Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Safe sex - it's not just the kids doing it these days

Teenagers aren't the only people who directly benefit from comprehensive sex education - as divorce becomes more and more prevalent in American culture, older single people are dating and having sex. Since some people view pregnancy as the main reason to use condoms, women in menopause or who may have had their tubes tied may not see the need for protection during sex.

However as this article states, menopausal and premenopausal women need to be aware of the risk of sexually transmitted infections, even if they don't view pregnancy as a risk. Additionally, women with vaginal atrophy may be at a higher risk of STIs because of the increased potential for small cuts and tears.

Another place that demonstrates the need for sex education and dispensing of condoms is nursing homes. For a lot of the reasons above, women and men in nursing homes need to be aware of safe sex, especially since aging bodies are often weaker than younger bodies.

I never thought about the need for sex education in these communities before, but lately, my divorced mother is starting to go on dates. In talking with her, I found out that she's only used oral hormone contraceptives in her life - STIs weren't as big of a concern when she was younger. Doing my daughterly duty, I told her about the importance of communication between partners, talking about sexual histories and getting tested, and using barrier protection. Then we decided that I'll give her "the talk" on her wedding night (preferably at the bar) and she's never giving me "the talk" because I'm never getting married.

Here's what the North American Menopause Society suggests all sexually active people do (good for anyone in sexual relationships, in my opinion):
  • Choose partners selectively.
  • Discuss sexual history with a partner; don’t let embarrassment compromise health.
  • Always insist that a male partner use a latex condom for genital, oral, and anal sex, unless you are in a long-standing, mutually monogamous relationship. Never use petroleum-based products (Vaseline, baby oil) to lubricate condoms because they can damage the condom, potentially causing a leak).
  • Keep medically fit and have a regular physical exam, including a Pap test and other tests to identify sexually transmitted infections if you are at risk. If exposed to an STI, or after a confirmed diagnosis, urge partner(s) to be examined and treated. Do not resume sexual activity until you and your partner are cleared of infection or, in the case of STIs that cannot be cured (such as herpes), until proper methods for optimal protection are understood and used.
Here's the moral of the story:

Comprehensive sex education must be taught to youth because this is lifelong knowledge - it's not going to stop being important and useful once you get out of high school or college or if you get married. Safe sex isn't just for teenagers - it's for everyone.

7 comments:

Amelia said...

Great post with a great message! Definitely a topic I have not given much thought to. :)

Also, I have never heard of vaginal atrophy, and while the name really explains it on a basic level...whaaa? Great. It really feels like sometimes I still know very little about my body and what can happen to it.

halfawake said...

"Discuss sexual history with a partner; don’t let embarrassment compromise health."

I understand and agree that this is important, but I never see followups on how to deal with it if your partner discloses that they may have an STI. It's a really messy conversation, and sex ed needs to address how to have it.

Amelia said...

Good point, halfawake.

Well, if a sex ed course is truly comprehensive, people will know that barrier methods can help prevent STIs. And I think that it should also be stated explicitly that just because one's partner has an STI doesn't mean that they can't have sex. It just means that both of have to be extra diligent when it comes to using the right kind of protection in the correct manner every time.

Mike said...

Amelia,
I agree that it is certainly
true that just because your partner has an STI doesn't mean you can't have sex. With that being said, if you know this information and have sex anyway, at that point are you really practicing safe sex? You can try to be as careful as possible and take all the precautions you want, but there isn't anything out there with enough force to fully prevent the transmission of an infection. The point of safe sex is to prevent such diseases, but if you continue to have sex you are really playing with fire and it is only a matter of time. Thoughts?

Amelia said...

@Mike:

I am not someone who would ever try to tell consenting adults when it is ok or not ok to have sex. Although it is true that barrier methods are not absolutely foolproof when it comes to the spreading of STIs, in my mind, safe sex means informed sex. If you or your partner have an STI, it should be discussed, and the options should be laid out for how to handle the situation. If both agree that you still want to have sex, and agree on a method of protection, I do believe it is safe sex. Of course, there are still risks, but because they have been accounted for, I think it's safe. I do not think that because one has an STI that one should never be allowed to have sex. It just means that talking about sexual history becomes much more important.

lindsay said...

I think it's definitely something that needs to be addressed in sex education classes, but having an STI doesn't make people sexual pariahs. I'm sure there are certainly resources at sexual health centers that can address prevention, especially when someone knows they have something.

It's better to know and tell than to not say anything at all.

labor lawyer manila said...

This post is really meaningful and substantial to everyone. Always remember these 3 important pointers:
*Choose partners selectively.
Have sex to that only person whom you really love.

*Discuss sexual history with a partner; don’t let embarrassment compromise health.
Just ask him what is his sexual history without offending him.

*Always insist that a male partner use a latex condom for genital, oral, and anal sex, unless you are in a long-standing, mutually monogamous relationship.
This will not only keep you from being pregnant, but more importantly, it would keep you from risks of having STIs. You should protect yourself.

*Keep medically fit and have a regular physical exam, including a Pap test and other tests to identify sexually transmitted infections if you are at risk.
Have a regular check up. If curable STIs are detected earlier, there would be a bigger possibility that it would be cured.