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Mehitabelle
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I'm kind of new to this website, and have been reading it and I think for the most part it's very well written, and a good counter to all the abstinence-only crap out there. So kudos, mostly. However. I find it a little astounding all the latex and things you're supposed to wear. For me at least, the fun in oral sex is in, y'know, the taste, and the specifically mouth-like feeling...ditto the hand kind...and I just think there's no possible way all that equipment is necessary, if you're not at risk for STDs. It seems like overkill. Major, major overkill.
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Heather
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Thing is, pretty much no one isn't at risk. And for those under 24? You guys have the highest rates of anyone, and they just keep rising because of not using condoms and dams (though truth be told, the risks are far higher for fellatio than cunnilingus).

Is it overkill? Really, that's a loaded question. When it comes to concerns for public, global health, no, because groups with huge rates of disease put us ALL at a greater risk. In other words, I'm not in that group, but if partners of mine are sleeping with folks from that group before me or while I'm with them, even when I do practice safer sex, my risks are increased because y'all don't.

And for yourselves, it is a sizeable risk. Some STDs and STIs are as treatable and temporary as the flu. But many are not curable and can have severe and lasting effects on you, your partners and your potential offspring, and you may have medical bills your whole life sue to them, bills that are a lot harder to pay than you'd imagine before you're self-sufficient. Ot heck, try keeping the energy for a job with Hep B.

Even the treatable ones are more serious than they would be because another part of safer sex that tends to get blown off by the under 24's is regular GYN exams and annual testing for STIs. Lots of young folks just don't get treatment at the onset of a problem.

So, if you ask me? I don't think it's overkill. I've been using this stuff for years and years (and hey, condoms, dams and gloves? Not major equipment, it's simple stuff that's easy to tote around), and taking care of my sexual health like clockwork for two decades and don't find it gets in the way of anything, especially my peace of mind and my ability to enjoy myself more during sex because I'm all too aware and very much not in denial about the actual risks.

I think the feeling of overkill doesn't come from those using and practicing safer sex, but from those who either never have (and thus imagine safer sex to be a major productionn it very much needn't be), or who feel funny because they don't know how to, or who just aren't confident enough yet to act in their own best interest when it comes to sex and sexual health. Even saying something like that oral sex with a dam doesn't feel "mouth-like" makes it clear you haven't tried it much, or at all before, because I assure you, it feels just like the oral sex that it is when you use a dam right.

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Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

My epitaph should read: "She worked herself into this ground."
-- Kay Bailey Hutchinson

[This message has been edited by Miz Scarlet (edited 05-19-2003).]


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Mehitabelle
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I don't understand, pardon me, how one can be at risk for sexually transmitted diseases, if one, and one's partner, are totally monogamous, meaning that neither of (ones? two? youse?) have so much as kissed anyone besides the two people I already mentioned.
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Mehitabelle
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And what's more...
No, I've never used a dam or a condom for oral sex, or a glove. I don't think it would be a big production. It would be a bigger production than nothing at all, of course, but that's sort of the definition of nothing...anyway. Immaterial. However. That doesn't mean that I'm not confident and in control of my sex life, I don't think, and while I don't want to argue, and I know that I'm just digging myself into a hole by getting defensive like this, it bothers me some that you implied I might be. Of course you have no idea who I am. That might be part of it.

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lemming
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The wrinkle comes in when you realize that although some diseases/infections are labeled as "sexually transmitted," they can be transmitted by other means as well.

Take herpes, for example. One can have oral herpes from childhood, and spread it to one's partner's genitals through oral sex.

Or HIV - blood transfusions, dirty needles, or from one's mother during childbirth.

There are other examples (CMV, Epstein-Barr virus, etc.), but the thing to remember is that one can have conditions that are not from sexual activity but can be spread by sexual activity.

Also, bacterial and yeast infections can originate in one partner and spread to other partners, and can be passed back and forth.

It's not overkill; it's just smart.

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Laurel Lemming
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"Take a little time for sunshine/Take a whole lot of time for love/...Take your life as it may come, 'cause boy, it'll be gone soon/Take a little time for howlin' at the moon..." - Sam Bush, "Howlin' at the Moon"


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PrettyGirlSuffering
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quote:
Originally posted by lemming:
Take herpes, for example. One can have oral herpes from childhood, and spread it to one's partner's genitals through oral sex.


Does this also mean couples who are married need to use condoms and dams when having oral sex?? I'm not married, but you would figure if you're married most people wouldn't use a condom if they're trying to get pregnant, or anything. Which sparks another question, do most married couples use condoms as birth control even if they aren't exactly trying to get pregnant??

So back to the oral sex question, if both spouses are totally std-free, but have had herpes simplex 1, should they still use condoms and dams for oral sex? (That sounds kind of like a "well that's an obvious answer question" but I'd still like to totally be positive on the answer).

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.a.m.a.n.d.a.

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lemming
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From our Infection Section on the main site:

quote:
There are two types of the Herpes Simplex Virus: Simplex I and Simplex II. Simplex I usually infects the mouth (cold sores are Herpes Simplex I) , and Simplex II usually infects the genitals. However, both types can be transmitted sexually (through kissing and oral sex as well as through skin and genital contact), and HS I is not limited to the mouth area. It can also sometimes cause genital-area or anal-area lesions. Herpes is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases in the United States.

So, yes, condoms and dental dams should be used for all sexual activity when you've got a partner with either herpes simplex 1 or 2, because they can be spread to either the mouth area or the genital area.

Oops, it's late - here's the article that came from: http://www.scarleteen.com/infection/herpes.html
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Laurel Lemming
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"Take a little time for sunshine/Take a whole lot of time for love/...Take your life as it may come, 'cause boy, it'll be gone soon/Take a little time for howlin' at the moon..." - Sam Bush, "Howlin' at the Moon"

[This message has been edited by lemming (edited 05-20-2003).]


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kissywissy11
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me and my bf both have regular STD checks, and we've only been with each other, so since we're both clean, why is it necessary for us to use them during oral sex?
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logic_grrl
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quote:
me and my bf both have regular STD checks, and we've only been with each other, so since we're both clean, why is it necessary for us to use them during oral sex?

If they've both tested negative for STDs after two sets of tests (with a 6 month gap between them) and are completely monogamous, then some people will choose to drop safer sex precautions.

This is pretty safe, but not 100% infallible - some STDs can't always be reliably screened for, especially in men, and of course even perfect monogamy doesn't rule out the possibility of one person contracting an STD through non-sexual means.

quote:
Does this also mean couples who are married need to use condoms and dams when having oral sex??

Yup - the marriage ceremony doesn't magically cure any STDs either person may be carrying!

If a couple are planning to have a baby, then the sensible thing to do is to get health check-ups (including STD screens) before they start trying to conceive.


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Heather
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Mehitabelle, what I said wasn't at all meant to be a put-down or an insult. My apologies if it came off that way.

But I do think those things are the biggest factors when we hear people who are really vehement about safer sex being "too much to deal with" or "a pain" especially if none of it has even been tried. Think about how many different sexual things we might try with a partner that can be pretty involved or take time to figure out how to work (fisting, role-play, anal sex, tantric sex, etc.); IMO, safer sex practices are really no different, save tthat they can literally save lives and safeguard everyone's health. And some of them can actually make sex better: really involved manual sex, for instance, tends to feel a lot better with gloves for most folks.

And clearly, for the highest risk groups, not practicing safer sex isn't working, and the idea that risks are so low is clearly false, for lots of reasons.

If two partners have had NO intimate contact, ever, with others, then yes, the risks are radically decreased for some STIs, nonexistent for others, but still present for some, like herpes or bacterial infections, as Laurel mentioned. But even those are rare instances, and most people in life are going to have had more than one partner. And epidemiologically speaking, the risks are higher from the onset for younger people because they are less resistant to disease and infection than most of their elder counterparts.

I can't know your own risk factors (and you didn't put them in here, but seemed to be asking more generally). But I can know the general risk factors for the population we serve, and the simple truth is, we serve a high-risk population who thinks they're a low one, which means that focusing on safer sex is really vital here. And since most of that population isn't really getting the lowdown on this, or hearing from people who not only practice safer sex and know how to, but plenty of whom know how to enjoy it, this is a good place for that. And for that reason, it tends to make me...wary, perhaps, to hear users dissing it who clearly haven't even tried it. I just don't feel our users need more of those messages -- they get enough of them everywhere else.

Obviously, everyone still gets to make their own choices regardless, but the only responsible place for us to come from is to tell them how to do that in the safest ways possible so that they can choose to do so and know how should they choose.


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Mehitabelle
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The hypothetical monogamous chick is me...
and neither I nor my boyfriend shoot heroin or do any kind of IV drugs...and I don't think either of us have ever had a cold sore (meaning that I haven't ever, and he hasn't had one that I've been aware of; I know I should ask him that, and I know that one can be a passive asymptomatic herpes carrier without knowing, so I'm not sure how much that actually means). What other risk factors do I need to be aware of? Are those the major ones though?

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Heather
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Well, everyone can get and pass on yeast and bacterial infections, for starters. Has no bearing on previous partners, nothing -- that's just about imbalances in one's body that happen now and then. CMV can also be transmitted nonsexually, as can public lice, etc.

And yes, Herpes and HPV are often asymptomatic. It also stands to mention that the high rates of STIs in young adults are NOT due to IV drug use -- and that's only an issue anyway with HIV and Hepatitis. The most common STIs are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact.

You can read up about all the other most common STDs and STIs right here at the site:

The STI Files:
 STI File: Bacterial Vaginosis
STI File: Chlamydia
STI File: Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
STI File: Gonorrhea
STI File: Herpes Simplex
STI File: Hepatitis B
STI File: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
STI File: Human Papilloma Virus (HPV, Warts)
STI File: Mononucleosis
STI File: Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID)
STI File: Pubic Lice
STI File: Scabies
STI File: Syphilis
STI File: Trichomoniasis

And the simple truth is that the most basic safer sex guidelines, as logic_grrl stated, work very well. Again, those are:
- 6 months of full monogamy at a minimum, during which both partners practice safer sex for manual sex, oral sex and vaginal/anal sex, and
- Two clear STD and STI screens for both partners during that time.

And hey, a first step is always to ASK partners about their sexual health history. Knowing if your boyfriend has oral herpes symptoms (cold sores) is a biggie, for instance. And all one needs do is ask.

After that, so long as you both stay monogamous and aren't greatly exposed in other ways, it's actually pretty safe to ditch the dams and condoms at that point if you choose for some activities (anal sex, for instance, carries a high bacterial risk, so condoms should be used regardless).


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Mehitabelle
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Thank you sexpert lady...I'm about due for a gyno appointment actually, so I can take care of that then at that point and get myself tested.
Now. Out of curiosity, and this is a pretty specific question that you're probably not equipped to answer, but I thought I might ask anyway.
What are my chances of contracting an infection of some kind from unprotected oral/manual (I think that term is funny only because I think of it as manual overdrive; manual vs. automatic, I don't know, personal quirk) sex under optimal circumstances minus STD tests and protection? (that probably doesn't sound very optimal, but bear with me...) And what are those circumstances?

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Mehitabelle
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In case I didn't make myself clear, I was looking for a number, or an adjective that corresponds roughly to a number percentage...not an "it doesn't matter, protect anyway."
And, to my credit, I guess, I'd like to state for the record that I think I'm doing all right so far and I have a happy and open and trusting and healthy I think relationship and that I like where I am and I like very much what I am doing ...and there is enough patience involved that we have managed quite swimmingly figuring it out for ourselves. For the record.

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Heather
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If neither of you have ever been tested, there really isn't any way I -- or anyone -- could answer that, basically.

In other words, if you said, "We don't practice safer sex, but a year ago, neither of us tested postive for any STDs or STIs and have been monogamous since with no known exposure to any STIs otherwise, " I could tell you that your risks are fairly minimal for certain STDs and STIs (such as syphilis or hepatitis or HIV, etc.), but unknown for others (such as Herpes or bacterial vaginosis).

But without ever having been tested, it'd just be guesswork.

And even with really specific information, no one is every going to be able to give risks in percents/numbers, because there are just way too many variables and too many different types of STDs and STIs, unless one were to sit down and go through health and life history for a person, knowing all their possible exposure sites and scenarios, as well as that of all their partners (and their partners, etc.).

But in the most general sense possible, though this is likely obvious, unprotected oral (especially with men/fellatio) sex is considered high risk, and unprotected manual sex moderate risk, according to most major world heath organizations and standards, and I'd concur.

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Heather Corinna
Editor and Founder, Scarleteen

My epitaph should read: "She worked herself into this ground."
-- Kay Bailey Hutchinson


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a_c_munson
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look at it this way Mehitabelle the chance of getting in a car accident with a seasoned safe driver is not that great. But would you ride without a seat belt? Or better yet would you let a kid ride in your car without one. Sure you may be ok, or you may just get bumps and bruises, or you may have something serious happen.
I would also state that yes lots of married couples use condoms. Lots of married couples get std testing done before the wedding. and all should get tested before trying to get pregnant. And most ob/gyns test pregnant women to make sure they are clean.

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lemming
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quote:
Originally posted by a_c_munson:
... most ob/gyns test pregnant women to make sure they are clean.

psst...let's say "clear" when we mean screening for STDs/STIs. "clean" implies that people with STDs or STIs are unclean, and that just isn't true, nor is it an attitude we wish to promote.

sometimes the smallest changes can make a difference.

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Laurel Lemming
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"Take a little time for sunshine/Take a whole lot of time for love/...Take your life as it may come, 'cause boy, it'll be gone soon/Take a little time for howlin' at the moon..." - Sam Bush, "Howlin' at the Moon"


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The1andonlyAmber
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quote:
Originally posted by lemming:

sometimes the smallest changes can make a difference.


Oh it's so true, and I've found theese posts really interesting.


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Why is it that the person that makes you cry, is the only one who can make you stop.

[This message has been edited by The1andonlyAmber (edited 05-21-2003).]


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Dag
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Hey all...

One thing I wanted to ask here. You said that HIV could be transfered from a pregnant woman to her baby - while this is totally logical due to the fact that the baby is made up of her matter and therefore logically shares any blood-based diseases she might have, wouldn't the baby die at birth or soon after birth due to the immune system defficieny? Hence, isn't it impossible for someone born with HIV to live through childhood? Or do I have something wrong here?


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Gumdrop Girl
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actually, your logic is a li'l bit off.

a baby does not share the same bloodstream as its mother. sure, there is food, oxygen and waste exchnage at the placenta, but no, they don't share blood literally.

how does a baby become infected with HIV? during delivery. a baby's immune system is pretty weak, so it can pick up the vrus pretty easily when it passes through the birth canal (it is a pretty bloody process and all). however, perinatal HIV infection can be prevented pretty effectively by treating the baby and mother with AZT. Oh, and HIV can be spread via breastmilk, too.

As for the baby dying? you're confusing HIV infection with full-blown AIDS. HIV has a *long* incubation period, so AIDS symptoms won't emerge immediately. If untreated, a baby can expect to live a few years before succumbing to AIDS. but if treated with drug cocktails, the child can expect to survive much longer.

incidentally, there are a lot of laws in progress that will make HIV testing mandatory for pregnant women. NY's already seen a drastic decrease in infant HIV infections because of thier law. CA just got their law signed (last ditch effort by ex-Gov. Davis). And there is federal legislation in Congress right now.

Can you tell i'm doing a research presentation on HIV testing for pregnant women?

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You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution, but in the end, being part of the problem is much more fun.
Love Scarleteen? By donating just $1, you can help keep us around.


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Dag
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Thanks for clearing that up.
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Dark Blue
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about the whole dental dams/gloves/comdoms for oral thing... i totally understand why its a risk not to, and telling people the dangers of it is definately good becuase a lot of people might not understand the danger in what they're doing. But at the same time, i can see how being all like "sorry hunny, i can't touch you without a glove" doesn't appeal to everyone.. so while I'm ok with the msg being out there, i don't necessarily take the precautions to heart for myself... I kinda feel the way Mehitabelle does in this way.
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Gumdrop Girl
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blue, back in the day and to a few ppl who seem to live in the dark ages), asking your partner to wear a condom was seen to be an act of distrust. well, we're more modern and wiser in the 21st century and we know that wearing a condom is an important way to prevent the spread of STDs and unwanted pregnancy. It can take some time, but with some work, we can change people's behaviors to be healthier.

what we're working on now is getting people into the mindset that:
1. there are risks associated with unprotected sexual contact, including manual sex
2. these risks can affect YOU
3. when they affect you, they're really bad
4. it's much better to wear a glove to keep yourself safe than keep risking your health for something that in the long run isn't really worth it
5. getting gloves is not so hard and with the right advising, you can get into the habit, too
6. if you care about your partner's health and your own health, you will maintain these good habits.

DarkBlue, you are at #2. You've heard us tell you what can happen if you don't take protective measures during manual sex, but you still don't think the risk applies to you, and your feelings towards the practice are getting in the way of you practicing this method of safer sex.

Anyway, the best thing I can say about using all the methods of safer sex is that it is my way of telling my partner that i care about him and that i don't want anything bad to happen to him. And when he agrees to play by the same rules, i appreciate that he respects my health and my body enough to do everything he can to make sure i'm safe. It's less than a millimeter of latex, and really, we don't feel like we're missing out on anything. Intimacy isn't on your skin or your mucous membranes, it's in your heart

(all this is called the Transtheoretical Model of Health Behavior, and yes, i've been studying a lot lately)

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You can either be part of the problem or part of the solution, but in the end, being part of the problem is much more fun.
Love Scarleteen? By donating just $1, you can help keep us around.


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