There’s a lot of confusion about what exactly is ‘down there’. Part of the reason it’s confusing is because you can’t see it, the other part is because no one really talks about it. So, let’s learn!
First, a few terms.
Vulva – all of the external parts (labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, urethral opening)
Vagina – internal canal; place of penis/vagina intercourse, where period exits body, where tampon can be worn
Perineum – skin between vaginal opening and anus
Anus – end of large intestine; where feces exits body
See all the parts on this diagram:
If you sit down to pee, it looks as though urine is coming from the vagina, but it isn’t. To see the urethral opening you have to open the skin of the labia minora. It is a tiny hole just above the vaginal opening. The anus is an inch or two below the vaginal opening, separated by the skin of the perineum.
The urethra is where urinary tract infections occur. Urinating when you need to and after sex will help you to not get a UTI. Yeast infections mainly occur in the vagina. After a bowel movement, don’t wipe towards the vagina because fecal bacteria can cause vaginal infections. You know you should use condoms, but did you know that you should not take the same condom from anal sex to vaginal sex? That’s right, bacteria again.
Now as for what all those sexual parts do, that’s another post entirely.
If you’ve been keeping up with the news for the past year, there’s been a big brouhaha about birth control. There’s a common misconception that birth control is only used for contraception – that’s simply not true. What are some of the reasons that birth control is used outside of contraception?
Debilitating menstrual cramps (dysmenorrhea).
This one is close to my heart, as it’s the original reason I was put on birth control at age 15. (I didn’t use the contraception part of birth control until much, much later; as you might imagine, just because you’re on birth control doesn’t make you want to have sex with wild abandon.) After you have to go to the ER twice for pain medication due to menstrual cramps, it’s time to see a gynecologist.
(Editor’s Note – Happy Valentine’s Day! We’ll be back later this afternoon with gifts you could get your sweetheart any time of the year.)
Though blatant/explicit racism has been deemed “politically incorrect” in our society and is thus generally frowned upon, racism is deeply ingrained in our culture, and practiced (whether consciously or unconsciously) by all of us. Much of current racism/sexism/ethnocentricism now takes place via “microaggressions,” the subtle interactions that normalize the implicit hierarchal order of our society.
Microaggressive statements reiterate the dominant idea that the heterosexual, white, middle-class, capitalistic model is the universal “right way” to live and be, of which all variation is inferior (less than). Research suggests that “microaggressions” are the most harmful because they are often defended and cast off as “no big deal,” “it was a joke,” or in many instances, the person committing the microaggressive act is oblivious to its oppressive/offensive content.
Examples include: “Yeah, he’s black on the outside, but he’s white inside” (therefore suggesting being black on the inside is unacceptable); “there is only one race, the human race” (therefore failing to recognize and/or respect racial/cultural differences); “He only got into college because of affirmative action” (therefore he is not a credible student); “I’m not racist, I have black friends” (suggesting that simply befriending people of a different race cleanses you of racism); and dismissing people of color’s experiences within this racist culture (i.e. “why does he always have to bring up that he’s black, I’m white, you never hear me talking about it”).
February is Black History Month, and it is important that we look within us for our own racist/sexist/classist/ethocentrist/xenophobic tendencies. Here is an excellent video that illustrates microaggressions in action, and the harmful effects they have on those who experience them:
Most people do not consciously choose to be racist/sexist/classist/xenophobic, but have unfortunately grown up in a culture that systematically teaches it. Racism and discrimination will continue as long we keep kicking it down the road with our “politically correct” boot. Think about it. Better yet, talk about it.
An important part of my job as a sexual educator is informing people about the risks of various sexual activities and giving them the knowledge to make informed decisions. One of the ways to look at sexual behaviors is to place them on a spectrum ranging from no risk to high risk.
Activities that involve NO exchange of body fluids released from the genitals or skin to skin genital contact fit in this category. While saliva can spread the flu, a cold and mono, as long a neither party has oral herpes, you can kiss to your heart’s content. Mutual masturbation is about as safe as things can get and still involve genital contact. Good old humping, bumping, grinding, dirty dancing, anything with clothes is no risk. Showering together, erotic massage are acceptable as long as things don’t slip on over to other higher risk activities.
Here’s where protected sexual activity comes into play. We’re talking oral, anal and vaginal intercourse. Think barriers. It could be a male or female condom. Plastic wrap or latex dental dam type protection for oral sex on vulva or anus. Slightly riskier is oral sex without a barrier.
Any vaginal or anal sex without a barrier puts you at high risk for STIs. Using drugs or alcohol can easily cloud your ability to make good decisions. Any activity that involves the possible exchange of blood is also right up there, including menstrual blood.
Any sexual activity can have some risks, but you can greatly reduce your chances of spreading or contracting an infection by knowing how to wrap it up, cover it up or just think of something else to do! (We’ve got plenty of suggestions for you!)
After experiencing a sexual assault a hospital is often the first place the victim goes for help and medical services. Unfortunately, a hospital is not always well-equipped to provide services for a rape victim. Often they experience long wait times in a busy and crowded place, their trauma is seen as less important than other patient’s trauma, the staff is not sufficiently trained in the type of examination needed for forensic evidence, and worse, the staff may be unsupportive and even judgmental of the victim (from a report by the US Department of Justice.)
Overall, the SANE program provides many services: professional forensic evidence collection, documentation, and preservation of evidence, screen for and prophylactically treat for sexually transmitted infection, evaluate for pregnancy risk and offer prevention, document and care for injuries, refer for followup medical care and counseling, and aid law enforcement in prosecution. All of this is done in a private, supportive and nonjudgmental environment by a professional who is trained to provide specialized care.
It should be noted that the program is geared towards prosecution of the rapist, and if the victim is not interested in filing an official report she will be encouraged to discuss her reasons with the nurse examiner. SANE often encourages the victim to go through the criminal justice process. For a lot of victims, going through the process of reporting the rape and dealing with the legal process is stressful and potentially harmful (personally or professionally), and so many rapes are not reported. Still, the SANE program is a more private and emotionally supportive way to receive medical care, pregnancy prophylaxis, STI testing, and other resources after a sexual assault.
Having emergency contraceptives available at all times to college students is important because they are most effective within 72 hours of intercourse. Some campus health centers close over the weekends and others don’t have on-campus pharmacies so these vending machines are crucial for women who wish to use Plan B within the allotted window of time. It is also a good option for women who don’t feel comfortable talking to a pharmacist or health practitioner in order to get their contraceptives. We still live in an era in which contraception is controversial and the anonymity that these machines provide is surely appreciated That being said, it seems as though the times are changing and this FDA ruling is a big step towards a more rational conversation about contraception.
The major catch with these machines is that Plan B is restricted for use amongst people aged 17 and older. The concern that will invariably be brought up is that people under the age of 17 will use these machines to acquire emergency contraception. (Personally, I don’t really understand this particular age restriction, 17 years old seems fairly arbitrary to me but hey, I don’t make the rules, I just write about them.)
This whole thing came about because Shippensburg University in Pensylvannia installed a Plan B vending machine on campus and instead of telling them to remove it the FDA made the decision to grant them and any other college or university the legal right to have emergency contraceptive vending machines. It’s a brilliant idea and a step towards a future where women’s health decisions are more firmly in their own hands. In fact, for $25 it can be in their hands 24 hours a day seven days a week without having to talk to anyone at a a clinic or pharmacy. I think that’s something worth celebrating.
As a Sex Educator, this is one of my favorite commercials from the Super Bowl:
Even though the dad’s answer is competely innacurate, it is a good representation of how parents often feel when asked the dreaded question. Many parents are caught off guard by the question and in a panic, come up with some ridiculous answer. Of course, the answer will be different depending on the age of the child asking the question and how much they already know. Here’s a good way to field questions about where babies come from:
Child: “Where do babies come from?”
Step 1: Affirm that you are listening, then ask them why they are asking. This buys you time and gets at their real motive for asking. Be sure NOT to use a tone! If you use a tone, it will shut them down and they’ll be afraid to ask any more questions for fear of getting in trouble or upsetting you.
Parent: “Good question. Why do you ask?”
Child: “Because my friend said that . . . ”
Step 2: Turn the question back on them to find out what they already know, what vocabulary they are using, and if there’s any misinformation you need to correct.
Parent: “Oh, well, where do you think babies come from?”
Child: (answers will vary)
Step 3: Take a deep breath and tell the age-appropriate truth! Use proper anatomical language. (Ex: Babies don’t grow in a stomach, they grow in a uterus.) This is where you will insert your family values. You might want to talk about love or marriage or God. You might even have to explain how babies are made in same-sex relationships. You will have to be the judge on how much to tell them. Maybe they don’t want to know how babies are made, but just how they get out of the woman’s body (this is why it is important to pay attention to their answer from step 2).
Parent: “Babies are made when . . . ” or “Babies come out of . . . ”
Step 4: After you give your answer, ask them if they understand. If they do, ask them if they have any more questions. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell them that you’ll look it up and get back to them.
Remember, what’s important is not that you get every single reproduction factoid correct. What’s important is that you try to answer their questions and keep the stream of communication open. And trust me, they are going to ask more questions. If you think you get to have “the big talk” and be done with it, you are VERY wrong. Think of it more as a bunch of little talks. FYI – The steps above work for all types of tough questions from kids.
P.S. Did you notice that the kid in the commercial asked this question in the car? The car is where lots of “teachable moments” happen because they are captive and often not distracted by other things. If you have a DVD player in your car, turn it off once in a while and marvel at the quality of the conversations that come from the back seat.
Today, we’re re-rerunning an oldie but a goodie, all about the reasons why you should not flush your condom. Seriously – don’t do it!
As a Sex Educator, I sometimes find myself on the phone with a complete stranger saying something like, “eh, I have kind of an unusual question…” A few days ago I uttered those words when I called my local Water Reclamation Manager. I asked him if he would take me on the journey of a flushed condom.
When I give a condom demonstration in the community, inevitably I have someone say, “why would I throw my used condom in the garbage when I can flush it down the toilet?” Here’s why:
When you flush a condom, there’s a chance that you could clog your toilet. It might come back up immediately or when you least expect it, like when your boyfriend’s mom is over for dinner. (It could also damage your septic system, if you don’t have city sewer.) If you are lucky enough for the condom to clear your toilet, it is going to start traveling towards a water reclamation facility (WRF). My source tells me that they rely on gravity and a downhill flow of the pipes to get the waste at least part of the way there. Because many of the pipes stretch for miles, a pump is usually needed to get the waste all the way to the WRF. This is potential problem area #2 (no pun intended). Non-organic waste (condoms, diapers, feminine hygiene products, cigarette butts, cotton swabs, reinforced paper towels, etc.) often gets trapped in these pumps and someone has to go REMOVE IT BY HAND. Ewww. If the condom does make it through the pump, there’s another filtering process at the WRF, but my source says that sometimes, stuff gets through that process too. He says that occasionally, you can find condoms and tampon applicators on the fields where reclaimed water is used to irrigate! Double ewww. I mean, who wants their delicious Florida strawberry growing inches away from a used condom?!
Here’s what you should do instead: wrap your used condom in toilet paper or a tissue and put it in the garbage. Latex is biodegradable, but not in water. The Water Reclamation Manager says that if you put it in the garbage, it will go to a landfill and/or be incinerated. When they remove non-organic waste from the pumps or at the WRF, it also ends up at the landfill and/or is incinerated. Here’s what should go down a toilet: #1, #2, and #3 (vomit). We really don’t need taxpayer money replacing pumps all over town because people refuse to dispose of condoms properly.
An aside: When the Manager told me that the non-organic waste has to be removed by hand from the pumps, I told him that they aren’t paid enough for what they do. “Actually,” he said, “this is a great career and we make a decent living…tell that to your readers.”
To put it simply, online dating sites match people by using mathematical algorithms. The information you post on online dating sites is essentially broken down into key words and compared against other user’s key words – the greater the similarities in key words, the stronger the “match.” (This is an oversimplification, but you get the gist, right?)
(Sheldon Cooper thinks it’s hokum. The video below is the copyright of Chuck Lorre Productions & Warner Brothers TV.)
I put “match” in quotes, because the effectiveness of these matching algorithms is highly debatable. Any worthy scientist would scoff at the validity of the “science” used by the creators of these algorithms. What a scientist would confirm, however, is the brain’s ability to size up a person in a face-to-face encounter within seconds. The brain is highly evolved, it processes sensory cues and puts the information into messages we can respond to. Ever been in a situation with a stranger and within seconds felt fear or attraction? The impulse to flee or introduce yourself? For this reason, speed-dating can be more effective than online dating. Plus, meeting face-to-face eliminates the possibility of meeting a catfish.
What online dating can do for you is expose you to far more people than you might normally meet. The truth is that more relationships begin online (20%) than they did 20 years ago. Many people like online dating because it is one way to “weed out” potential mates before ever having to meet, which saves everyone embarassment, time, and potentially, heartbreak. Just remember, sometimes people look good on paper but in person they lack that *spark* that is essential for romantic relationships. I’ll let you be the judge if online dating sites work, but be wary of people who abuse the system.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t remind you of the dangers of online dating. Here are a few tips to keep you safer:
Never use any personal identifying information in your profile (like address, phone number, social security number, etc.).
ALWAYS meet in a public place.
ALWAYS tell a friend or family member where and with whom you intend to meet.
If you think you might be being “catfished,” ask the person to write your name on a piece of paper, take a picture of them holding it, and send it to you. You probably have another picture of them from a social networking site to compare it against. One reason to suspect “catfishing” is if the other person always makes excuses for not meeting you in person.
NEVER send money to someone you don’t know personally – as in, actually met in person.
Tell the truth. You aren’t doing anybody any favors by claiming to be 18, when you’re actually 30. Or worse, 15.
And lastly, check out this infographic . . . (I’m alarmed by #8)
Feronians, have you had luck with online dating? Have any cautionary tales to share? Safety tips? Share them in our comments section!