Yesterday was world AIDS day, and after reading a couple of articles on the subject matter and a talk with Nix, I wanted to write a little something about sex ed. This is a departure from my normal light topics. Feel free to skip it, but if you have kids, you might want to push through the awkwardness.
Two big things prompted this post. 1. I have a friend who works at a health department who occasional likes to warn moms with things like, "Saw another pregnant 17 year old today. It isn't her first child" and "Guess what kind of VD is going around the young teens." 2. Nix has been hearing a good bit "locker room" talk in high school that prompted me to make a penicillin joke, and she didn't know what I meant.
Still here? Good! First, I want to make clear the abstinence is the only 100% way to remain pregnancy and STD free. It is the method I teach first and most in my house. It is not only for the sake of physical health but also mental health, as I fully believe that sex has consequences outside of the physical that kids can not begin to grasp. Keep in mind a large number of teen see no point in seat belts or why starting to smoke might be a bad idea. Consequences are not their strong suit.
After a brief conversation with Nix about STDs, I realized there was a gaping hole in what has been covered up to this point. There has only been talk of HIV, which can kill you slowly, and a vague mention of generic STDs.
The CDC's site lists 10 STDs by name and also has an "other" category.
For all of our "enlightenment" on the subject, kids seem to still think that if a guy isn't gay, hasn't used needles in the their drug use, and looks reasonable healthy, then they are probably safe. That should scare us all.
Let's talk about herpes for a minute. They never go away. You might not be having an outbreak at the moment and appear fine, but the virus is still there. You are still contagious. FOREVER. Your partner may have only had one other partner who "looked healthy", but that doesn't mean there isn't a chain of herpes in that line.
Let's move to gonorrhea. Most people think of this as a harmless one because it can be easily treated. Here is where it gets scary. A lot of people don't have symptoms. Even when you do see symptoms, it can be mistaken for a bladder infection. By that time you have already passed it on to your partner. Even worse, a woman who shows no signs can let it go untreated for so long that it damages her ability to have children. Plus, it makes you more susceptible to HIV.
Chlamydia is very similar to gonorrhea, but even more common and more likely to go untreated. They report that 1 in every 15 sexually active teen girls has it. Many of them have no idea. They actually recommend women under 25 get tested annual for it.
Now for a fun one, syphilis. The first sign in a small painless sore that may go unnoticed. Then you might get a rash that you may or may not notice. Up to 30 YEARS later it can hit your brain, make you crazy, and then kill you.
Are you horrified yet?
These are the things we need to be making sure our teens know. My daughter is 14, and she knows at least a half dozen sexually active girls her own age. We live in a nice area. Most of my kid's friends are sweet kids. Unsupervised and naive, but sweet. Freshmen girls seem like targets almost. Older guys can show them attention, convince them that "everyone is doing it", and talk them into sex with a lot more ease these days. (Thanks Hollywood!) After that the girls seem to become the predators. If a girl's last boyfriend wanted that from her, but her current one doesn't, then he must not care enough for her. The pressure gets turned around, and even the most gentlemanly of young men start questioning the idea of waiting.
Talk to your kids openly and honestly. Tell them it is okay to wait. Tell them that sex does not equal love. Tell them that they are worth more than that.
On a side note, I am told by healthcare friends that size is a popular excuse for not wearing protection. Did you know that you can put a condom on your foot like a sock? Yeah, size is not a valid argument for forgoing safe(ish) sex.
I'm sorry if this post has been too gross/harsh/blunt/real/horrifying for you. It is important to take a look at these things so that we can do better, and teach our children effectively.