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How Women Can Talk About STIs and Testing

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How can women talk about STIs and getting Tested?

Kate McCombs from http://www.SexGeekdom.com, Ashley Manta from http://www.AshleyManta.com and Cathy Vartuli from http://www.TheIntimacyDojo.com share tips and their experiences.

Cathy: Hey, everyone. We’re talking about STDs and getting tested. We know that as women, there’s a lot of stigma around that. We’d like to discuss our views and share different ways to make it more comfortable. Would you like to introduce us?

Ashley: Sure. I’m Ashley Manta from http://www.AshleyManta.com, and this is Kate McCombs from http://www.SexGeekdom.com, and Cathy Vartuli from http://www.TheIntimacyDojo.com.

Cathy: We’re glad you’re here with us. I know when I first got tested, it was many years ago, and I was so embarrassed.  My boyfriend had cheated on me and I needed to find out if I had anything … if I contracted anything through him. I was so nervous to talk to the doctor. While he was professional, it wasn’t very encouraging or welcoming.  There was a lot of … I perceived it as shaming. It could have not been, but kind of like why nice women would have to get tested. If I was a good girl, I wouldn’t have that problem.

Kate: I think in my experience with a lot of medical doctors and anyone in the medical field, they’re uncomfortable talking about STIs or sexual-health related things in general. It’s often such a … you can visibly see their discomfort. There’s been wonderful exceptions to that, but more often than not, they’re reinforcing the stigma just simply with the attitude and the approach they have to the interaction.

Cathy: They don’t get a lot of sex education. Most doctors are not that educated. I’ve had them tell me things about my anatomy that I know aren’t true. “The G-spot doesn’t really exist.” “Oh, really? I could have sworn it was there last night.”

What are your experiences?

Ashley: Well, a couple of years ago, I was actually diagnosed with herpes. My health care professional that diagnosed me was really like, “I have terrible news. I’m so sorry to be the one to tell you this.” That kind of set the stage for me of being, “Oh my gosh! What is it? Is it horrible? What’s wrong with me?” And it turned out to be herpes, which although a lifelong thing that I will have to live with, is not something terrible. It’s just another part of who I am. If I had chronic allergies, I’m going to have those for the rest of my life, but it’s not stigmatized the way herpes is.

Cathy: We were talking earlier, I think it was the 1950s. Before the 1950s, herpes was not a known problem.

Ashley: Right.

Cathy: They found a drug that helped reduce it, and then media got in the way and started saying what

Ashley: … created the stigma.

Cathy: created the shame, and “Oh my God, this is horrible. You could give it to your partner” kind of thing.

Kate: The reality is that there are a lot of things you can do when you … if you have herpes, preventing your partners from getting it.

Ashley: Absolutely. My partner still doesn’t have it. We’ve been together almost two years.

Kate: There’s a huge space I think for education is for how to manage these things and … I think that just highlights just the lack of conversations that are happening at all about … meaningful conversations about STIs. Most of the messaging people get is entirely fear-based.

Ashley: It is.

Cathy: If your partner will ask you to get tested, a lot of people would be insulted or ashamed. A lot of women I know have told me how upset they were that their partner had asked them to go and get tested together. But to me, it’s a loving act. If I … If someone … If we both get tested, we’re both relaxed. We can be more intimate in our relationship. It’s not indicating that they think you’re dirty or unclean … and people do use the word clean to describe not having STDs. I have seen you shower. You look perfectly clean.

Ashley: Right. Absolutely. It’s so frustrating when we used words like, “Oh, she didn’t look dirty” when someone has an STD and maybe got it from someone else, because it’s not a dirty or clean thing. It’s a health thing. We don’t say someone’s dirty when they have the flu.

Kate: Right. Absolutely. We don’t say, “Why didn’t you wash your hands, you dirty person?” 

Cathy: How could you can’t talk…

Kate: Oh yeah

Cathy: I think that when we start looking at the fact that a lot of people in this culture aren’t tested … when I first started dating, I was so surprised because usually about the third date, not that I was planning on sleeping with them, but I’d have Reid Mihalko’s Safer Sex Elevator Speech. It is a great door hanger that he gives out sometimes. There’s a YouTube video on that too on the channel. I would have that [inaudible 00:04:31] because I wanted to see if we’re compatible, like could they handle me talking about it? Ninety percent of the men that I talked to had been dating and sleeping with another women, and had not been tested. And I’m like, “Oh no, I’m sure we’re fine.” But you have no idea.

Kate: That’s like saying …

Ashley: … I’m sure I’m not pregnant. Unless you take a test, you have no way of knowing that until symptoms start happening.

Cathy: And for a lot of STDs, there are no symptoms.

Ashley: Exactly.

Cathy: Or for some people, there are no symptoms.

Kate: Especially for women, in particular. I think it’s one of the reasons why Chlamydia is so prevalent. In Australia, there’s a lot of discussion and research happening around Chlamydia right now. One of the things that I thought was really interesting is that the average person with the Chlamydia diagnosis, has had something like 1.2 partners in the last year. These are not … It’s not something that only promiscuous people get. Bu there’s still this incredible stigma and the assumptions that you would have symptoms when in fact most women especially, have no symptoms.

Ashley: How do you talk to your partners or prospective partners about getting STD testing or having that conversation about STIs? What do you say? What do you do? Leave us some comments. Let us know. Let’s have a discussion. Talking is the best way to open up the subject and get rid of some of the stigma.

Cathy: Yes. If you’re worried about it, bring it up with your partner yourself. That can be really powerful. Let us know.

Ashley: Let us know.

Kate: Thanks.

 

More articles on how to improve your sex skills:

Talking about STIs with Ashley Manta

Trauma and Sexuality

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