Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Real Comprehensive Sex Education

I'm getting pretty damn tired of reading about sex-related deaths in the news, especially when, in most cases, it's entirely preventable. And that's what makes it frightening. Even more frightening, however, might be the fact that I'm not talking about sexually transmitted diseases.

As the Center for Disesase Control releases new information that statistics on HIV and AIDS have been underreported and people get up in arms about bettering sex education- something I want very much- I nonetheless start to get a little ancy.

Undoubtedly, more education is always better. And yet I can't help but think that sex education reform- prompted by the CDC's report and these studies which have shown that abstinence-only education doesn't delay sex in teenagers- will change very much.

Yes, there will finally be correct statistics about birth control and more information on preventing the spread of disease. However, the only safety issues facing teenagers are not just these two. Why are we always talking about safe sex only in terms of STD's and pregnancy? People are getting injured- and in some cases even dying- because they are having unsafe sex. And more often than not, this unsafe sex features all the condoms and clean bills of sexual health and latex barriers you could ever want.

There are countless books, magazine articles, websites, and TV shows dedicated to the art of sex help, and the questions about having sex safely (or dealing with the consequences of unsafe sex after the fact) that appear therein are not just about STD's and pregnancy. As people everywhere are exposed to more and more types of kinky fun through TV, movies, and the Internet, they often attempt them with no thought to issues of safety. And that, unfortunately, is how people end up heartbroken, injured, dead, or in jail.

Let me throw up a list of nine potential dangers that are in dire need of discussion and information dissemination:

1) Anal sex. More and more people are doing it- men and women both. And given today's youth's reasoning that anal sex doesn't compromise one's virginity (a whole 'nother can of worms) and erroneous belief that it is 100% pregnancy-proof, it's often the go-to sex for those young and unwed. Nobody is discussing the various, very real dangers of anal sex: the risk of urinary tract infection in men from performing anal sex without a condom, cross-contamination and potential infections from using objects in the vagina that were previously in the anus, using popular numbing lubes to mask warning pain, tears in the anal lining that may become infected and lead to very painful and serious fistulas (particularly in women), and the very ubiquitous emergency room situation wherein something- sex toy or other foreign object- becomes lost in your lower intestine because it didn't have a flared base (or wasn't meant to go up there in the first place).

2) Breath play. While it might seem like an obscure branch of hardcore BDSM, more children and teens are dying than anyone could expect, as the "Choking Game" remains popular, yet is rarely discussed. Erotic asphyxiation often remains a very, very, very dangerous solitary masturbatory aid for many- many times fatal. And perhaps even more frightening for the BDSM practicioner who prides him/herself on safety, the greatest danger of this act is not actually strangulation- most people who die doing this die of a massive heart attack, usually 15 or 20 minutes after they’re done.

3) Porn addiction. Long gone are the days when a teenager's- or even an adult's- porn collection consisted of some occasionally-visited dirty magazines. The Internet's seductive pull means trillions of images and videos are right at your fingertips- a load of media so massive it can become almost confusing and very hard to handle in a reasonable way. More and more kids and teenagers complain of being addicted to porn, and whether it's a true and real psychological addiction or just worried concerns over their constant usage, it's an important issue . . . that nobody is talking about.

4) Pedophilia charges. And no, I'm not talking about overly-hyped "predator" scares that make parents run to block Myspace on their computers. Rather, with cell phone cameras, the glamorous idea of taping your own sex and taking sexual pictures, and the ease of sending such through the medium of the Internet, a big problem has arisen: older teens (16, 17) are taking pictures and video of themselves, provocative, naked, having sex, just like a million other consenting adults. Whether they keep them to themselves or share them with their boyfriends/girlfriends, they are very often unaware that possessing such erotic material is illegal and can get them branded a pedophile, something that can haunt them for the rest of their lives. How can something so potentially dangerous not be warned about?

5) Constriction. And once again, in the trend of Internet-related dangers, here comes that spam e-mail trumpeting that you can get a bigger penis. Combine that with constant cheesy but reputable-looking Enzyte commercials, and guys are (more) worried about their penis size- enough so to seek out penis pumps, to try jelqing, and to otherwise constrict their wangs. Unfortunately, this can lead to rupturing capillaries and blood vessels in the penis, and even internal hemorrhaging that might lead to impotence or Peyronie’s Disease- neither good things, and definitely not something you want happening from a simple wank!

6) BDSM/kink. It's become so mainstream that everybody seems to want to try it, even if it's only lightly tying up their lover and splashing some candle wax on them. Unfortunately, novices are the ones who are bound to make more mistakes- ones that can cause lots of injuries. Using wrong (and common household) materials to bind can end up causing nerve damage, circulation problems can come from positions and not moving enough, the aforementioned breath play can kill someone, and the candles we often have at home- something pink and scented from Bath & Body Works- burn infinitely hotter and blister skin due to their chemicals for color and scents. People who want more intense/extreme acts might go even more dangerous- with the very not-to-be-done-by-amateurs e-stim- and many times die because of it. And, as often comes when participating as the do-er in extreme BDSM acts, you run the risk of causing death . . . and as if that isn't enough, you will probably be convicted and sentenced for your part in it, however unintentional it was.

7) Dangerous masturbation. People love to masturbate, and they love to make it better, sexier, kinkier. Unfortunately, especially when they're underage, teens can't get the safe sex toys to do it. That's when they get the wacky idea to use some unconvential stuff . . . though not only youngsters are doing it. Trips to the emergency room and potential long-term damage (not to mention a ton of embarrassment) await the ill-informed, from sticking your penis into vacuum cleaners or pool water jets, it's going to be bad. And it's not just the boys- one doctor reported a young woman with an acute onset of abdominal pain, who was found to have extensive pneumoperitoneum (i.e. an air embolism), which came from some Jacuzzi jet stimulation. Fortunately, it only gave her some pain- air embolisms can be potentially fatal.

8) Poppers. Schools can't seem to get enough of telling kids to stay away from the drugs- especially ones with very small risks like marijuana. But somehow they seem to gloss over poppers, or amyl nitrate, so often used in the gay community and other progressive sexual communities. Considering how dangerous and degenerative their effects can truly be, I find it apalling.

9) Alternative lifestyles. And no, I'm not talking about the textbook "gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender" cliche. All over the place, kids are getting ideas about trying different arrangements, and yet there is little, if any, discussion about polyamory, something difficult even for the seasoned and informed. As more and more younguns come out and identify as bisexual, they are often confronted with the possibility of threesomes and polyamory, and it's truly complex. Why isn't such advice about handling emotions and fostering communication about this given alongside that for two-party relationships?

I look forward to sex education getting a little bit better, but I'd much rather overthrow the whole thing and start from scratch- Carol Queen and the Center for Sex & Culture sending out licensed sexologists to discuss not only those issues of STD's and pregnancy, but all of the ways that sex can be made safer.

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