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Real Talk: It’s Time to Get Woke with Sex Health

     Let’s face it: people have sex. Sex is a natural, simple part of life. However, in the promised land of America, there are still issues with sex education/health that can, and have, produced dire consequences. Studies show that abstinence-only programs have adverse outcomes and the Guttmacher Institute states, “Rigorous research accumulated over the past 20 years has consistently shown that abstinence-only programs are not effective at preventing pregnancy, HIV or other STIs.” Plus, according to NPR Public Health, last year there was a record high number of STD infections in America.


     Let me repeat myself: Record. High.


     Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like Congress or the Trump Administration will be promoting evidence over ideology-based sex programs or will be increasing funding to prevent/control sexually transmitted diseases anytime soon. Nor does it look like people will stop having sex anytime soon. This means that we, as the up-and-coming generation, need to rethink the way we talk about sex.


      First, let’s address this terrifying statistic: the U.S. has the highest rates of STDs in the industrialized world. According to NPR Public Health, “For the fourth year in a row, federal health officials report that there has been a sharp increase in sexually transmitted diseases in the U.S.” Chlamydia. Gonorrhea. Syphilis. All of these STDs have detrimental effects if left untreated, such as infertility, arthritis, ectopic pregnancies, and even death (in the most extreme of cases, of course). Yes, these statistics are shocking. How has the U.S., during the Digital Age of mass communication, managed to slide backwards in preventing sexually transmitted diseases (as reported by Dr. Gail Bolan)? Well, beyond the consequences of the lack of funding and political support, people just don’t talk about sex.


    And, that right there, is a huge chunk of the issue. It’s much easier to just go with the flow and have fun. Sometimes I hear, “But, it’s just SO unsexy to ask if someone has been tested.” Or, “Condoms are the worst.” Um. I don’t know about you, but not getting a sexually transmitted disease is pretty sexy. Not getting pregnant is pretty dang sexy, too. #SafeSexTalkIsSexy


    It’s time to reshape the narrative. Being upfront before you engage in consensual sex is mature, healthy, and, ultimately, sexy. *Myth alert*: if an individual doesn’t come (ejaculate or climax), then you are safe. NO! INCORRECT. You can contract sexually transmitted infections through multiple ways, including oral sex, penetration, bodily fluids, and skin-to-skin contact. Because you can contract STD infections through many different ways, communication is crucial (this is true for all communities: heterosexual or LGBQT+).


     If you are nervous or unsure of how to bring up whether or not your partner is clean before engaging in sexual activity, just approach it head-on. Sometimes being blunt is the best way to go. Own it! For example, you can start with, “I know your health is important to you. So, I just want to let you know I’ve been tested in the last (time frame), and I am clean. When was the last time you were tested?” Or, you can downright just ask, “Are you clean?” If they seem shady or can’t provide an accurate time-frame, ditch ‘em. It’s not worth it, hunny. Make sure to follow your gut, and, remember, that your body AND health deserves to be respected and protected. I’m just going to regurgitate here that #SafeSexTalkIsSexy.


     Lastly, if you or someone have formerly contracted a sexually transmitted infection, that is okay. Absolutely NO ONE is any less special because of an STI. A survey study revealed that over 80% of people reported they would not think of anyone less who had an STI and 50% of them would stay in a relationship with someone who revealed they had an STI. This stigma on STIs needs to end, because it discourages communication, increases anxiety, and, ultimately, contributes to more STIs. It’s time to break the stigma in the name of health!


      Want more information on how to practice healthy, safe sex? Head over to Eileen Kelly’s information-packed, inclusive, and modern-friendly blog on sex health titled Killer and a Sweet Thang. Or, if you prefer a more medical approach, check out Planned Parenthood’s website on safer sex.


    Well, folks, we should all join hands and run through the streets screaming, “SAFE SEX ROCKS!” Because, well, safe sex rocks. Be woke! #SafeSexTalkIsSexy


Kendall Halliburton

UC Berkeley '20

A student at UC Berkeley, Kendall Halliburton is an aspiring writer, freelance photographer, and amateur filmmaker. When she is not daydreaming or eating copious amounts of food, she has her nose in a book, is on an adventure in the outdoors, or is sobbing over viral puppy videos and quality memes. To get to know her more, check out her website: www.kendallehalliburton.com
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