What does it mean when a doc asks if I'm sexually active?

Anonymous asks:
I've dry humped before and come from it, but have always kept at least my underwear and bra on and my boyfriend always had at least his underwear on too. We didn't go further than that - like we didn't touch each other with our hands down there over clothes or underwear. A doctor recently asked if I was sexually active. Does my experience with dry humping mean I have to say yes to that question now?
al replies:

That's a really, really good question!

To answer it, I want to stop for a second to talk about why your doctor asked you that question. Usually, for young people (especially if you've seen them before and it's the first time they've asked you that question), the doctor wants to assess what kinds of preventative care that you might need that's relevant to sexual risk. That could look like:

  • Testing for sexually transmitted infections, like gonorrhea, chlamydia, etc.
  • Vaccination to prevent the most harmful strains of HPV
  • Screening and counseling for barrier methods/contraception (if pregnancy is a risk for you or your partner(s)
  • Screenings for cancer or reproductive abnormalities
  • Screening/questions about whether you feel healthy and safe in your relationship(s)

All of these things can vary hugely based on whether you came in with a specific concern or just for a regular checkup, your age, your anatomy, your medical history, et cetera. It's the type of thing that tends to be added to your chart/medical record, so that they can ensure that you're getting the care that's appropriate for your particular situation.

So if it's not entirely obvious why the doctor is asking that question, you can always ask! You always have the right to ask questions about the care you're getting. In your particular case, you haven't had any risks for STl's or pregnancy in your sexual activity, but being honest about what you have done will help your doctor get the info that they need to give you the best care and support that they can. This might sound like:

Yes, I am sexually active, but only manual sex with clothes on - no intercourse. Why do you ask?

When you assert yourself like that, you're ensuring that you understand how and why things are being asked of you, and you're taking charge of your own healthcare, which means you'll be better off when it comes to making decisions about sex, relationships, and your body that you can feel good about.

Speaking of doctors, questions, and asserting yourself, you might also find it helpful to check out our guide, Dealing With Doctors: Taking Control of Your Healthcare Destiny.

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