Special Hugs, STIs, and Stigma

By Andrea Broekemeier

Last week I got to attend the presentation, Best Sex Ever with Laci Green. It was hilarious, informative, and surprisingly blunt. The reactions of the crowd upon seeing a giant vagina and vulva displayed across the screen two minutes into the talk were priceless. It got me thinking about a lot of things, including stuff that has happened in my own life, specifically related to sex education.

My high school wasn’t on the bottom of the list as far as quality sex education goes (we actually learned about birth control and where babies come from), but it was by no means on the top. We were shown all the gross pictures of severe infections, and the message always came down to “don’t have sex,” especially after we looked at how often birth control fails. We even had speakers who were teen mothers come in to talk to the girls about how they used so many kinds of birth control and still got pregnant, thus ruining their social lives. I don’t remember the details on what they taught us about STI’s other than the general feelings of horror at the idea of getting one. It wasn’t until I was a bit older that I realized that STI’s really aren’t all that bad, which Green emphasized when she got to it in her presentation in between talking about masturbation and consent.

What’s the biggest difference between a sexually transmitted infection and other types of infections? Sex. That “special hug” that just about everybody loves is the reason why STI’s are demonized. Most STI’s are treatable, and even the dreaded herpes is so common, a lot of places don’t even test for it when checking for other infections (CDC on herpes screening ). Green explained that this demonization of STI’s, and in turn the people who have them, paradoxically allows them to spread. A lot of sex education focuses on the bad stuff, like those gross pictures, but constantly showing images of what those infections look like when they’re causing symptoms leads to the belief that there will always be visible signs of an STI. People think their partners “look clean,” and then fail to use protection under a false sense of security. In addition, people get scared to get tested because they don’t want to be labelled as someone who is “dirty” if it turns out they have something. A lot of people end up unknowingly spreading treatable diseases which can cause infertility or cancer.

I think Laci Green helped take some of that anxiety away from sex by being honest about how infections work and how to prevent them. I mean, in high school they taught us what a female condom was, but I’d never seen one before the talk. And I don’t remember dental dams ever being mentioned in sex education class, even though they did tell us that you can get an STI from oral sex. How were ladies supposed to get lovin’ down there before dental dams? It’s refreshing seeing someone talk about sex in a frank, truthful way, without trying to scare people away from doing things a lot of them are going to do anyway. I feel like we could use a lot more people like Laci Green in our sex education classes.

“I feel like we could use more people like Laci Green in our sex education classes.” Tweet this quote

Andrea is a 23 year old student at St. Cloud State who loves to learn and try new things. She likes Sci-fi (way too much), and is proud to be a book nerd.

Photograph courtesy of buzzfeed.com

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