Ask Miss Meghan: A Watchful Eye for STIs

Dear Miss Meghan,

I got back together with my ex a few weeks ago, and then I found out that she had hooked up with a few other individuals since we had last broken up.  I’m now worried that she may have contracted something during that time. How do we go about getting tested?

-Scared of Sharing

 

Dear Scared of Sharing,

Thanks for asking this! It is important for any new or new-again relationships to have honesty regarding their past sexual behaviors. While it may be an awkward conversation to talk about past behaviors, it both builds intimacy and increases your safety. I’m not saying you should carry around a list with the names of every person you have ever hooked up with or have the conversation about your “numbers” of partners. What I am asking is that you ask your partner what behaviors they have and have not done in the past, what they want to do and don’t want to do with you currently or in the near future, and if they have engaged in sexual behaviors since last getting tested.

Yes, using a condom will reduce your risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from your partner. However, not all STIs are prevented from use of a condom, especially if it is one that may be living on the skin around the genitals (maybe the image of tiny crab-like lice creatures crawling around on your partner’s pubic area is enough to wait until you both get tested).

I would also recommend after getting tested once, to get tested again in six months because some STIs can hibernate in the body and don’t test positive until 6 months out.

Our SMCM health center can do some STI screening. However, the health center is not equipped to do comprehensive testing for all STIs. If you are symptomatic (for example, have a burning sensation, itching, a break out of some kind, distinctive odor, a discolored discharge, or unusual redness or irritation) then I would highly recommend coming into the health center as soon as possible to discuss your symptoms with a practitioner.

However, if you are just being smart and cautious, your best bet is the St. Mary’s County Health Department located in Leonardtown (21580 Peabody Street). Every Wednesday, they offer free STI screenings on a walk-in basis. You can also make an appointment by calling 301-475-4330. Make sure to advocate for yourself and find out exactly what you are being tested for, how the different STIs are tested for (blood versus urine versus visual inspection), and the chances of false-positives and false-negatives for the array of STIs/tests. It doesn’t hurt to go in with a checklist of STIs to make sure that you are being screened for all that you may be concerned about.

If you have trouble getting to Leonardtown and can’t find a friend to drive you, I may be able to find a way to help you out if you are desperate. I would much rather spend time helping you find a ride to the clinic now than have an STI outbreak on campus. Mold issues are one thing; a rash of STI breakouts is a whole different boatload of trouble.

Mostly Sincere,

Miss Meghan

Miss Meghan: Birth Control Part 2

I recently have become sexually active with my boyfriend. How do I decide which birth control method is right for me?

-Indecisive

Dear Indecisive (continued from previous article),

Now that I’ve covered condoms, the pill, the patch, the shot, and the ring, let’s move on to diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, IUDs (intrauterine devices) and Implanon.

Diaphragms, cervical caps, and sponges are between 84% and 94% effective when used correctly, and I wish more women would go back to these methods because they do not affect the hormone levels in your body. However, many folks see these as “dated” and they do require some planning of sexual activities. You need to get fitted at your gyno for a diaphragm, but they last a while. These methods take some planning on the woman’s part because they are typically inserted a few hours prior to sexual activity.

Finally, we come to IUDs and Implanon. Depending on your insurance, coverage of these items varies. The script for Implanon currently retails around $800, not including the price of the “surgery” from your gyno to implant the small plastic chip into your arm. IUDs are either plastic or copper, and the plastic IUD and Implanon affect the levels of progesterone in your body.

We suspect that the copper IUD neutralized the PH balance of the uterus so any egg that is fertilized does not plant onto the uterine wall. Some women report cramping, spotting, or prolonged periods, especially during the first six months. However, others report that while on these they no longer get a period, which over the course of the five to seven years that the device is in means that you are saving a bundle on tampons or pads. Up until recently, IUDs were only considered an option for women who had already given birth at least once or who were over the age of 25, but nowadays most gynos are more than willing to provide IUDs or Implanon for sexually active 18- to 25-year-olds as well.

Surgery is also an option, but is costly and permanent. Vasectomies (men), tubal ligations (women), hysteroscopic sterilization (women), and hysterectomies (women) are all surgical procedures. If you have made the decision to never have children, this may be a great option. Many women and men below the age of 35 find it difficult to convince a doctor to perform the procedure for fear that the patient will later change his or her mind. If this is the choice for you, please work on creating a convincing argument for it.

Now, I hope providing you with all these options hasn’t made the decision any harder than it already was. Choosing the method right for you depends on your memory skills, cost, comfort with your body, insurance, and what will work best for your body. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of having a good gynecologist and a communicative partner to discuss your options with.

Sincerely still enjoying every time I see that boat,

Miss Meghan

Ask Miss Megan: Questions About Birth Control

Dear Miss Meghan,

I recently have become sexually active with my boyfriend. How do I decide which birth control method is right for me?

-Indecisive

Dear Indecisive,

The Decision to start on birth control can be an easier choice than deciding which one to take. I would foremost recommend discussing your options with one of the health center staff or your gynecologist (once you become sexually active, you should see a gyno anywhos). They will help explore any interactions between birth control and other medications or medical conditions that may need to be controlled for. There is no 100% effect way to avoid risk of pregnancy outside of surgical sterilization or abstinence.

Even after you go on birth control, it is important to continue to use condoms (male or female) with your partner to reduce the risk of catching an STI or pregnancy. If you are 100% certain that you and your partner are monogamous AND trust that your partner will tell you if they “wander from the nest” AND you are both regularly tested for STIs (once prior to engaging in any sexual activities with your partner and again six months into the monogamous relationship) AND the results of your STI testing indicated no presence of a STI, AND your birth control use is 100% consistent and stable (no adverse reactions), ONLY then is it safe to stop using a condom. That seems like a lot of work, but is no where near the amount of work babies take, so I think it all evens out.

But I digress. BC pills are a great option, typically affordable, and usually covered by health insurance but consistent use is difficult for many women in that taking a pill at the same time every day rarely happens. Sleeping in on the weekends, parties, travel, or stress can all affect remembering to take the pill every day. Illness, stress, antibiotics or other medications can render the pill less effective or useless and increase the likelihood of getting preggo. Talk to your gyno about which pill would work best for your body, as there can be huge variances between brands.

Some folks like the patch as you only have to remember to chance it once a month, however the frequently falls off the body so “appropriate use” is difficult to achieve. I generally would suggest avoiding contraceptive injections (“the Shot”) at first because if your body reacts negatively to it, there is no removing it from your system. The vaginal ring is great for some women, but it also requires consistence use and high level of comfort with your vagina, as you have to insert and remove it on a regular basis.

Stay tuned for my next article where I’ll explore the sponges, diaphragms, cervical caps, IUDs, and Implanon.

Sincerely stoked about SexFest,

Miss Meghan

 

P.S.: What is this “SexFest” you ask? Well, put on your party hats and go to:www.facebook.com/SMCMPHE to find out event details! Its going to be legendary!

Ask Miss Meghan: To Forgive or To Forget?

Dear Miss Meghan,

My girlfriend recently cheated on me with some other dude at a party. I don’t exactly want to break up with her, but I can’t stop thinking about what she did when we are together. I know she is sorry for doing it, but that does not change what she did. What do I do?

-Bamboozled

Dear Bamboozled, Many, many theories exist on why people cheat. Some say we are not meant to be monogamous, others believe that cheating is an unconscious act to obtain the best sperm to fertilize the egg / fertilize the most eggs possible, and still others think cheating is done to them because their needs are not being met in the primary relationship. However, none of these theories actually help the person hurt understand their partner’s behaviors (sorry).

Most people that I have talked to who have been cheated on report feeling that the perceived commitment to the relationship was fractured, that trust was broken by the cheating behaviors, and/or that they are somehow not meeting their partner’s needs.

Re-establishing trust and commitment in the relationship are things that time and active work can help build. Increasing communication between you and your partner, being able to express your hurt/anger/sadness, and testing the trust in the relationship may help. Acknowledging that you are fearful that she will do it again when she goes alone to the next party, but knowing that she has the right to go anyways and then having a successful outcome, will build that trust.

It may also be helpful to establish where your boundaries, or lines in the sand, are. What type of behaviors do you consider cheating? Is it flirting, kissing, holding hands, “hooking up,” or having an emotional connection with another person of your gender? What type of behaviors does your girlfriend consider cheating? How the two of you define cheating may be very different, so it is helpful to have a conversation and compromise about the boundaries of the relationship.

Also, knowing the behaviors that you are not willing to compromise on will help you explore if you desire to continue the relationship with your girlfriend or not. Do you believe in second chances, but not third? Finally, I am a firm believer that no one person can meet another person’s entire needs. I would encourage any one in a relationship to regularly evaluate what needs of yours are not being met, and then talk (with your partner) about how those desires can be achieved.

Sincerely glad I got to use the

word Bamboozled,

Miss Meghan

Ask Miss Meghan: If I'm asexual, will romance lead to uncomfortable sex?

Dear Ms. Meghan,

I’m asexual. I’ve never been sexually attracted to men or women (but I am romantically
interested in men). I would be okay with this asexuality, but my concern is that I will enter into a
relationship and my boyfriend would expect to eventually have sex with me, as is custom among
the human race.

I….really don’t see that happening until I’m married, simply because if I have to have
sex, I want someone who’s committed to me for the long haul and understands that my feelings
about sex aren’t likely to change overnight or over the course of our marriage at all.
I’m really scared that it will come down to my personal sexual comfort vs having a
healthy relationship. So, do I say “It’s not you, it’s really me,” or do I surrender to the norm of
humanity, lie back, and think of good-looking English men I only admire in an aesthetic sense?

-A Worried Asexual

Dear Worried Asexual-

May I suggest a third alternative? “It’s not you, it’s me” is a line best left to cheesy,
somewhat adorable, rom-coms and having sex (that you don’t want to have) just for the sexual
gratification of your partner seems like a worst-case scenario (regardless of how enjoyable your
English-man fantasy is). Do people do this anyways? Yes. Do I think you need to do it? Not so
much. I would say that if you have to compromise you personal sexual comfort, it no longer is a
healthy relationship.

The trick for a person who identifies as asexual is finding a partner who will actually
understand this aspect of your identity. Getting to this point in a romantic relationship takes time
and boat-loads of trust. Being able to be vulnerable, honest about who you are, and willing to
take risks with your emotional safety will eventually lead you to finding a partner who will adore
you. You will probably get hurt numerous times, but no more or less then anyone else in this
world. The ability to pick yourself up, learn from the experience, and keep looking forward is a
struggle for all of us.

You may also want to consider a compromise if you find a partner whose level of sexual
desires is not in-line with yours. There are plenty of sexual behaviors that you and/or your
partner can participate in that will result in your partner’s pleasure which will not compromise
your lack of desire (self-pleasure, oral pleasure, digital stimulation). You can also explore the
possibility of your partner finding sexual satisfaction outside of your relationship (but this
required an incredibly high level of trust and communication that most folks struggle to obtain).
The most important aspect of this compromise process is knowing what you need to feel
romantically intimate with a person. You may have a high level of skin hunger that can be met
through cuddling, holding hands, or frequent massages. Or you may find intimacy in
conversations and desire sharing of deep thoughts and emotions.

While you are waiting for the (British) man of your dreams to come along, find supports
for yourself. There is a very large asexual support network on the internets, and AVEN
(asexuality.org) has chat rooms and resources for people who identify as asexual.

Finally, I want to say welcome back to SMCM! I’m excited to be writing this column for
you all again this year (and pretty happy I haven’t been fired for it either)! I do need you all to
step up and write in with your questions about sexuality and health, otherwise I will just turn this
into shameless self-promotion of events I will be helping with around campus.

-Sincerely all hopped up on Mountain Dew,
Miss Meghan

Dear Miss Meghan…

Hi Miss Meghan,

I’m a virgin and it is not that I don’t want to have sex but the longer I do not have sex the harder it gets. I get nervous that my lack of inexperience will turn boys off. Quite the catch-22. How can I get this to change?

-Cherrie

 

Dear Cherrie-

Most of the members of humanity are sexual beings; as in engaging in sexual acts has some biological/instinctual bases that equip us with the skills we need to accomplish the various acts of sex, and gain some pleasure out of it. I would say that you probably have some level of sexual skills, even thought you still carry your “V-card.” The way to reduce that anxiety is to increase your skill and confidence levels.

There are two ways to reduce that anxiety. The less recommended, scarier, but more time efficient method, is the “sink or swim.” The theory is that if you are scared of a drowning, go swimming. Facing the fear that you will be perceived as sexually inexperienced by having sex will help you realize that you are not perceived that way. This method has some risk thought, in that odds are that you won’t drown, but you would probably already be swimming if there wasn’t some chance of drowning.

Therefore, I would recommend the “test the waters” method. Do little things that may still make you nervous, but that are more likely to boost your confidence. Start talking to men folk and see what they think (as in, “I have a friend who is a virgin and…”). Talk to female folk about their past sexual experiences and how they gained sexual confidence.

Do some self-exploration and figure out what areas of your body you get pleasure from. Do you enjoy a light touch here, but a rough touch here, every where a touch touch? Your virginity status is significantly less important during sexual acts than your ability to tell a partner what and how you like it. Change your focus from the fear of potentially turning a boy off to teaching him how to turn you on. Each person has different things that turn then on and off, so being comfortable enough with some to have that conversation is a great place to aim for before engaging in any sexual acts with them. If your goal is to turn your partner on and your partner’s goal is to turn you on, and you teach each other the most effective ways of doing that, then the odds of swimming (and swimming well) are significantly higher.

Also try swimming, but with floaties. Learn to get your face wet, learn the different swimming strokes, learn how to come up for air (have I taken this analogy to far yet?).

Most importantly: yes it is normal to feel some anxiety about engaging is sexual acts for the first time. However, if you are feeling pressured into it, don’t think you are ready, or just want to wait, that is a healthy and ok choice.

Sinseriously,

Miss Meghan

 

Ask Miss Meghan: What’s (Not) Up With E.D.?

Dear Miss Meghan,

I was hooking up with someone last weekend and I couldn’t perform. This is not the first time this has happened. Do I need to see a doctor or get Viagra?

-Down and Out

 

Dear Down and Out,

Erectile Dysfunction, especially in folks under the age of 60 who do not have a pre-existing medical condition, is typically a psychological issue. In laymen’s terms, it may be performance anxiety. One lost erection, whether due to alcohol, lack of sleep, stress, feeling dejected, or a lack of desire, can trigger a fear of it happening again.

If this fear takes root in your brain the next time you try to get aroused, then your focus is the fear, not the pleasure and aroused feelings that typically trigger an erection. Once this cycle starts, it can be difficult to break. Taking a pill can actually help perpetuate this cycle as well.

Plenty of folks lose or can’t get an erection at times and it is VERY NORMAL.  Both men and women struggle with arousal at times and it is important to listen to your body.

If a penis is not erect or a vagina is not swelling or lubricating, it may be your body telling you that having sex right now isn’t the best idea. If you try to force arousal, either by taking Viagra, using a pump, or over stimulating the area, you can cause trauma to the genitals which can make the next encounter even less enjoyable, and in some cases painful.

I know we live in a highly masculine society that pokes (ha, pokes) fun at men who can’t “perform” and perpetuates the stereotype that you are “less of a man” if not at full attention when the time comes and it can be difficult to acknowledge out loud a problem regarding one’s “manhood.” That we even refer to the penis as the place of ones “manhood” keeps the stereotype going.

We also have a medicalization of sexuality, which gives the impression that sexual performance can be fixed by taking a little blue pill.

If you are have difficulty, you absolutely should talk to your doctor and get a full assessment of any physical issues that may be contributing. Sadly, however, doctors frequently don’t assess about any mental or emotional issues playing into arousal and just write a script for Viagra.

This does not address the underlying issues and can create long-term health issues with circulation and blood flow. This is also true for folks who take it for recreational purposes who want a longer lasting erection. When it comes time when you actually need a pill to help get an erection, it might not work. Plus, there are risks associated with taking it that you need to be aware of.

I suggest going to talk to a therapist. You MAY have a sex therapist who works on this campus in the counseling center (oohhh, I wonder who? Hint: her name starts with Me) who can assess for, and help with, any mental barriers that may have developed.

It can be a difficult thing to talk about with friends or family so talking to a therapist along with a doctor is a great idea, prior to or while taking a supplement.

Sincerely tooting my own horn in the last paragraph,

Miss Meghan

 

Sexpert Tells All On Sex

“I’m gonna grab your hair and hope this works out.” Much of the attitude at the Sex Therapy 101 lecture given by our very own “Sexpert,” Meghan Root, was created by such evocative statements.

In college, however, what better way to grab someone’s attention than make a sex joke?

The lecture, part of Safe Sex Week, was riddled with fascinating information that ranged from different forms of treatment for sex-related issues to different paraphilias.

In addition, Root covered issues concerning the LGBT QIA community and sexual identity. Root even cover what it is like to treat someone with an issue like pedophilia.

Root used the “Circles of Sexuality” from Advocates for Youth as her base model during the forum.

The “Circles of Sexuality” is a system based on five different forms of sexuality: sensuality, intimacy, sexual identity, sexual health and reproduction, and sexualization.

“These circles,” Root said, “make up the majority of our sexual experiences.”

She later went on to talk about our sexuality changes as we grow older and how our “response cycle changes” as we experience new pains, pleasures, or just learn about our likes and dislikes.

The tone of the lecture created a confortable environment for the material, important considering the taboo nature of many of the things Root discussed.

Advocacy and acceptance of difference provided a common theme throughout the lecture. “People are allowed to like weird things,” said Root. “If you can find a girl who likes to sit on balloons, good for you.”

The students in attendance generally responded to the lecture positively. Sophomore Taylor Sturm attended the lecture since Sex Therapy is something she is interested in.

“It’s important to talk about sexual health and well-being and being fulfilled sexually. I think it’s a topic that’s shied  away from,” Sturm said.

“I think it’s something that people of all ages and from different backgrounds can benefit from.”

Juniors Amanda Pazouki and Andrew Llewelyn shared Sturm’s sentiments. “People learn about it in high school, but they really have to figure it out on their own,” Llewelyn said.

Pazouki said, “It’s an awkward topic. No one wants to talk about it. It’s hush-hush.” She added, however,“It think it’s fun because it’s so awkward.”

Despite the awkwardness of talking about sex, let alone therapy for problems related to sex, it doesn’t seem to hold Root back. “I don’t like children because they get up early and I don’t like old people… what do I like? Sex.”

Ask Miss Meghan: Eating Disorders in Both Genders

Dear Miss Meghan,

I have a friend who pukes sometimes from working out too much. He also will make himself throw up if he had any alcohol that night, and twice I’ve heard him vomiting after he eats. My sister has bulimia, so I’m worried he might have an eating disorder, but I’ve never heard of a guy having one. How can I help him?

-Waiting for your weigh-in

Dear Waiting,

First off, I’m glad that you wrote in. It can be difficult to notice eating disorders in men or women.

Thankfully, we have come a long way in symptom recognition for women who are struggling with body image and weight, and one can frequently find an article in Cosmo about eating disorders alongside the pop culture conversations about starlets who are “too thin” (yet sadly right next to that is an advertisement for the “best ways to shed ten pounds”).

However, we do not frequently engage in conversation around how eating disorder symptoms manifest in men.

We often see eating disorders manifest in male athletes, who need to be a certain weight or size to perform, such as in wrestling, racing cars, horse racing, or running.

However, an eating disorder can manifest in males who are not athletes as well.

Research reports that about 10 percent of all individuals diagnosed with an eating disorder are male, but also that males who fit the criteria for having an eating disorder are frequently not evaluated for those symptoms.

Therefore, it is much harder for males to get the help they need if they have an eating disorder.

Also, culturally we seem to be narrowing our definition of what a “real” man is, so we see men going to more extreme measures to fit into that typology.

If we follow Jersey Shore logic, you are not a real man if you don’t GTL every day (gym, tan, laundry for those non-Jersey Shore fans).

Any of the following may indicate presence of an eating disorder in men or women: excessive exercise, bingeing (excessive eating), purging (vomiting, using laxatives, diuretics or other means following eating), restriction (severe constraints of the amount of food eaten), inability to maintain less than 85 percent of expected weight based on age and height, or a pre-occupation with weight or body image.

Presence of any of these symptoms is a concern. The best approach to helping out your friend is to call him out.

Tell him that you are worried about some of his choices, and want to know if he is willing to speak to someone about it. If that does not work, talk to mutual friends and let them know you are worried.

The more people involved, the less he is able to hide his symptoms. Another option is to see if he can come into Counseling and Health Services to learn about the effects that repeated purging can have on his body, like his throat, stomach, and teeth and some of the mental health aspects.

I had a good friend in college who would purge after she went out drinking every time so that “she wouldn’t feel hung-over.”

While this may seem logical to the developing brain, in reality if you drink so much that you are hung-over, the solution that is safer for your body is to drink less alcohol and drink more water.

Sincerely eating my lunch while typing,

Miss Meghan

Ask Miss Meghan: Are Condoms Really That Effective?

Dear Miss Meghan,
My friends and I were wondering if you could settle a debate for us: How effective are condoms really? The package says they are 98 percent effective, but we’ve heard a lot of stories about people getting pregnant or STIs even when a condom is used.
-Jimmy

Dear Jimmy,

I’m going to answer your question assuming that you are talking about male condoms, if that is okay with you. The answer to your debate over battle hats is that condoms are only as effective as the persons using it.

The wonderful folks who make condoms have a certain standard that they have to maintain in order to distribute their product here in the USA, and I’d wager that no one is sitting around the factory poking holes in every few just for fun (lets chalk that one up to urban legend).

Most latex condoms are 98 percent effective against pregnancy, and highly reduce the risk of transmitting an STI, but that assumes you do everything 100 percent correctly, every time.

Yes, correct condom use is more than just putting it on. The first step is to make sure the condom is not expired. Second, you want to make sure that you are using the correct size. Penises come in all shapes and sizes.

If you have condom that is too big or too small, it can slip off or reduce circulation and/or pleasure. Length of the penis is less an issue than width (with a shorter penis, just do not unroll the condom all the way). Plenty of websites have explanations of how to find your correct condom size.

One of my favorites is condomania.com/TheyFit. TheyFit is actually a custom line of condoms, and from the site you can print off a measuring tool that gauges width and length. The TheyFit brand can be pricey, but if you call Condommania they can recommend mainstream brands that are similar in size.

Once you have found the correct size, and are sure that the condom you are using isn’t expired (and that there are no holes or tears in the package), you want to put it on the (erect) penis before it gets anywhere near your partner’s genital area. Pre-cum can contain semen, so if gets near the vaginal opening or on the outside of the condom, there is a higher risk of pregnancy.

When putting a condom on, you want to leave a bit of room at the tip, so it is helpful to squeeze the tip (getting any air out as well) as you roll it down all the way to the base of the penis. Lubricated condoms can be slippery fellas, so use two hands, or have your partner help.

Once it is on, there are still a few more things to do to ensure proper usage. If at any point it slips off or rips, put a new one on (again, because of pre-cum). Finally, when done, you need to hold onto the base of the condom while you are pulling it out, and then take it off.

If you take all these steps, every time, then condoms are 98 percent effective. Research has provided us with a “typical use” rate of pregnancy which is around 86 percent (a 14 percent chance of pregnancy).

If you do not use any type of birth control over, there is an 85 percent chance of pregnancy, so I think that, even without perfect use, your odds are much better with a condom than without.

If you want to know more about condoms, other birth control, STIs, or other sex related questions, stop by the Campus Center the week of February 7th-11th where we will be tabling for Safer Sex week with demonstrations, sex jeopardy, condom roses, and Ask-a-Nurse.

Also Love Lines will be held Wednesday, February 9th at 8pm in Cole Cinema and don’t miss the Vagina Monologues.

Happy Safer Sex week ya’ll!

Sincerely Safer,
Miss Meghan