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» Scarleteen Boards: 2000 - 2014 (Archive) » SCARLETEEN CENTRAL » Sexual Ethics and Politics » define "sexually active"

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Author Topic: define "sexually active"
kick_artist
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You're at the doctor's for a general physical exam, and s/he asks you if you're sexually active. What do you say?

I'm fifteen (sixteen in June), and while my boyfriend and I have both agreed we want to wait on actual intercourse until we're older (and our relationship is more likely to endure--while we're madly in love at the moment and plan on staying together, I'm going away to school next year, and we've accepted the prospect that things could change), we're quite comfortable with "other activities" (i.e. "dry sex," manual handjobs, etc). In any case, I'm kind of wondering what I should tell my doctor when I go for my physical next month. From their perspective, what qualifies as "sexually active" (and what should I say to avoid going into details that I don't feel particularly comfortable imparting to a relative stranger [though, oddly enough, I'm comfortable sharing here])? What do you think?

(forgive if this is in the wrong forum--first post)

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Heather
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It's as fine a forum for it as anywhere else! Welcome!

When a doctor asks if a patient is sexually active, what they're trying to ascertain is if that patient has had any STI or pregnancy risks.

Since the activities you DO engage in DO pose STI risks, you should answer yes. If you like, especially since you won't need a pregnancy test, you can say, "Yes, but I don't have intercourse."

He or she likely won't ask anything more than that, really. And if you don't want to deal with that question at all, you can just ask for a pelvic exam and full STI screening straight-out, since even without intercourse, you should be having both anyway.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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logic_grrl
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From a doctor's perspective, what they need to know is whether you're engaging in any activities that might give you a risk of pregnancy or STIs (so they can assess whether you might need contraception, a Pap smear, or STI screening, etc.)

It may feel embarrassing, but your best option is to say something like: "I haven't had intercourse, but I've engaged in some other sexual activities."

They may ask which activities, but they're not going to ask you for graphic details - they just need to know what (if any) risks you've had.

{Mindmeld!}

[ 04-27-2006, 11:16 AM: Message edited by: logic_grrl ]

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"Do not be daunted by the enormity of the world's grief. Do justly, now. Love mercy, now. Walk humbly, now. You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to abandon it." - the Talmud

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Blink
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Teen sexual health advocate that I am, when my doctor asked me that, I pointed out that the term was problematic for many teens who had engaged in some sexual activities but not others, and suggested that she use more specific terminology when asking such questions in the future. If you feel comfortable enough with your doctor to suggest that, it might make a difference in the health of another teen later on. But if not, that's ok, and what the others said is spot on.

[ 04-27-2006, 10:33 PM: Message edited by: Blink ]

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feefiefofemme
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I had an experience at my last physical that's somewhat related to this.

My doctor (who is quite nice, even though I'm not %100 comfortable with her), asked me if I "had a boyfriend." When I responded negatively, she said something along the lines of "so you're not having sex, then" and moved on. I had, to say the least, a bit of a problem with this assumption. I know it's not really her fault, but I feel like my doctor shouldn't make heterosexist assumptions like that.

In any case, I didn't really know what to say. I'm not very good at talking to people at all, especially people like my current doctor who don't give you time to gather your thoughts before responding to questions. It is true that I have yet to have any kind of partnered sex, and I don't plan to in the near future, but I feel like I should have said something regarding my orientation anyways. In the future, I'm not sure how I should address this issue with my doctor. Any words of advice?

[ 04-27-2006, 11:43 PM: Message edited by: BiGoddess ]

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likewhoa19
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that's not just a heterosexist assumption. plenty of people who don't have "boyfriends" have sex, whether they be straight, queer, whatever. I mean, if you're not comfortable talking to her, maybe you need a different doctor. But if you are, I would just be really straightforward. I don't even think the issue has to be about your orientation exclusively. Some people with boyfriends don't have sex. Some people who don't have boyfriends have sex. You should tell her she should ask about specific sexual activities, b/c I mean that's what she really needs to know to do her job.
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feefiefofemme
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It's not so much that I can't talk to my doctor. It's more like I'm uncomfortable talking to anyone (except some of my very close friends) about personal stuff. But I know, for the sake of my health etc., that I really need to work on getting over that.
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likewhoa19
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hey, yes it IS an important thing to get over, but in the meantime don't be too hard on yourself. For some reason i am fine being very open about personal issues to everyone, everyone that is, except someone I get involved w/. I assume this has something to do w/ fear of intimacy, but talk about an inconvenience... that's something I REALLY need to get over. If you want to, you'll get comfortable talking about things at your own pace.
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twentysix
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When I was put on birth control, my doctor asked me if I was "dating". When I told her yes, she asked me if I would be using the pills for "other reasons". A little shocked and embarassed, I just stared at her and didn't say a word. After a couple seconds she said, "Okay... maybe [Wink] "

Why couldn't she just ask me if I was sexually active? THEN I'd understand what she was getting at rather than guessing.

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tennislover
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I was reading about cervical cancer vaccinations (HPV vaccination) and they said that the vaccine works best for females that are not sexually active, but can still work if you dont have all of the 4 HPVs that causes 70% of cervical cancer. I've had oral sex ("blowjob") with my boyfriend and I was wondering if this counts as being sexually active. We're both virgins and I'm also wondering if I could have gotten HPVs?

I'm not sure if this is the right place to put my question, as it's my first time here. Sorry if it's the wrong place!

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tennislover
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Sorry, I think this is the wrong place, I'll put it in the question section. Ignore my last reply.
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ChimeraMirage
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I was always confused by this question "Are you sexually active", because there is no indication of how long ago one might have engaged in sexual behavior in order to provide a sensible answer. How long does it take to become sexually "inactive"? Is there a red indicator light in your belly button that goes out after six months of inactivity?

If the question were "Have you ever had sex?", that would make more sense to me. Likewise, "Do you intend to have sex (in the near future)?" is a completely different and complicated question because what happens doesn't always go as intended.

I'd prefer if medical professionals would ask "Have you had sex in the last (time frame)?" since that's the information they actually want.

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Heather
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quote:
I'd prefer if medical professionals would ask "Have you had sex in the last (time frame)?" since that's the information they actually want.
Yes and no. For instance, with STIs, whether or not someone has EVER been sexually active matters, and incubation periods vary so much that we really couldn't ask for one time frame and have it mean a lot.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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HeyLife
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This question gets to be a bit too. For one thing, I definitely am sexually active, but I only see my boyfriend once a month, usually less than that. So no, I'm not sexually active right now, but maybe in a month I will be and maybe a month ago I was. We need new wording.
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Onionpie
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I went to see my doctor about a month ago and talked about renewing my birth control prescription as it had almost been a year, as well as about getting a PAP smear.

And she looked at my records and said "okay, so you hadn't been sexually active before going on the pill". To which I looked completely confused and said "uh... yes I had?" Because I had participated in a variety of sexual activities as well as having PIV intercourse once before. But she said "well, you only had been ONCE, that doesn't count".

So I also hate the term "sexually active" because apparently my doctor is assuming that PIV sex is the only way to be sexually active...? And apparently once isn't enough to be active. Maybe she thinks it's a bit like exercise; it has to be a habit for you to really consider yourself "active". Riiiight.

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