Hi Dr. Nick | Issue 06
Gotta Get Down on Friday
Sex. Itís fun. Itís fun in relationships, itís fun casually, itís fun when you love somebody, and itís fun when you donít. Letís never underestimate how fun sex can be because, in the words of Rebecca Black, itís ďfun, fun, fun, fun. [Iím] looking forward to the weekend.Ē But like Mum always used to say, ďitís all fun and games until somebody loses an eye to Chlamydial conjunctivitis.Ē
... Mum was weird.
To wrap up our sex talk, I want to talk about the risks of sex. Cue the cacophony of audible ďwe know that alreadyĒ eye rolling in the Link.
Risks during sex are like a lovely bunch of coconuts standing in a row; there are big ones, small ones and ones that leave you crying in the shower while listening to Adele. In this column I want to touch on a few of them. Namely: Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs), pregnancy, and emotional harm.
STIs are actually pretty simple to cover. Theyíre ridiculously common, many people donít get symptoms, youíre at risk of long term complications regardless of whether or not you have symptoms, testing is simple and pain-free, most are curable with a couple of specific antibiotics given early, they can be passed on at any point during sex, they can be passed on with pretty much any type of sex (oral, vaginal, anal, even non-penetrative sex), they can infect any part of the body, and we all tend to be really awkward around them. Which is stupid.
An STI is either a bacterial or a viral infection. Iíve never met anybody whoís embarrassed to say they caught a cold back in high school or is ashamed about getting antibiotics for a sore throat, but the moment a bug is ďsexually transmittedĒ itís somehow unspeakably evil.
Iíve had gonorrhoea and non-specific urethritis before. Iíve also had the flu. The flu was worse.
Testing for STIs involves peeing in a cup. Depending on what else youíre at risk for you might need an incredibly tiny swab (genital, oral, or anal) or a blood test. If you come back positive for the more common ones, or if thereís a high suspicion in clinic, youíll be given two pills and/or a shot of antibiotics. Thatís it. The worst part is having to inform anybody youíve been in contact with in the past three months (not nearly as awkward as youíd expect) and abstain from sex for seven days.
Pregnancy is slightly more complicated. It comes about in the same way, but isnít as ethically and logistically as clear-cut as infections. New Zealand has some abysmal teen pregnancy statistics; weíre world leaders among developed nations. The first afternoon I spent in a youth clinic, two thirds of my patients were pregnant. The oldest was 19.
Really think about what you would do if you or your partner were pregnant: keep, adopt, abort. All three options come with significant downsides. If you canít handle that, then you need to be vigilant with contraception. For guys, that means condoms; for girls, thereís a bit more of a selection. Chat to your GP, or family planning, or the sexual health centre. Always remember the Emergency Contraception Pill is an option and medico-legally it must be dispensed in a non-judgmental manner at pharmacies.
Finally, the touchy-feely crap. Your emotions and sense of self-worth are a huge facet of health that we often overlook. Taylor Swift has made her career out of the pain caused by relationships and pretty much every person will be able relate to it. Emotional health is a topic for the future, but I flag it here to remind you that while sex is fun, itís not all ďpartying, partying, yeah!Ē