you are trying to conceive, probably not a good idea. Soaking in hot water for half an hour can temporarily shut down sperm production. The same thing can happen with a fever.
  4. Which is more sensitive to touch, the penis or the testicles? While the testicles are extremely sensitive and most males enjoy the sensation of having them gently touched, the penis, particularly the head, is more sensitive. Also, both are very sensitive to GENTLE pressure. NO squeezing.
  5. Why do testicles change shape? The testicles move closer or farther from the body on a muscular interior cord called the spermatic cord. As sexual tension builds, the cord tightens moving the testicles closest to the body, during ejaculation. Temperature can also move testicles closer or farther from the body to cool or warm the testicles and keep the sperm at a constant temperature of between 92 and 95 degrees.
  6. Why are testicles so hairy? No one knows for sure, but just like with female genital hair and underarm hair, it is believed that pheromones, the musky scents that can either attract or repel someone, are trapped in the hairs around the genital area. Hair also acts as a cushion to protect the testicles.

Hopefully, you will have learned some new and fascinating facts!

Size doesn’t matter to a condom

Pop stars have a lot of power – kudos to Sweden’s Zara Larsson, who’s used her platform to help put the lie to the old saw that condoms ‘just won’t fit.’

To all the guys saying "my dick is too big for condoms" TAKE A SEAT

A photo posted by Zara Larsson (@zaralarsson) on

Here’s to condoms in all their glory!

 

Why Do Humans Have Sex? (A Synopsis)

Today’s post is by “Obi,” a Nigerian doctor conducting his field experience at Planned Parenthood as part of his MPH program. He was a general practitioner in his home country with main interest and expertise in maternal and child health.

*This post is a synopsis/simplification of the original paper, Why Humans Have Sex, by Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss, which was published in The Archives of Sexual Behavior (2007) 36:477–507. If you find this topic fascinating, be sure to read their entire paper.

For a long time, the reasons people have sex have been thought to be few in number and easily discernible. The most commonly stated reasons are: to procreate, to experience pleasure, and to express love and affection.

whyHowever, research on this topic has shown that the reasons why people have sex go beyond just love, pleasure, and making babies, but not a lot of studies have been done to pinpoint these reasons. The studies which have been done have shown significant gender differences and individual differences, which were coherently linked with certain personality traits. These studies have documented more than 200 reasons why people are motivated to have sex. The reasons/motives can be categorized into groups since they can be very similar to each other but just worded or expressed in different ways.

The four groups which most of the reasons fall into are:

  1. The physical reasons: including stress reduction, pleasure, physical, desirability, and experience seeking.
  2. The goal based reasons: including resources, social status, revenge, procreation, and utilitarian.
  3. The emotional reasons: including love, commitment, and expression.
  4. The insecurity reasons: including self-esteem boost, duty/pressure, and mate guarding.

Looking at the gender differences, men generally seek sex because they like how it feels. Women, although they also derive pleasure from the act, are generally more interested in the emotional and relationship enhancement that sex offers. This difference has been named body-centered and person-centered sex.

Body-centered sex is when you have sex because you like the way it makes your body feel. You aren’t concerned with the emotions of your partner. Person-centered sex is when you have sex to connect with the other person. You care about the emotions involved and the relationship between you and your partner. Individuals can switch between body-centered and person-centered sex depending on a lot of factors which include stage in one’s life (which age and life experience is affected by), current situation in life and many more.

Despite these general observations, studies suggest that there has been a convergence in sexual attitudes among men and women in recent years. Instead of men and women being at opposite ends of the (traditional) sexual spectrum, they are now coming together. More women are having sex for physical reasons and more men say they have sex for emotional reasons (or maybe now they just feel safer reporting these feelings?).

Why are these reasons important to know? Well, why people have sex is often tied to the image of themselves and their social relationships, with changes continually happening over time. Understanding the differences in these motivations is very important. It helps us understand what’s going on in our sexual relationship(s). Finding out the reasons for wanting to have sex can aid in addressing certain problems with interpersonal relationships especially between couples and also be used to identify certain issues with sexual behaviors. Very often, you find the source of the problem can be traced to the particular motivation.

The Best Feminist Moments of the Golden Globes

The Golden Globes didn’t disappoint this year, and Tina Fey and Amy Poehler set the stage for one of the most feminist nights on a primetime awards show ever. Here’s a look at our favorite moments:

1. In their opening dialogue, Tina and Amy took this dig at George Clooney:

Tina: “George Clooney married Amal Alamuddin this year. Amal is a human-rights lawyer, who worked on the Enron case, was an advisor to Kofi Annan regarding Syria, and was selected for a three-person U.N. commission investigating rules of war violations in the Gaza Strip. So tonight, her husband is getting a lifetime-achievement award.”

HA! Cue belly laughing and head shaking from feminists everywhere (including George Clooney himself)!

2. And there was no way they were going to leave Bill Cosby untouched. The allegations against Bill Cosby are numerous and horrific, and just because he’s an American icon doesn’t mean that he’s untouchable, especially for two feminist comedians.

Watch this 10 minute opening monologue to see both moments:

3. Then came Joanne Froggatt, the British actress who played the role of Anna Bates, a character who was raped. She could have just thanked all the usual people stars thank during an acceptance speech, but she used her platform to bring attention to an issue that is too-often silenced by shame and fear. She said,

“I received a small number of letters from survivors of rape. One woman summed up the thoughts of many by saying she wasn’t sure why she’d written but she just felt in some way she wanted to be heard. I’d like to say, I heard you and I hope saying this so publicly in some way means you feel the world hears you.”

If you’ve been raped and need help, please take advantage of the resources at www.rainn.org. Watch her bold and beautiful acceptance speech here:

4. Well-known feminist Maggie Gyllenhaal didn’t miss a beat with her speech either:

“I’ve noticed a lot of people talking about the wealth of roles for powerful women in television lately. And when I look around the room at the women who are here and I think about the performances that I’ve watched this year what I see actually are women who are sometimes powerful and sometimes not, sometimes sexy, sometimes not, sometimes honorable, sometimes not, and what I think is new is the wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film. That’s what I think is revolutionary and evolutionary and it’s what’s turning me on.”

So true. Women want to see themselves reflected in art, that’s what resonates. Thanks, Maggie, for using your platform to talk about real women. Watch her speech:

5. A show about the Trans community was nominated (and won) in several categories, and we applaud the Hollywood Foreign Press for giving this little-known show the platform it needed to help shine a light on trans issues. Just days ago, a transgender teen asked us to “fix society” in her suicide note. I hope this show helps society understand what transgender means and how we all can support and fight for the rights and care that the transgender community deserves. Both Jill Soloway, the show’s creator, and Jeffrey Tambor, took the time in their acceptance speeches to draw attention to trans issues. If you need transgender support (or just want to educate yourself), please know that there are MANY places that can offer help.

After I wrote this, I saw that Huffpost created a more exhaustive list of feminist moments during the 2014 Golden Globes. Make sure to read their list too!