Why are so few of us discussing our sexual health – and what does it mean for our junk?
What are the most common things that go through your mind before you jump into bed with someone? Do you worry about your three-day stubble, scrabble in your bag for an emergency condom, or try to remember that obscure and horrifying sex move you saw on Reddit last week?
Well, a new study suggests there’s one thing almost half of us are failing to do. According to a survey of people aged between 18 and 35 carried out by Cosmo and Esquire, a whopping 47% of us are not asking about our sexual partners’ STI testing results before getting closely acquainted with their genitals.
This is bad news for everyone. Sure, it can be awkward enquiring when – if – the object of your desire last went to the clinic for some uncomfortable swabbing. But getting jiggy without it can be a real risk. Around one in 10 sexually active people under the age of 25 are thought to have chlamydia, and more than 60% of the global population under the age of 50 are infected with some form of herpes. There’s even a new strain of terrifyingly-termed ‘super-gonorrhoea’ on the rise, which is highly resistant to antibiotics and described by doctors as ‘almost impossible’ to treat.
Another issue is that a lot of STIs are completely symptomless, so pretty common to be carrying an infection without ever realising it. Nearly a third of the survey respondents said they had either previously had an STI or were unsure if they’d ever had an STI. A further third of people had never been tested for STIs. Factor in all those people who don’t realise there’s something amiss in their underwear department, and the risk of picking something up becomes pretty real.
According to Cosmo & Esquire’s report, women are smarter about their sexual health than men. 58% of women said they had been tested for STIs in the last year, compared to just 33% of men. Men were also three times more likely than women to have never been tested for STIs.
Interestingly, although 82% of people said they thought both halves of a sexual relationship were responsible for talking about sexually transmitted infections, more than half of the women taking the survey said they were the ones to initiate the STI conversation, compared to 28% of men. So that’s something we should all do better at – because it’s pretty unfair to rest the burden of good sexual health on just one side of the arrangement.
It’s a given that STIs can be an uncomfortable topic, especially if you’re just looking for some casual fun. But you know what’s even more uncomfortable? Rashes, sores, or unpalatable discharges erupting around your pubic region. So next time you’re planning a roll in the hay, take a minute to think about the health and wellbeing of you, and your partner. Given that STI screenings are free and confidential in the UK, and easily available from your GP surgery, GUM clinics and Brook services, it’s pretty hard to argue against getting checked out. You can even pick up a free do-it-yourself STI kit for free from SH:24!
What are you waiting for? Let’s get swabbing!