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Guest blog: sexual hypochondria

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…

Sexual Hypochondria

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’d like to read more of Liz’s stuff, head to her Tumblr blog. She writes some beautiful and touching personal posts, and I’m delighted to have her here.

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.



  • D. says:

    When I moved to my new place, I was delighted to find that my local GP did STD screenings. Much simpler than finding the nearest clinic, I thought! However, they turned out to be pretty bloody useless (regularly making me appointments for a screening when there was nobody in the building qualified to take blood, for instance) and also bizarrely prudish (whispering my ‘all clear’ results across the reception desk at me as if I had done something wrong just by getting tested, wtf), and eventually I had to look up the local GUM clinic anyway. The difference in quality of service and quality of advice is definitely worth the extra travel and the (unfortunately quite a bit longer) waiting times.

    Also, my GP used to get the hump every time I came back for a retest – “But you were only tested a year ago!” – whereas the GUM clinic are happy to test me every three months if I’ve been a busy boy. Which is reassuring, for me and for anyone I’m sleeping with.

    • Girl on the net says:

      That is v weird but now that you mention it I’ve had similar. I remember being surprised when I first went to the GUM clinic off Tottenham Court Road and they were so businesslike and professional about things.

      The wait time at clinics though… argh. The place I go to now is bloody lovely, and everyone’s really decent and it’s all simple, but only enjoyable if you have a really good book and a patience that I sorely lack.

  • M says:

    God, this is so me. The second there is anything vaguely wrong which could be anything to do with anything below the waist, I’m googling stuff and convincing myself I have some terrible, incurable STD despite the fact I’ve been screened since being with my most recent partner. I blame my religious upbringing which was all about “if you have pre-marital sex, you will get pregnant, get AIDS and die”. Seriously, I think it’s the hang up I am most resentful of.

    D, I find your comment interesting – I had the same issue with my GUM clinic that you had with your GP. I went twice in the space of two years and they were definitely a bit funny with me. It made me feel really awkward and like I was being judged for having sex.

    • Girl on the net says:

      This is odd – why is this a thing? That’s three strikes already for GPs being a bit funny about STI testing. I have a friend who is a GP, and I’m going to quiz her on this and see if they have special training in how to be awkward or something.

      • M says:

        Ah, my issue was with the GUM clinic, not my GP. The vibe I got was very much “we tested you once a year ago, why are you here AGAIN”. It felt a tiny bit slut-shamey, to be honest…I was a bit surprised, as I was expecting to get a slightly more supportive “this is an unpleasant but sensible thing you are doing” message, you know?

        The GPs I’ve seen tend to look slightly embarrassed (or at least the one who’s known me since I was a baby did) or completely disinterested.

        I think this contributes to my slight case of hypochondria, because I now know that in addition to being an unpleasant and rather nerve wracking experience, going to get screened or tested for whatever is going to be a bit of a trial and make me feel rather judged. Which is not on, really.

        • Girl on the net says:

          Ah, sorry – I misread your original one. It’s bloody surprising to have GUM staff being slut-shamey. If anything people who have regular tests should be celebrated for taking care of their health. I think there’s a weird misconception that people go for tests because somehow they’ve made a ‘mistake’ – like tests are there because you’ve failed at something, as opposed to because you want to care for your body (and for your partners!). Maybe instead of slut shaming, clinics and GPs should give out stickers – I distinctly remember these making me less scared of visiting the dentist when I was young =)

          • M says:

            Yes, yes, this! To be honest I’d quite like regular screening to be a Thing, the way smear tests are. Then it’d be more like a run of the mill chore which everyone has to do as well as taking away the fear/stigma.

  • J says:

    As someone who’s lazily polyamorous (ie I *could* have regular new partners, but I mostly don’t) I nevertheless get tested for everything every 3-6 months no matter what – and I have nothing but love for the NHS sexual health clinic on Burrell Street in London ( They’ve never been anything other than friendly, practical, non-judgmental, reassuring when I needed it, and generally just awesome, friendly and well-informed staff. I have so much love for them, I even like going in for a regular check-up when I haven’t had any new partners (and nor have my partners).

    I guess my only point in posting is to share some love for an often under-loved and unglamorous side of the NHS <3

  • Fiddy says:

    This sounds a lot like my wife. She claims to be an easy lay but I know that’s only the case if she scrutinizes your medical history and has you checked out again on top of that.

    Also yes, GPs are inferior to GUMs. It’s just a lot less professional and awkward…

  • P says:

    I got tested at my GP after I found out that my girlfriend cheated on me, just to be sensible and check that everything was OK. The doctor was fine but I had to book an appointment with a nurse who treated me like it was a major inconvenience. The worst thing was that the nurse made it clear she doubted that my ex (who she couldn’t have known) actually cheated or passed anything on to me. What?!

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