Learning about sex can keep you safe...
By Shari Levine
We all wanted it, but nobody could get it until 5th grade. Each year Mrs. Hanson (we called her the sex lady) would visit Carter Elementary school. With her film strips and boxes of goodies, she arrived to share THE SECRET with the chosen few -- the fifth grade class. As the door to their classroom shut and the lights dimmed, we heard echoes of nervous giggles all over school.
I thought my turn would never come. But it did. My fifth grade teacher sent home permission slips, so that parents could approve us learning THE SECRET from Mrs. Hanson. When she finally arrived, a few kids in my class were escorted out because their parents would not sign the permission slip. Then the boys went into to another classroom while the girls, both scared and excited, waited to hear THE SECRET from Mrs. Hanson.
She showed us a filmstrip (the 1970's equivalent of a video) and told us about menstruation. She handed out pink boxes full of girl stuff like maxi pads and brochures with information about periods from Kotex. And she talked about reproductive anatomy, saying the words penis and vagina out loud; giving us more details than any other adult had ever offered. But these crumbs of information left us hungry for more answers to our never ending questions about THE SECRET -- sex.
That was 1980. Now girls have access to more sex education than was ever dreamed of, from the Internet, at school, and in books. At Girl Zone, we want to give you the information you need to take care of yourself, to be healthy and happy.
Like good nutrition, exercise, and sleep, sexuality is a part of everybody's life (even though your parents may want to deny it.)
Sexuality is a very broad topic, including self-exploration, emotions, and contact with a partner. Fooling around, and intimate contact with a partner are the ways that people express their physical attraction and/or love.
Exploring your sexuality is normal and healthy. Having sex, intercourse, is normal as well, but can have physical and psychological risks.
(Sexual intercourse is when a male places his penis into a female's vagina. Ejaculation can occur but does not have to.)
Not only can a girl get pregnant from intercourse, but she is also at risk of getting a sexually transmitted disease (back in the 1980s, Mrs. Hanson called them Venereal Diseases or VD). Believe it or not, every year about 12 million people are treated for STDs, and about 3 million of them are teenagers. There are several different types STDs, and some can be cured while others, like HIV cannot.
The Girl Zone Guide to STDs
Most STDs are passed when there is skin-to-skin contact with the infected area. So, if you have sexual contact (not just intercourse) with a person who is infected with an STD, you are at risk of getting that disease.
What is it?
There are more than 20 different STDs. Five of the most common are listed here.
Chlamydia is the most common STD, and is caused by a bacterial infection. Symptoms can include abnormal vaginal discharge, and pain or burning during urination. Doctors say that about 75% of women with chlamydia have no symptoms at all. Chlamydia can be cured with antibiotic medications. Be sure to let any partners with whom you have had sexual contact know that you have chlamydia so that they can be treated.
Gonorrhea is also caused by a bacterial infection. The symptoms include abnormal discharge from the vagina, and painful or difficult urination. You can also have a sore throat and swollen glands, flu-like symptoms, and bleeding between menstrual periods. Like chlamydia, gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics. All sexual partners must be treated with antibiotics as well.
Genital Herpes is caused by a virus, and is so common that about one out of every four adults has herpes. Herpes causes painful blisters or sores in the genital area. People with herpes often feel a tingling, itching or burning sensation in their genitals before the sores appear. There are medications that can help to relieve the symptoms, but there is NO cure.
Genital warts is caused by a virus related the one that causes warts on your skin. Genital warts appear as small, painless bumps in the vagina or anus. The warts are removed either by applying a medication to them, or freezing them off. However, like genital herpes, genital warts cannot be cured, and will stay in your body for the rest of your life.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, destroys your ability to fight off disease. HIV infection can cause flu-like symptoms including fevers, joint pain, and nausea. Sweating at night, mysterious weight loss, tiredness and fever are other symptoms of HIV infections. While there is no cure for HIV, the virus can be controlled with medications.
Some people with sexually transmitted diseases have symptoms, and others do not. In general, if you have any of the following symptoms, you should get tested by your health care provider:
- Abnormal vaginal discharge
- Pain or burning during urination or intercourse
- Blisters, open sores, warts, rash, or swelling in the genital or anal areas or mouth
- Constant flu-like symptoms--including fever, headache, aching muscles, or swollen glands
Getting rid of it...
Some STDs are curable, but others are not, leaving you with a lifelong infection. If you have an STD, you need to tell all of your partners so that they can be treated. For more information about treatment, talk with your health care provider.
Protection from it...
To protect yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections, practice safer sex. The safestAnd remember that the use of drugs or alcohol will affect your behavior, and can put you at higher risk of infection because of your altered state. sex is abstinence, meaning that you do not have intercourse or you remain a virgin. Safer sex involves using a protective shield (a latex condom) when you have intercourse or oral sex with a monogamous (the same) partner. Condoms are about 99% effective in preventing most sexually transmitted infections and pregnancy, but they must be used every single time you have sex.
Take care of yourself from the inside out.
For more info go to the Planned Parenthood Site.