Fun Friday: By the Numbers

Posted on August 29, 2014 by

percentI’m always reading articles, blogs, books about health, especially sexual health. I’m not sure why, but it seems that more people pay attention to percentages or statistics than to words explaining the same thing. SO I’ll keep it sweet and simple and see if this is true for you!

  • 60% of women have had unprotected sex during their period (a bad idea if you really don’t want to take a chance on getting pregnant)
  • 47% of women have called in sick to work because of cramps (see a gynecologist about hormonal relief)
  • 67% of women have been too embarrassed to talk to a health care provider about a concern (honestly, they have heard and see it all before)
  • 60% of women have worried about one breast looking different from another (perfectly normal to have different shapes and sizes)
  • 43% of women have had a condom come off during sex (you have 72 hours to get emergency contraception)
  • 65% of women say they don’t need to have an orgasm to be satisfied
  • 87% of women have looked at their genitals with a mirror

*Stats above from What the Yuck?: The Freaky and Truth About Your Body

Positive Sex Ed Parenting

Posted on August 27, 2014 by

As a long time sexuality educator, I’ve come across many people who have done a really inadequate job of talking to their children about basic sexuality. I often ask the teens in my classes if they have any trusted adult they can talk to about sex or what messages they have gotten from home. When doing workshops with parents I learned that it’s a rarity to find an adult that is informed and comfortable enough to give accurate, sex-positive messages to their kids. Here are a few things I’ve learned that might be helpful.

Most parents are terrified of their children’s sexuality

Adults have a really difficult time admitting that sexual feelings are part of being human. All the parts that are pleasurable to be touched as an adult were there from birth. Hormones released during puberty certainly increase sexual feelings but even young children masturbate, have crushes, and crave physical (not sexual) contact. Children are curious about bodies and often have questions from a young age. I ask parents to think about what they want for their children when they are in a healthy, committed adult relationship. Don’t you want them to enjoy sex and be able to communicate openly with their partner? How can they help their child become this adult?

A simple first step is when teaching the names of their body parts use the actual names. This is your nose, these are your toes, this is your penis. It’s your body and you have the right to say no to unwanted touch. As the child grows older and more questions come to mind, you should be the one to answer these questions. If you start giving simple, factual answers to these questions when they are a young child, they are much more likely to come to you as a teen when the consequences are so much greater. If they don’t ask questions, use “teachable moments “to give basic information. “Did you see Aunt Sally’s big tummy? She’s going to have a baby! Here’s a book we can look at together that explains how this happened.”

Most parents are even more terrified that their child will be gay

A child’s sexual orientation is determined before they are born. Hormone levels released during the first trimester form much of a child’s basic sexual preferences, gender identity, and brain patterns. Many parents know from a very early age that their child would probably be attracted to same sex partners. How they support their children throughout their formative years is critical in them negotiating the cruelty of peers that is still a huge fact of life for gay youth. We don’t get to create the child we want. We do get to love and support the child we have.

Many parents feel their child is too young for sexual information

I was so horrified when my daughters came home from elementary school and told me some of the things they heard from their peers. THEY WERE TOO YOUNG AND INNOCENT TO HEAR THIS! But hear it they did. They read words written on the bathroom walls, on the back of the bus seats, in books. They were propositioned by boys. They were told about things kids watched at home. Luckily, they felt comfortable enough to tell me, so I could answer their questions with accurate information, explain what words meant so they understood why we don’t use them and give them responses to name calling and bullying. Try as we might to shelter our kids from sexual information, it will find them at a very tender age. It is critical that we educate them with age appropriate information and create an atmosphere where they feel safe talking to us.

Here at Planned Parenthood resources for parents are available to help navigate this critical, often confusing part of parenthood. A recent blog gives an excellent and entertaining example of positive sex ed parenting.



The HPV Vaccine: What Is It Good For?

Posted on August 25, 2014 by

A recent study shows that the HPV vaccine has worked as a safe and effective way to prevent infection from certain strains of HPV. Hopefully, this positive study will bolster support for the vaccine, as there is still a lot of misinformation about what the HPV vaccine does and who it is for. In an attempt to ramp up even more support for the vaccine, I’m here to dispel some common misconceptions about the HPV vaccine.

Misconception 1: “I don’t even know what HPV is! Do I really want a vaccine for that?”

So, let’s briefly go over what HPV (or the human papillomavirus) is, as well as what it does to our bodies. The virus can be transmitted by various forms of sexual contact, not just penile/vaginal intercourse. In fact, the virus can infect the throat and all different parts of genital area (including the vulva, vagina, cervix, rectum, anus, penis, and scrotum). There are different strains of the virus, which means that different types of HPV strains cause different reactions in our body. Some strains cause genital warts, while other strains lead to cell changes that cause a much more serious issue: cervical cancer. Because of there are multiple strains of HPV, a person can already be infected with HPV, and still contract a new strain of the virus. The HPV vaccine is great because it protects against various strains, including those which are most likely to cause genital warts and cervical cancer. By getting the vaccine you are significantly reducing your chances of getting cervical cancer caused by HPV.

Misconception 2: “I started having sex years ago! I can’t still get the vaccine, can I?”

It’s important to start this discussion off by saying that the vaccine is not currently recommended for individuals over the age of 26. However, there is the misconception that individuals who have already become sexually active do not need to the vaccine, or that the vaccine won’t work for them. This is based on the notion that once an individual starts having sex, they may already be infected with HPV. However, this assumption ignores a great deal of the realities of the way that HPV infections work! While the HPV vaccine won’t treat existing infections, it will prevent infections caused by a different strain of the disease. So if you haven’t already been exposed to the virus during sexual contact, or you have only contracted all of the strains the vaccine protects against, the vaccine can still protect you! The vaccine definitely is most effective on individuals who have never had sexual contact, because their chances for exposure are so much lower, but deciding whether or not you should go on the vaccine shouldn’t be limited because you have already started having sex.  If you are in the target vaccine age range of 9-26, talk to your doctor about getting vaccinated even if you are already sexually active!


Misconception 3: “I’m a guy, I don’t need the vaccine.” 

HPV can cause cancer. Cancer is a SERIOUS illness! This means that even if you aren’t part of the population who can develop cervical cancer, you should STILL get the vaccine if you are having sex! Even people who aren’t planning on having sex with someone with a vagina should get vaccinated. Remember, you really can’t guarantee who your sex partners are going to have sex with. Just because you aren’t at risk for a disease, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t help to prevent infecting others, especially those you might be having sex with!

Misconception 4: “I’m in a relationship. I’m done having sex with different people. I don’t need the vaccine.”

First off all, it’s wonderful that you are in a happy, stable relationship! However, if you are in the appropriate age range, you should still get the vaccine. There is absolutely no saying what the future can hold, and protecting yourself against a potentially harmful disease is key! It’s not a dig on your happy relationship to stay prepared. Unfortunately, part of life is planning for unforeseen events, even if those events are unhappy!

Are Men and Women That Different?

Posted on August 20, 2014 by

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.

As part of growing up, I was always taught about the differences between a lot of things, good and bad, right and wrong, and my education also included the differences between boys and girls. Social interactions and influences also went a long way in solidifying some behaviors and characteristics that were thought to be specific to a particular gender. The older I got and the more experience I had based on my interactions with others, I got to thinking: are the genders fundamentally different or is there no clear line that differentiates the genders?

Apart from the anatomical and physiological differences which are quite distinct, I would love to take a look at psychological characteristics which are responsible for most behaviors and characteristics attributed to each gender. Comedians, speakers, and even researchers have developed great interest in this subject.

Research by social psychologist has shown very interesting results. Researchers asked some questions like, are differences between men and women the result of evolution or learning? Are there talents specific to each gender? How are we different in terms of emotions or leadership skills? Results show that there aren’t any psychological differences between men and women, instead the stereotypes attached to each gender are socially encouraged using reward systems, approval and disapproval and many more ways. It was discovered that people regardless of their gender are complicated and do not fit in nicely into any category. Women were found to exhibit masculine traits and men found to exhibit feminine traits. However the supposed categories in which genders are put into based on social influence play a huge role in how we view, analyze and react to situations in our environment, even sometimes going against our personal conclusions.

It was concluded that both genders have both characteristics which are continually exhibited. We are fluid beings. Researchers think it may not be a matter of putting genders in categories but rather to degrees in which they are exhibited, based on different situations and scenarios.

These studies are controversial and overlaps were found between genders. I look forward to more research that explains human characteristics and their link to the genders. This YouTube video sums it up:

How to Get Your Sexy Back

Posted on August 18, 2014 by

sexyAs we get older sex is further down on our priority list. With all the responsibilities that come with being an adult it becomes more difficult to find the time or desire to have sex. Here are 5 ways to help get your sexy back.

Tip #1 – Exercise. It is one of the most important things you can do to maintain or increase your libido. Physical activity helps to increase circulation, blood pressure, and maintain a healthy weight and hormone levels. Exercise can also help you look and feel better about your appearance, which for a lot of people can hold them back from wanting to be sexual with their partner if they are insecure about their body.

Tip #2 – Reduce Stress! If you are stressed you won’t be able to enjoy or want sex. Some people find meditation or breathing exercises helpful. Others find that making a to do list is helpful to quiet the noise in their heads or just taking a 10 minute walk to find some quiet time. Our brain is our biggest sex organ and if we are worried about chores, bills, work, the kids, etc., we can’t give our undivided attention to our partner or the pleasure we should be experiencing. Sex on average for most couples is 12-18 minutes from start to finish. As busy as we all are, we can find 12-18 minutes to connect with our partners, but we have to make it a priority not a chore.

Tip #3 – Spice Things Up. If sex has become a little boring try to wear something that makes you feel sexy or turns your partner on. Buy a sexuality book that gives you new ideas or suggestions and talk to your partner about trying them out. You can also go away for a few days to just focus on each other. Exploring activities that take you out of your element like snorkeling, hiking, skydiving, etc. can help you reconnect and enjoy each other’s company.

Tip #4 - Try aphrodisiacs. Many people claim that foods like oysters, chocolate, and spicy foods can increase your libido. It is hard to know if they actually increase the libido or whether there is a placebo effect from thinking they make a difference. Either way, if it works then by all means eat them.

Tip #5 - Ditch the cigarettes! We all know that cigarettes are bad for us, but did you know they can actually decrease your libido? This is just another reason to find a way to quit cigarettes. Your sex life and partner will thank you.

The Condom That Kills STDs

Posted on August 13, 2014 by

condomsBIG NEWS from the condom world! An Australian condom manufacturer is about to start producing a LifeStyles brand condom with Viva-Gel. Viva-Gel is a microbicide that is shown to disable viral STDs such as Herpes, HIV, and  HPV. Although laboratory results prove that the condom inactivates 99.9% of the viral STDs it comes in contact with, at least one doctor is skeptical.

gelDr. Anna-Barbara Moscicki gives us reason to exercise caution. Her research using the antiviral compound as an intravaginal cream for women showed that it caused mild irritation and inflammation after two weeks of daily use.

So what’s a little inflammation? What’s the big deal? Well, inflammation attracts our healing cells, our white blood cells. And if you recall from 5th grade health class, HIV uses white blood cells to disguise itself and replicate. Inflammation also breaks down the already-thin vaginal walls, leaving them susceptible to HPV infection. Essentially, inflammation of the sexual parts is like an open invitation for HIV infection.

But there’s good news! Starpharma, the pharmaceutical company who conducted the clinical trials on the groundbreaking condom reported to Huffpost that they used a fraction of the gel on their condoms that Moscicki did in her clinical trial (1% versus 3%) and subsequently found that irritation and inflammation weren’t problems among their 1,000 clinical participants. And though they tested the safety at a 1% concentration, the amount on the condom is actually .5%. If the results prove positive, you can bet that the Viva-Gel condoms will soon be available all over the world.

Remember, next to abstinence, correct and consistent condom use is the best protection against contracting STDs. However, condoms do not provide great protection against STDs that are transmitted by skin to skin contact (like Herpes and HPV), because they do not cover the entire genital area that may be infected. Know your status, talk to your partners, and use protection for the best combined protection.

Gay, Straight, or Lying: Bisexual Men Get a Raw Deal

Posted on August 11, 2014 by

bisexualsRecently, I was reminded of one of the (few) areas where guys get the shorter end of the sexist stick: bisexuality.

Biphobia is something all of us non-monosexuals have to deal with to a certain extent. For some people, they can accept homosexuality rather easily because they have to change fewer mental concepts: take heterosexual norms, swap out male for female, and you’ve got a workable, albeit limited, form of inclusion*.

Being attracted to more than one gender, though, means that a mental find/replace approach isn’t enough; it introduces more fluidity and flexibility into things and reveals the inadequacy of binary categories. And one thing our society doesn’t do well is incorporate a lot of flexibility into its definitions of masculinity.

So what we end up with is a very gendered phenomenon. In 20 years of being out, I’ve never had to respond directly to the adage “you’re either gay, straight, or lying,” but every out bi guy I know has had to deal with some version of it.

It’s not news that rigid concepts of maleness can be limiting when it comes to gender expression, and it’s definitely at the heart of a lot of transphobia and homophobia. Sadly, it’s something that every guy experiences whenever they find themselves outside of those narrow definitions.

Now, one thing that’s always struck me as strange is that out bi men don’t seem to have made much difference in this perception – they get press when they come out, but their bisexuality is often forgotten or ignored in subsequent media coverage**. Bisexuality is also comparatively easy to ignore because anyone in a monogamous relationship will tend to be read as either straight or gay unless they make a point of reasserting their identity.

So this piece is dedicated to the many bi guys in my life, who handle the more contentious side of this with grace. You’re always welcome to some of those drinks straight guys keep buying us bisexual women at bars.

* The marketing research behind marriage equality campaigns has some particularly striking insights about how same-sex relationships can be presented strategically. I’m thrilled at their success, but a little wary of the narrowness of the acceptance that’s been created.

** Due to homophobia, there are a number of men who use bisexuality as a transition identity on their way to coming out as gay. But that post shows that even Dan Savage, who’s had a bumpy history with male bisexuality, acknowledges that just because some people lie, that doesn’t mean that everyone does.