I know my last two posts have been about rape, however, I’d like to veer away from that for a second and talk about something that’s been on my mind: sexual health.
Last week, our ShoutOut group had a very interesting conversation about sex. More importantly, our sexual health as women. Each woman held a different perspective about their sexual health and it really opened my eyes to the different experiences us women have had in our lifetimes.
I grew up in a very open minded and safe household. Talking about my period, sex, the gynecologist, birth control, and everything that embodies sexual health was very accepted, nay, encouraged. The first time I started my period, I was thirteen. That night, my mom and I went to the mall to buy me my first purse (because when you start your period, it’s time for a “real woman’s purse” right?) My mom strongly encouraged me to see a gynecologist during this time because she wanted to make sure I was healthy “down there.” I didn’t fully understand the reasoning for this, but my mom explained something very important to me that has stuck with me to this day: As women, we have a complex reproductive system. If we want kids one day or not, we should take very good care of ourselves. That means seeing your gynecologist regularly to make sure your lady parts are healthy and having open conversations about your sex life (even if those conversations only take place with your doctor/gyno). To this day, I see my gynecologist regularly and I have open conversations with my mom, friends, and guys in my life about my sex life and my sexual health.
However, through the years, I’ve seen that many girls have different experiences with their upbringing regarding sexual health. Many of my friends have households that hold the “don’t ask, don’t tell” rule, the “you’re an innocent flower” standard, or the “it’s not a big deal, just do whatever you want” mindset. I believe that young women treat their sexual health as their female role model did (or still does). Whether that be their mother, older sister, or close friend, whoever they look up to is going to set the standard for how they treat their bodies. From what I’ve experienced, this can be a blessing or a curse. The woman I looked up to (and still do) is my mother. She was open to having conversations about her previous experiences and what she learned throughout her life regarding her sexual health as a woman. This openness and education guided me to take my sexual health seriously. When I felt ready to have sex for the first time, I talked with my mom and saw my gynecologist. When I wanted to try birth control pills, I talked with my mom and saw my gynecologist. When I wanted to get an IUD, I talked with my mom and saw my gynecologist. Can you see a pattern? This support and guidance has allowed me to maintain my sexual health.
I know many girls do not have this relationship with their mothers or their role models. That is why I’m writing this post. You’re not doomed if you don’t have someone to go to like this. I’ve been that someone that many of my friends have gone to for advice regarding birth control options or healthy sex habits. They recognize that I’ve got a no-judgement policy and that the only thing that matters when it comes to your sexual health is just that, your sexual health. The advice that I have for girls and women in this scenario is to explore your options. Even though I know a lot about sexual health, I always advise my friends to see a gynecologist. No matter what the issue is. Every woman has a right to do this. If you’re not sure how to go about it, google the closest health center or gynecologist to you. There are websites that can direct you to your nearest preference. I’ve had many friends that were afraid to take this step. However, when they finally saw a professional and asked the questions they desperately needed answers to, their nerves were settled and they were more knowledgable about their bodies.
I recognize that not every woman in this world has the same opportunities and rights to owning their sexual health. BUT, if you are a woman who does have this opportunity/right, then take full advantage of it. In our current political environment, you never know when it could be taken away (hint: it’s already being taken away).
(If you’re a JMU student, you can contact the JMU Health Center and schedule an appointment. If you don’t want to go through your school, you can contact a local gynecologist and check for availability.)
I’m a huge advocate for men and women being equal and having a voice in every matter. However, when it comes to women’s sexual health, I believe men should shut their mouths and let the women run the show (@Trump @Pence). Now, if they magically grow a vagina, start bleeding every month, spend a shit ton of money on period items, have sex and then worry they’re pregnant, gain weight and break out from their birth control pills, get slut shamed, have strange cramps and worry their uterus is abnormal, then they can speak up. But until that happens, us women need to take control and take care of our bodies. And males, if you wanna go to Target and buy every woman tampons/pads/panty liners/menstrual cups/ etc., that’d be greatly appreciated. Until next time, hang loose and rock on.