I love sex. I love having it. I love talking about it, teaching about it, and I love making sure that people know how to have good sex - whether it is by themselves or with partners. But what I hate is hearing how supposedly smart people make stupid decisions about sex. And there seems to be a lot of stupidity going around.
The article entitled "Generation Unsafe Sex," in Page Six magazine this week exemplifies just how unintelligent people can be when it comes to sex. Many young New Yorkers willingly forgo protection, relying on the hideously named "pull-and-pray" method, morning outings for Plan B, or a dose of antibiotics if they should wind up with an STI.
But you certainly don't have to take Page Six's word for it. The state of sexual health in America is deplorable. We have the highest rates of unintended pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections of any Western nation:
o 65 million Americans have an incurable STI
o more than 50% of Americans will have an STI at some point in their life
o 1 in 2 sexually active people will get an STI by the time they turn 25
o 1 in 4 teen girls have at least one STI
o there are 40,000 new HIV infections in the US every year
o over $1.5 billion dollars have been spent on failed abstinence only until marriage education programs
For years we have been trying to figure out why people take unnecessary risks. Is it that we care so little about ourselves? Is it because we are more concerned with living in the moment than we are with living in the future? Is it because we are afraid to speak up and demand protection? Is it really because people fear that condoms take away from spontaneity? Hey, I am all for having hot animalistic sex with Nine Inch Nails playing in the background, but in the time it takes for you to change the CD, a condom can be rolled down and ready for action, so spare me the "it's not spontaneous" rant.
When we were ignorant and didn't know any better, it was easier to chalk up our unsafe sex practices to our belief that we were invincible. But it's not invincibility if we are well-informed. It's idiotic. In 2008, it's not as if we don't know about the risks and how to protect ourselves from them (abstinence only education aside). Many deliberately take the risk, putting their health on the line every time they leave that condom on the nightstand. Why? Because, we're friends...what's the big deal if I give you syphilis?
Our advertising further challenges our sex practices. Think about those couples frolicking on the beach as they happily discuss having genital herpes and the absence of condom ads on network television. In our attempt to de-stigmatize sexually transmitted infections, we wound up making STIs appear so manageable that people's attitudes became indifferent. There is no doubt that some STIs are manageable, however, somewhere in the messaging there was a shift in perception. Now, some people are more than willing to take certain risks.
As for Plan B (emergency contraception), it is hardly a panacea. Doesn't do anything for STIs and it only works to prevent ovulation. If you've ovulated already, too bad. But that's really not the issue here. We keep forgetting that our ability to use contraception and get access to information and contraceptive services is slowly being taken away. Depending upon where we live (and who we vote for) our options for dealing with an unintended pregnancy (and sex in general) will be limited. (Bush's recent attempt to redefine abortion so that the term includes: birth control pills, emergency contraception, and IUDs, is a pretty good example of that.) So it would seem like now is the time to be smart about sex. Go on, have lots of it, but do it in a way that doesn't compromise your health or your fertility.
At the end of the day, orgasms are orgasms. I would rather have one where I am fully engaged in sex than one where I am thinking, "Ooh, this feels good, too bad I just might get Chlamydia this time."