You may not have heard of Sexual and Reproductive Health Awareness Day, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t affect you life! Taking place on February 12th – that’s right, just before Valentine’s Day – and this year’s theme center’s on ‘sexuall health at all ages.’
The emphasis on ‘all ages’ is twofold – for one, many teen women are not getting tested for STIs, even though transmission rates are at an all time high. Additionally, though your sexual habits and concerns might change as you get older, that doesn’t mean they disappear.
Some Sexual Health Facts that May Surprise You
Half of All New STI Cases Are from Patients Between 15 and 24
Reasons for this can vary, from comfort talking to your doctor about your sexual history to never having it brought up by your doctor; one thing to remember is that even if you aren’t having penetrative sex involving a penis, you are still at risk for STIs that can have serious long-term effects.
Sexual Health is Failing LGBTQI Women
A study of Canadian teen women published in the Journal of Adolescent Health found that although STI rates among that group are rising, many are unaware that it’s possible to be infected by a sexually transmitted disease via same-sex activity, or don’t know that there’s anyway to have safe sex. Clearly, comprehensive sexual education means talking about sex that is outside the penis-and-vagina variety, and emphasis on what safe sex looks like if there isn’t a possibility of pregnancy.
Your Sexual Health is Forever
While many young folks who are just starting to become sexually active in their late teens or early 20s might associate the rush of pleasure with the dramatic highs of youth, and view it as something that will eventually settle down, the evidence doesn’t quite agree.
While medical conditions might contribute to less regular sex after age 75, reports show that your sex life doesn’t really need to slow down as you get older. Not only can solo and partnered sex help with symptoms of menopause, many people find that their sex lives in general improve as they get older and more confident in themselves, and making sure that they make their pleasure a priority.
How Can YOU Celebrate?
Even if you have received an HPV vaccinations and use condoms religiously (that means, even during oral sex) it is still recommended that you get tested for STIs every year if you’re hooking up with new people or your partner is. These screenings are not just for when something seems off, as the majority of STIs won’t cause symptoms. On the plus side, if you make a habit of it, it’s really no big deal!
Once you turn 25, if you’re sexually active with partners of any gender, you should start having cervical screenings (Pap smears) every 3 years. They can be done at the same time as your STI screening so it’ll be one and done!
Part of the reason many people are so as ashamed of their sexual health is because it simply isn’t talked about enough. Talk to your doctor, yes, but also talk to your older siblings or parents, and talk to your friends.
Part of the confusion about what’s happening with our bodies, and indeed the stigma surrounding STIs as something that happens to ‘other’ people is the fact that we aren’t willing to talk about it in a shame-free, open way.
Remember that Pleasure is a Part of Well-Being!
Sexual and reproductive health is more than just contraception and condoms – it’s also making sure that your sexual needs are being met in a healthy, positive way. That can mean masturbation, which can mean exploring different interests in your partner – but they all involve a certain amount of openness and honesty with yourself.
Being sex-positive doesn’t mean always wanting sex, or being comfortable talking about sexual things with any person anywhere, it just means being comfortable and unashamed about the sex you want, and treating other people’s sexualities with respect even when they differ!
Colleen began her sexual wellness career as a sex toy educator in manufacturing and retail. She has since branched out as a writer and marketer, covering all facets of sexual health and anatomy. At Intimina, she specializes in women’s medical care and health concerns, menstruation, sex and pregnancy, and birth control. Colleen frequently confers with top sex educators and intimate wellness experts to stay on top of the constantly changing sexual wellness space.