FIND out the answers to the most frequently asked questions about sex and STIs in this week’s myth buster.
How many of us can talk about sex openly without blushing? Raise your hands!
Yes, just what I thought, not many.
It’s a topic that’s hard to broach because it makes us uncomfortable.
Many people have been conditioned to think of sex as unnatural, dirty, and wrong. But understand this - if you’re not getting honest information about your body and sexual health because of the unease that comes along with it, horror stories in the forms of ‘myths’ perpetuate, ending up causing more harm than anything else.
Program Resources Manager Felix Scholz from RedAware says an interest to learn about sexual health is not a judgement about you sexually or an indication you’re sexually active.
He says the stigma associated with discussing sexual health and safe sex is a problem not limited to international students alone, with Australians feeling the same way too.
“It is not a problem unique to any one cultural group which is why it is important to be as open and honest, keeping in mind not everyone has the same attitudes to sex,” Felix says.
“We talk about it as caring for your body. Safe sex is respect for you and the person you have sex with. You care about your health and theirs.”
As such, Meld spoke to a few international students and tried to get a sense of the common misconceptions they held about sexual health and the practice of safe sex – and with Felix’s help, debunked some of the most popular sex myths.
So here goes… test your knowledge, and do help spread the word and dispel these urban legends for good!
Myth 1: You’d know if you had an STI
People often think they’ll know if they have an STI because there is a visible symptom, like a sore, a rash or pain during sex or when urinating (if you do have any of these symptoms it’s best to see a doctor). But that’s not always the case. Many STIs can exhibit no symptoms at all. It’s important to have regular sexual health checks (at least annually, but more frequently if you have many sexual partners)
Myth 2: Only people who have sex with lots of people get STIs
Not true. It only takes one person to transmit an STI. And if you’re having unprotected sex with someone, look at it like you’re being exposed to all the people they’ve had unprotected sex with, and so on. Check out http://www.gettested.com.au for a good illustration.
Myth 3: You can use vaseline, baby oil, moisturiser etc as a lubricant with condoms
While lubricant is great because it makes sex feel better and reduces friction which could damage a condom, oil-based lubricants (like the above) actually break down latex condoms. So always use water based lubricant! When in doubt, read the packet. And only use lubricants designed for use during sex.
Myth 4: Birth control pills can protect you from STIs.
Hormonal contraceptives like the Pill and Implanon (the stick) only prevent pregnancy – they don’t prevent the transmission of STIs. The only reliable ways of preventing STI transmission are barrier methods, like condoms.
Myth 5: Oral sex is safe sex.
Not so! While you can’t get pregnant from oral sex, you can still transmit some STIs, such as herpes, gonorrhoea and syphilis. You can use condoms or dental dams for safer oral sex.
Myth 6: Using two condoms is better than using just one.
No! In fact it’s much worse. The friction caused between the two condoms means they are far more likely to break or not function properly.
Myth 7: “Pulling out” is an effective form of birth control.
No! No! No! “Pulling out” isn’t an effective form of birth control, nor does it protect you from STIs. Prior to ejaculation, men discharge small amounts of fluid (often referred to as pre-cum), this fluid can contain sperm and can transmit STIs. So it definitely isn’t effective.
Myth 8: You can’t get pregnant the first time you have sex.
A woman can get pregnant if she has unprotected sex with a man, and a man can get a woman pregnant, regardless of if it’s the first time they’re having sex or the thousandth!
Myth 9: You can catch an STI from a toilet seat.
This old favourite! Do not worry about catching an STI from a toilet seat. STIs usually don’t live so well outside of the body, and the body parts in contact with the toilet seat aren’t particularly well suited to transmitting infections. It’s important to remember to wash your hands though!
Myth 10: You can’t get pregnant when you’re having your period.
It is uncommon, but it is possible to get pregnant while during menstruation – and of course you are still at risk of STIs if you have unprotected sex at any time.
Myth 11: The emergency contraceptive pill is a reliable form of birth control.
The emergency contraceptive pill is for just that – emergencies! It isn’t a substitute for a regular contraceptive method like condoms or the pill, and it won’t protect you against STIs!
Myth 12: As soon as you start taking birth control pills, they will start protecting you.
The pill doesn’t prevent pregnancy the moment you take it. It varies depending on the type of pill, so you should always speak to your doctor about your prescription, and read the information that comes with the pill.
Myth 13: A Pap test (Pap smear) is a sexual health test
Many people, especially women, think Pap tests (which are recommended in Australia every two years for women over 18 who have had sex) check for STIs. The Pap test is only a screening test for early signs of cervical cancer. But, while you’re at the doctor having a Pap test, it’s a great opportunity to get a sexual health test too!