Real Talk: Answers to Your Sexual Health Questions
This article discusses a mature topic. Our 17-year-old and younger readers are encouraged to read this with an adult.
The song that has been stuck in my head all summer has been Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy.” Not only is it catchy, but the video parody of Clueless is amazing! Of course, after seeing the video, I decided I had to re-watch the movie. I first saw this film as a teen who was unfamiliar with L.A., and most of the jokes went way over my head. Re-watching it now made me appreciate the film, not only for the L.A. jokes, but also for its depiction of adolescent friendships, relationships, and love. And it was a reminder of how totally clueless most of us were at that point in our lives.
While hilarious in the movie, in real life, being clueless, especially about sexual health, is anything but funny. As a sex educator, I hear so many myths and misconceptions about sexual health. Just like in Clueless, most of us talk to our peers about sexual health issues. But it’s also important to check in with a reliable source of accurate information, whether that’s a trusted adult or a local health center. So, in this month’s Ask Elizabeth column, I’ll be answering reader questions in an effort to help make all of us a little less clueless about sexual health.
Do you have a question that you’d like to see answered in this column? Send them to me at AskElizabeth@pp-la.org.
Q: If I look and feel fine, how can I know if my body is sexually healthy?
Even when everything seems normal, it’s important to see a health care provider on a regular basis. Remember, the most common symptom of an STD is no symptom, so the only way to know if you have one is to get tested. How often someone needs to go will vary from person to person depending on a variety of factors, like medical history, behavior, or age. A good rule of thumb is to make sure to go at least once a year, and more often if you have other risk factors, like a new sex partner or after having unprotected sex.
Being sexually healthy is about more than STDs, so make sure to ask your health care provider about what others types of exams or services you may need, how often you should get checked, or when you need to come back for a follow-up. Remember, you can always come to a Planned Parenthood health center for low or no cost, confidential health care.
Q: Can a virgin get an STD?
Everyone defines virginity differently. (Or, as Cher in Clueless puts it, “hymenally-challenged.”) Regardless of how someone defines virginity, anytime someone engages in oral, anal, or vaginal sex, they put themselves at risk for an STD. Some STDs can also be spread from skin-to-skin contact, which could happen either during sex or during other sex play or activities. Abstinence, or the conscious decision not to have oral, anal, or vaginal sex, is the best way to protect yourself from STDs. If you do choose to have any type of sex, the second best way to protect yourself is to use a male or female condom or a latex barrier (dental dam).
Q: Is there a minimum age to get condoms from a store or health center?
Many teens think they need to be a certain age to get condoms. In fact, there is no age requirement to get condoms at a drug store. Though it’s always important to talk to a parent or trusted adult about health and relationships, you don’t need a parent’s permission to get condoms, either. Many health centers offer no or low-cost condoms, and you can always call your local Planned Parenthood health center to ask about getting condoms.