If I had a quid for every time I’ve taken a pregnancy test even though I’m 99% sure I couldn’t possibly be pregnant, I’d have enough money to babyproof my house.
This week’s guest blogger is Liz, and she’s going to talk to you about her feelings on sexual health. Or, more accurately, what she’s nicknamed ‘sexual hypochondria’: the line between sensible worry and terrible panic, and the fact that when you’re worried about your sexual health it can be hard to tell the difference. If you like her writing do go and check out her Tumblr – Beaux Bisous.
As with any blog about health, I would be a total arse if I didn’t point out up front that I am not a doctor. Neither is Liz. Therefore this isn’t a blog about how to treat STIs, the best ways to test for STIs, or even the best way to avoid STIs. For all those you need to visit your actual doctor. But for a post that evokes the panic of not knowing, and the relief when you find out you’re clean? Well, I’ll hand you over to Liz…
I think most people have slight hypochondriac tendencies, even without realising. Feeling crap, remembering an odd-tasting glass of water the evening before, and subsequently spending the rest of the day entertaining the possibility of having contracted cholera is probably a fairly normal tangent for the human mind. But what is, in my opinion, even more normal, is sexual hypochondria. Anxiety to keep our bodies healthy is one thing, but genitalia is definitely a whole different ball game (no pun intended). With more and more contraceptive products and statistics to differentiate between, and seemingly endless consequences to not having immaculately safe sex, it’s no wonder that we get easily worried.
Or is it? As Mean Girls’ Coach Carr helpfully pointed out: “Don’t have sex, because you will get pregnant and die.” Ignoring the fact that dying is a fact of life, and thanks to the miracle of pregnancy you’re actually reading this, there’s actually a fairly sound point in that sentence. The only way to guarantee lifelong perfect sexual health is just to avoid sex altogether – sorry, where’s the fun in that? Fun and risks go hand in hand. And if you’re never going to prevent occasional sexual health issues, then the fear of what’s going to happen and when is a normal occurrence. It’s akin to praying that you don’t suddenly end up with the flu in your busiest week of work. I’m not trying to make a poorly disguised attack on services like the NHS, because I do believe there is by far enough information out there. I suppose the point of this post is to remind people that being hyperconscious of sexual health is definitely better than having no awareness whatsoever.
I certainly fall into the hyperconscious camp. Despite the fact that I’ve now been on the pill for six months, the only sexual partner I’ve had in that time is my current boyfriend, and the whole concept of not using condoms was a new experience for me. So in the two months we’ve been together, that hasn’t stopped me googling horror stories of the negligible percentage who have managed to get pregnant, and despite the fact that we’re both clean of STDs, I found myself ordering a pregnancy test and an STD self-test kit just for peace of mind.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve taken the morning after pill a few times, got myself antibiotics for a UTI with the explanation of “I think my vagina’s on fire”, and sternly watched one guy reapply four condoms before we were both satisfied that he’d put it on properly. Sexy? I think not. I’ve definitely improved, minus the cautious tests, to the point where I’ve even managed to ignore various websites’ warnings of warts (ugh) and tearing (please, no) and actually engage in anal sex.
Whatever kind of sex you’re having – genital, oral, anal – you don’t need me to tell you that there are risks. But the kind of relief that comes with regularly checking, depending on your sex life, is not one to pass up. I reckon the amusing fixation with sexual health is definitely more critical than general health because it is our livelihood. And what’s more, people like me can order as many self-test kits as they like, but if I’m clean, I’m clean. That’s not going to do anything to the rising number of STDs and unwanted pregnancies, much as I wish I could single-handedly change the actions of numerous people. Feel free to laugh at me, I do. But the point of sharing my slightly ridiculous means of maintaining good sexual health is to normalise this sexual hypochondria that we all have. All it takes is a free test kit through the post, a cheap pregnancy test from your local pharmacy, or an appointment with your doctor to reassure or solve your worries.
I may be inwardly dancing with glee at having written about a topic that even GOTN “cringed” about, and I do realise that even the title itself could seem far less interesting than posts on bondage, feminism and erotica, but this is something very real. Go forth and enact your own erotica, but please, leave pubic lice out of it.
Sincerely, Little Miss Safety
If you have the same tendencies as Liz (and I) when it comes to sexual health, and you want to learn more, then you know exactly who to visit.