“I did WHAT?!”
While going through my personal journal the other day, I came across an entry that I had made almost five years ago regarding a sex survey that I had taken. I, like many other people who have spent any amount of time in high school, was briefly obsessed with online quizzes: What “Friend” was I? What was my personality type? How pure was I? And, of course, What kind of sex have I had?
The document listed possible situations, partners, locations, and positions and, needless to say, it turns out that I’ve had a lot of sex. I don’t mean that I have had a constant stream of partners lined up my door and around the block, but I’ve been involved in a few long-term relationships and have definitely pushed the envelope when it comes to trying something new. In case you’re wondering, sex at the beach is all well and good until you have to wash sand out of crevices for days. Yes, crevices. Learn from my mistakes, kids. So, although I seem pretty mild on the outside, I could probably floor most competitors in a game of “Where have you done it?” Come to think of it, that’s most likely why I’m writing these articles in the first place.
In front of me, glowing softly on the computer screen, lay my entire sexual history. I have done many crazy things in my life, but nothing that I regret. I’ve always believed in playing safe but I will readily admit that I haven’t always done it.
Before you get all judgmental and prepare to slap a big old “hypocrite” sign to my forehead, let me just say that the choice to stop using protection was always a conscious and deliberate one.
I’ve never really held the mentality that birth control was a pain, but I have to admit that I enjoy sex without protection as it means that I’ve achieved a number of things in a relationship: I’ve waited for at least six months after I’ve started going out with somebody, I’ve had a discussion about our sexual histories, I’ve gotten tested, and I’ve been in an exclusive relationship. I also don’t know if it really feels any better but it is certainly cheaper (hey, I’m a realist).
Of all these things, getting tested is the most important for me. Sure, I think that many of the responsibilities that come with being sexually active might be embarrassing or scary (I will readily admit that I used to hoard condoms from the free clinic so that I would not have to go and face the cashier at the drugstore, and I’ll still take free condoms where I can get them.), especially for younger adults, but I think that the alternatives are much worse.
I certainly don’t believe in using fear as a motivator to prevent unwanted behavior, but I do believe that individuals should understand the risks of their behavior choices and that they should make informed decisions. I strongly believe that part of the solution to the problem is removing the stigma from the testing process and making safe sex an ingrained habit for people.
The truth is, however, that not everybody gets a good training in sexual health education and the results are often disastrous. For example, the Center for Disease Control just released some new data that shows that approximately 20% of individuals who have HIV do not even know that they have the virus. That number shocks and saddens me as this is definitely a case where what you don’t know can hurt you…and others.