The Daily Tar Heel

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Sunday January 17th

Consulting the ‘sexperts’ on myths

I-Team member Breanna Kerr compiled a list of common sex myths and went straight to the experts: the folks at UNC Student Wellness. She spoke to trained UNC Student Wellness Health educators Diana Sanchez , Kate Fahje , and Caress Roach as well as Fred Wyand , a spokesman for the American Sexual Health Association to answer your burning questions in this Q&A. Information and statistics from Planned Parenthood’s website is also included. 

MYTH: There is a perfect “number" of sexual partners.

Fact: “Sexuality encompasses a broad spectrum, and there is no perfect ‘number’ of partners,” the Student Wellness specialists said. “Some people will choose to have no sexual partners, and some will choose to have more than zero. What’s important is to know yourself and what is important to you, and of course to always remember to obtain affirmative consent with any and all sexual partners.”

MYTH: The pull-out method is an effective form of contraception.

FACT: “Withdrawal can work but can also be really tricky and even the best intentions can go awry,” Wyand said. “It takes a lot of experience and is unpredictable. Plus there might be sperm in the pre-ejaculate (still not clear how much of a risk pre-ejaculate poses, though). That’s not to say it won’t work, but it takes a lot of trust, communication, and timing. Not a bad idea to think about using another type of contraception if available and practical. And on that note, keep in mind that while birth control methods like withdrawal and the pill/implants/shot can prevent pregnancy, they don’t protect against STDs.”

MYTH: You can’t get pregnant in a hot tub, a pool, or any general body of water.

FACT: “Whether one is in the water, in a pressure chamber, or on the moon makes no difference,” the Student Wellness specialists said. “An act that’s risky for pregnancy is defined by the nature of the act itself, not where it occurs! Water offers no protection against pregnancy.”

MYTH: It’s bad for a woman to have sex while on her period.

FACT: “Sex on your period is not dangerous or bad — it’s is a matter of preference,” the Student Wellness specialists said. “You and your partner can discuss if this is something you want to do. Due to the blood, there is a risk of transmission for STIs and HIV, so we highly encourage the practice of safe sex, like condoms and dental dams.”

MYTH: You can’t get pregnant if you are on your period.

FACT: “It’s not common to conceive while a woman is on her period but it is absolutely possible,” Wyand said. “Ovulation (releasing an egg) can occur even while the period is occurring or shortly thereafter. Also, keep in mind that sperm can live in the uterus for several days. Contraception is still necessary even when a woman has her period.”

MYTH: It is impossible to get an STD from oral sex.

FACT: “A number of STDs can be transmitted via oral sex,” Wyand said. “There might be less risk with most of them compared to genital to genital and genital to anal contact, but there is still risk.” Planned Parenthood suggests using flavored condoms or dental dams for females to protect you and your partner from STDs transmitted through oral sex, such as HPV, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes and Hepatitis B.

MYTH: If you have any itchiness or symptoms of an illness, it’s safe to assume you have an STD.

FACT: “Symptoms of STDs can mimic a number of other conditions (yeast infections, jock itch, allergic reaction, heat rash, and so on),” Wyand said. “Symptoms are not a reliable way to figure out if someone has an STD; keep in mind that STDs often have NO symptoms, at least not right away. Getting checked out at a clinic is the only way to know.” In fact, most people who have an STD never even show symptoms, which is why it’s important to get tested frequently.

MYTH: Guys think about sex more than girls.

FACT: “Males and females are not that different regarding how often they think about sex,” Wyand said. “Guys might actually think about it more, but not nearly as much as we’ve been led to think. Bottom line is both genders think about sex frequently, but the differences aren’t as great as you might think.”

MYTH: Being a virgin in college is not normal.

FACT: “Sexuality is a normal and healthy part of our lives, and involves choices related to choosing to, or not to, be sexually active. There is no normal in terms of whether or not to have sex, with many students choosing to have sex, and many choosing not to,” the Student Wellness specialists. According to Planned Parenthood, 30 percent of people haven’t had sex by the time they turn 20 even though the average age when people start having sex is 17.

“There are a lot of things that go into making the decision whether or not to engage in sexual activity for the first time," the Student Wellness experts said. "Things to consider when making this decision could include researching contraceptive options to talking about consent with your partner. If you would like to talk to a trained Health Educator about this, you can make an appointment to talk to one at Student Wellness by calling 919-962-9355.”

MYTH: If you get an STD, it's the end of the world.

FACT: “Sexually transmitted infection (STI) and HIV screening is an incredibly important component of overall sexual wellness. For most STIs and HIV, there are available therapies to either cure the infection, or manage symptoms and transmission to partners,” Sanchez, Fahje and Roach said. According to Planned Parenthood, a lot of STDs (like gonorrhea and chlamydia) can be cured with simple antibiotics you get from the doctor.

“People with STIs/HIV can and do live healthy, fulfilling lives. Post-diagnosis, important steps to take include: getting appropriate clinical treatments; seeking any assistance or resources are needed to cope with emotions that a diagnosis might bring; informing current or previous partners about potential exposures so that they can get tested as well; and identifying the ways to reduce risk to future partners.”

For more information, contact UNC Student Wellness at (919) 962-9355 or visit studentwellness.unc.edu.

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