Content by Cynthia Grace RN, MSN
"Guys often try to push my boundaries. They want to have casual sex. Sometimes they’ll act like they don’t see why I would want to abstain because they know I’m on birth control for other health issues. As if pregnancy is the only risk of sex."
A recent study on unprotected sex conducted by the British pharmacy chain Superdrug had some sobering results. Of the 1000 Americans surveyed, 65.5 percent said they have had unprotected sex—and 29.1 percent of those people said they have had unprotected sex every single time. Somewhat surprisingly, women responded this way significantly more than men.
The majority of those who said they have had unprotected sex said it was a deliberate decision. This is a scary statistic.
Taking care of your sexual health is important.
In separate studies, 68.4 percent of the people surveyed never ask their partners if they've been tested for an STI* (sexually transmitted infection) or STD* (sexually transmitted disease) before sleeping with them, and only 27% of the women surveyed got checked for an STI after having unprotected sex. That is a great concern for many reasons.
If left untreated, an STI/STD can develop into further health problems, particularly for women.
It may sound “old fashioned” but the CDC recently released an HIV Risk Reduction Tool and clearly stated that abstinence is the best way—and really the ONLY way—to prevent getting or transmitting HIV or any other STD/STI. Being in a monogamous relationship can help reduce your risk, but being monogamous doesn't automatically protect you from an STI. Monogamy only works if both partners are certain they don’t have any STI/STDs and if each partner stays monogamous.
"There are just too many costs to having sex outside of marriage. I’m not interested in getting pregnant, getting an STI/STD, or being used. I’m interested in a committed relationship and love."
Talk to your partner about both abstinence and monogamy. Be sure that you and your partner are in agreement about sex.
Starting the Conversation
Whether out of fear, embarrassment, or uncertainty about what to say, many women feel nervous discussing sexual health with their partner. You may not know exactly how to talk about it, yet having open conversations is important to you and your relationship.
If you approach the conversation with openness and a relaxed attitude, it can ease the tension that you and your partner may feel discussing sex, in general. You should be able to have this discussion without any fear of judgment.
If you need help finding the right words, you can come into our clinic or call to talk through how to have those conversations. Your physical wellbeing matters to us, but we also care about the health of your relationships and what is important to you as a woman.
Prepare for the Response
Of course, you never know if someone's going to respond honestly or positively. But if he’s not willing to answer your questions or respect your requests, then you should have red flags about whether he is someone you want to engage within a relationship.
"I remember feeling so mad when this guy I was dating basically tried to pressure me into having sex. He acted offended that I would even want to talk about my plan to stay sexually healthy. He said he trusted me and I should trust him too...that sex was the natural next step for us as a couple. Needless-to-say, I ended that relationship."
There’s no reason to panic if you or your partner lets you know about his STI. Disclosing an STI is actually a sign of trust and shows that your partner wants you to be healthy too. It’s important to be respectful because there’s already a lot of shame and stigma out in the world around having an STI. It’s really important to keep in mind that having an STI doesn’t make someone dirty or a bad person.
Having an STI also doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a healthy sexual relationship in the future.
Where to Turn
The Center for Disease Control recommends that all sexually active people receive STI/STD testing and get treatment right away if the test is positive. You can receive a free consultation, as well as testing, at A Woman’s Place Medical Clinic. Our medical staff can test and treat for chlamydia and gonorrhea using a urine sample. Call to schedule an appointment and learn more about reducing your risk of contracting an STD or STI. We are happy to talk with you about healthy relationships and how to move forward after a diagnosis. Your visit and test results will be held in strict confidence.
Coming soon to our blog! The importance of well-woman care and how to be proactive in staying healthy.
CDC HIV Risk Prevention Tool: https://wwwn.cdc.gov/hivrisk/increased_risk/partners/multiple_partners.html