Now and then — and sometimes more often than that — we get users with earnest, profound and persistent fears of things like semen being on toilets, door handles, banisters, or hands after washing them and becoming pregnant. Facts about sperm, semen and pregnancy in reality don’t seem to help allay these fears.
If this sounds like you or someone you know, know that this usually isn’t an issue where more sex or reproduction education is going to help, because what this more likely is is a mental health issue, namely, a form of anxiety; irrational fears, phobias, about sperm, pregnancy or germs. In order to be helped with a mental health issue like this, your best bet (or that of someone you know like this) is going to be to see a qualified mental health provider. Living like this is obviously scary and deeply uncomfortable: if you want it to change, do what you can to find the right help for yourself.
The morning after I had sex for the first time, I woke up with a crushing feeing that I’d done something evil and I was going to be caught and punished. The next time I saw my parents, I was terrified. I thought they were going to catch some nuance in my speech or gestures and go “Wait a second… you’re acting like a sex-haver! You are in so much trouble.” This didn’t happen, but the feeling of guilty terror lingered.And I think it was that guilty terror that led me to my paranoia. I was so convinced that I had been bad and would be punished, I believed biology itself would punish me. It didn’t help that I’d grown up hearing about how pregnancy and STIs were “consequences” for sex. Health class, parents, teachers, media, and peers had always talked about these things not as risks that adults have to manage, but as dire fates (or worse, humiliatingly comical fates) for sluts. At age 15, I took a certain toxic-girl-hate pride in being Responsible and Pure. At age 16, I’d had a penis inside me.
- Did you have sex only with yourself? Masturbation does NOT pose risks of pregnancy.
- Have you not had any kind of sex at all (and were not sexually assaulted), but are worried because of something like touching a partner’s hand then touching yourself, or using a towel that may have had dried semen on it? These kinds of scenarios do NOT pose risks of pregnancy. Sperm and ovum need specific conditions in which to co-create a pregnancy, and these ain’t them.
- Did you have the same kinds of genitals as the other person you had sex with, or who sexually assaulted you, as in, you have a vulva and they had a vulva, or you have a penis, and so did they? Same-genital-to-genital contact can NOT create a pregnancy.
- Were you only kissing, having oral sex, manual sex and/or dry sex, where everyone had clothes on and/or no one ejaculated on or very near anyone else’s vulva? These kinds of sex do NOT present any pregnancy risks, though some present risks of STIs.
- Were you or a partner using a reliable method of birth control (like an IUD, the ring, condoms, an injection, etc.) properly for either that incident, or for ongoing methods (like the pill or fertility charting), for the whole of a cycle? If so, pregnancy is not likely. If more than one method was used perfectly, it is WAY unlikely.
If any of the above scenarios describe the situation you’re worrying about, it’s anywhere from very unlikely to downright impossible that you have or will become pregnant. With those scenarios, you or your partner are most likely NOT pregnant and will NOT become pregnant unless you do or have done very different things than those.
We seem to be living in a time warp. Conservatives are denouncing not just abortion, but birth control. There was the Rush Limbaugh “slut” episode. Actor Kirk Cameron called homosexuality “unnatural,” “detrimental” and “ultimately destructive.” Meanwhile, Rick Santorum sees Satan lurking in America’s bedrooms.
At first blush, such backwardness might seem implausible in the second decade of the 21st century. Shouldn’t we be talking about the economy?
But there is a clear historical pattern: When the economy contracts, social attitudes toward sexuality turn more conservative. It happened in the 1870s, the 1930s, the late 1940s and again in the late 1970s.
Among the 19th century’s greatest economic crises was the stock market panic of 1873. That year, a young Anthony Comstock established the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice. With Americans in a state of general anxiety about the financial future of the nation, Comstock persuaded Congress to criminalize the transportation of “obscene, lewd or lascivious” material across state lines. Comstock was particularly opposed to birth control, but he embraced all forms of censorship, going so far as to shut down a New York production of George Bernard Shaw’s play “Mrs. Warren’s Profession.”
Comstockery fell into disrepute in the 1910s and ’20s as Americans enjoyed the benefits of economic expansion. Greenwich Village bohemianism, Freudianism and the flapper era encouraged the open discussion of sexuality. With the stock market crash of 1929, however, things took a turn toward repression.
Read the rest at the Chicago Trib here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/ct-oped-0314-love-20120314,0,7159386.story