Food For Thought

Boys and girls, sex can kill you.

There, it is. That nasty, horrible, foul-tasting nugget of truth.

Now chew on that for a minute.

Just so you know, I’m not trying to pull the gym coach from Mean Girls line (the one where he then goes on to spell chlamydia “K-L-A…”). As the title of my post suggests, I actually have something to consider here. I find it a sad testament to the education of teenagers and young adults when they (females especially) don’t put this together. Thanks in large part to AIDS awareness campaigns, we as a society are much more aware of the dangers of unprotected sex. We generally know that people put themselves at risk for STDs when they have sex, especially with men. This is because of the nature of sex, the nature of penetration, and how it affects the body. But there appears to be a rather large chunk of the population that’s still not getting the entire message.

When I was a bit younger than I am now (I’m aged for my wisdom), I noticed a disturbing trend amongst my female friends and acquaintances in the way they were handling sex. A striking inability to say “no”.

Granted, not all of my friends flew headlong into that trap. Some of them merely used sex like a baby blanket; as a way to comfort themselves, most often to escape the nightmares of their abusive pasts. Others just had sex because they were human and it was what they liked to do. Generally though, there was something both of these two groups had in common – an understanding that they could either accept or deny their partners at will.

But it was that “Ado Annie” group that was the one that, to this day, upset me the most. These were the girls who were so lacking in self-confidence that they maintained the logic that boys wouldn’t like them if they refused sex. In a couple of cases, the girls I knew weren’t even using protection because the boys they were screwing didn’t like the way it felt. (In a somewhat ironic turn, one of them wasn’t even on birth control because that was the one thing she thought would label her a “slut”.)

What these women failed to understand was that they were setting themselves up for failure. The need for acceptance and to be desired became a face they would put on every night before going out. It took many of them years to realize what they were doing to themselves, and a few, I’ve come to understand, never did quite get it.

What I never understood was how they couldn’t realize that sex is so much more dangerous for women, and therefore, should have always been on their terms.

Again, kids: Sex. Can. Kill. You.

First thing we think of usually? STDs. These things are frickin’ scary, and left to their own devices, even treatable ones can lead to death. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) has a fact sheet on what makes STDs affect women differently (download it here if you’d like a copy for yourself), not the least of which is #1 “A woman’s anatomy can place her at a unique risk for STD infection, compared to a man.” This alone is reason enough we should always – ALWAYS – make sex on our terms.

But aside from that is the one thing that makes us genuinely unique from men:  Women’s bodies can have babies. Clearly we all know this, but being pregnant is not only not easy, it’s dangerous. Fact blurb from the World Health Organization (WHO) :  “Every day, approximately 1000 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.” PREVENTABLE, people! Also, “Adolescents face a higher risk of complications and death as a result of pregnancy than older women.” Young women and girls who get pregnant are more likely to have health issues AND DIE from pregnancy. Period. End of discussion.

In other words, having sex with some guy because you are concerned about your approval rating just isn’t worth it. I’m sorry. It’s just not. It is true that the shirking of modern society’s responsibility to raise healthy daughters has created a perplexing and dangerous dichotomy for us (for a brilliant overview on this, see Location of Contestation‘s post Virgin, Mother, Whore), so unfortunately, the burden to take back our bodies and raise our self-confidence lies with us. But in doing that, we must empower ourselves with the knowledge that what we as women – and men – choose to do with our bodies is a safeguard against, at worst, things that can make us dead, and at best, feeling like we’ve given ourselves away to people who don’t deserve us.