Here at SHEP, we do quite a lot on campus. However, maybe as a busy college student, you don’t have the time to come out to any of our annual events like SHAW or National Condom Week, but you’re still aching to learn about sexual health. Fortunately, I can give you a quick-and-dirty overview of a few important topics in sexual health, right here on our SHEP blog! How convenient.
Believe it or not, young people, both male-bodied and female-bodied, need to keep up maintenance on their genitalia! This can be easily done through regular testing and good hygiene. All sexually active individuals should be getting screened for STI’s about once a year, but there’s more to it than just that!
For female-bodied individuals, vaginas just need to be washed regularly with mild soap and water. Douching is not necessary nor is it recommended, as it can irritate the genitals and create serious complications for existing infections. Cleaning is important for male-bodied individuals, too. Hygiene in general is important, but men who are uncut also need to regularly pull back their foreskin and clean with water and mild soap. For all people, shaving/trimming is a tricky subject (for another blog entry), but overall a good principle to stick to is to keep your hair follicles clean and your skin moisturized.
Woman over 21 should also be getting pelvic exams and pap test about once every 2 years. You can learn about pap test guidelines here: [http://uhs.berkeley.edu/home/healthtopics/annualgynexam.shtml]. Women’s health exams are recommended for females who are sexually active and those who aren’t. Women and men both are recommended to give themselves regular breast exams because anyone can get breast cancer. Additionally, men aged 15-35 are at increased risk for testicular cancer and should check their testicles themselves about once a month.
Protecting yourself against STI’s & pregnancy:
Condoms are a great way to protect yourself against both STI’s and pregnancy. There are also many other methods of contraception, both barrier and hormonal, but for this entry I’ll be talking about condoms specifically because of their protection against most STI’s.
STI’s have many different routes of transmission. The first that comes to mind for many people is penetrative sex. “Penetrative sex” can mean a penis or any other phallus (like a dildo) entering either a vagina or anus. In all of these cases, a traditional condom can help prevent against the transmission of most STI’s by blocking the transmission of bodily fluids and acting as a barrier against contact. Correct use of a condom can protect against STI’s such as HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HPV (human papilloma virus), and the herpes simplex virus.
However, HPV and herpes are transferred simply through skin-to-skin contact rather than fluid transfer. Condoms can be very effective in protecting against these STI’s, but only on the places where the condoms cover. Any warts or sores in areas not covered by the condom, like at the base of the penis or on the outer labia, can make contact with your partner.
Oral sex can also transfer some STI’s. Oral sex involves skin-to-skin contact so HPV and herpes can be transmitted. Fluid transfer can also occur during oral sex. Ejaculate and discharge can carry STI’s such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, which can infect the throat, and HIV, which can enter your body in any openings in the membranes of your mouth. A flavored condom can be used during oral sex on a penis, and dental dam can act as a barrier when performing oral sex on a vagina or anus.
How to put on a traditional condom:
While many people reading this blog may not necessarily be using condoms, I felt that a sex health basics blog wouldn’t be complete without a quick how-to guide for using a traditional condom.
1 Check your condom: check the expiration date on the back. Make sure the condom’s packaging is intact (i.e. there are no punctures and you can feel an air bubble). Also, make sure to keep your condom away from heat and friction.
2 Slide your condom to the side and open the package carefully. Most packages are perforated for easy-access, so try to avoid using your teeth because you may tear the condom.
3 Orient your condom correctly: condoms actually do have an inside and outside. Hold the condom from the tip and see if you can roll it down. If you can’t, your condom is inside-out!
4 Pinch about an inch from the tip of the condom, and then place it on the head of the penis/phallus. (tip: you can place a few drops of lube on the inside of the tip of the condom for increased pleasure and decreased friction!)
5 Roll down the condom to the base of the phallus. You can apply as much lube as you’d like on the outside of the condom.
6 After you’re done using the condom, before the penis goes flaccid, slide it off (be careful not to let any ejaculate spill out), tie up the condom, run the condom between your fingers to check for leaks and throw it in the trash (never in a toilet!).
By Adorable Alex