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Sex: How much do you know?

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) remain a major public health challenge in many countries of the world. In Nigeria, many factors, including cultural and economic challenges make effective taming of STDs difficult. Coupled with these are the challenges of social stigmatisation, education and lack of access to accurate diagnosis and treatment.

Recent health reports indicate that there is a rise in the transmission of STDs, especially Chlamydia, Gonorrhoea and Syphilis and the two most affected groups are young people between the ages of 17-25 and older people between 45 and 65.

The most vulnerable of these groups of course remain women who suffer more devastating effects from these diseases. Most worrisome is the fact that many of the infections are also asymptomatic, meaning that unless tested directly or at advanced stages, they may go undetected by their carriers.

Unfortunately, sex is an acquired art and training will lasts through the course of a life time. Acquiring all the knowledge required about sex and sexual health has nothing to do with age as even many adults have been found wanting in this area. Today, I have decided to assist us juggle our memories or update our information on the subject. Do have a wonderful weekend!

Myth: A girl can't get pregnant or a guy can't get a girl pregnant if: you have sex standing up; the girl is on top; you have sex in a hot tub or a swimming pool; you jump up and down immediately after sex; the girl douches, takes a bath, or urinates immediately after sex; it's your first time; you're both virgins; the guy pulls out before he ejaculates or if he doesn't go all the way in; the girl doesn't have an orgasm; the guy and the girl don't orgasm at the same time; the girl pushes really hard on her belly button after sex; or the girl makes herself sneeze for fifteen minutes after sex; if a girl is having a period; or she has never had a period; if the girl or guy drinks lemon based sodas.

Fact: Please forget you have ever heard these stories. You can get pregnant anytime you participate in sex, with or without full penetration; sitting, kneeling or standing up, no matter the gallons of Soda you consume. The only 100 percent way to prevent pregnancy is abstinence.

Myth: You can tell by looking if you or someone else has an STD; or I would know if I had an STD.

Fact: Many STDs, including HIV, often show no symptoms (e no de show for face). Thus, many people who have an STD do not know it until they have been tested. Research has shown that about one in two sexually active people will get an STD by age 25 and most of them will not know it. Some STDs are very common among teens and young adults so it is recommended that a sexually active person should go for testing once a year. For example, all sexually active young women should be tested every year for Chlamydia, which silently affects millions of people, and can leave women infertile (unable to have kids). However, there are some common STDs that doctors will not carry out in a routine examination unless the patient presents symptoms or specially requests for it.

Myth: Guys who drink alcohol and use drugs have better sex.

Fact: Getting drunk or high makes you incapable of making sound decisions about sex. Most people have admitted doing things they otherwise would not have done, if they were not under the influence of alcohol and drugs. Having sex under the influence means that you are not likely to practice safe sex and could end up with something much worse than a hangover.

Myth: If a rape victim did not physically struggle with or fight the assailant, it wasn't really rape.

Fact: Rapists are not usually looking for a fight or someone who will give them a tough time. The psychology of the rapist is to have power or control over his victim and so they can adopt as many methods as possible to get their victims to succumb to their wishes and this might include, coercion, threats and manipulation. Many rape victims do not fight back because they are afraid of getting hurt or even killed, while others simply feel they are compelled to cooperate. Sometime, rapists induce their victims with alcohol and other drugs to incapacitate them.

Myth: A woman cannot sexually assault a man.

Reality: Although majority of perpetrators are male, men can also be sexually assaulted by women regardless of size, strength and sexual orientation.

Myth: Douching is a healthy way to clean the vagina.

Fact: This is so not true. The vagina is self-cleansing and douching actually does more harm than good. The natural bacteria found in the vagina helps keep it clean and healthy. Douching can disturb that balance and cause the spread of vaginal infections into the fallopian tubes, uterus and ovaries. Also, douching does not protect against sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. In fact, it may make it easier for a woman to get pregnant because it pushes semen farther up into the vagina and cervix. Wash only the outside of the vagina with warm water and mild soap to keep it clean. Even the natural odour of the vagina makes it the more sexy!

Myth: Guys are always ready for sex.

Fact: This is mere stereotype and not necessarily true. Guys may have a reputation for always thinking about sex, but, it does not mean that all of them go through with it or that some of them don't prefer to do other things with a female companion other than sex. Indeed, there are hundreds of virgin guys in their 30s and 40s choosing to hold out till their wedding nights. And please, some guys are also asexual.

Myth: You can't get HIV or a sexually transmitted infection (STI) from getting a tattoo or through body piercing.

Fact: Any instrument used in cutting or piercing the skin, if unsterilized, can cause the transmission of an infection. Therefore, the risk of contracting HIV or another blood-borne infection (like hepatitis B or C) if the instruments used for tattooing or piercing are not sterilized or disinfected thoroughly after using them on another client is high. Insist on proper hygiene when you visit your salon for such services. You may even demand to see the equipments and how they go about the sterilisation process. Why not? It's your money and your body, isn't it?

Myth: A woman can start taking birth control pills right before she's going to have sex.

Fact: It will not work. Birth control pills are made up of a series of hormones that must build up in the body over a period of time to be effective. The pills are meant to be taken in a specific order at about the same time every day. It can take up to one full month (or one full menstrual cycle) for the pill to become completely effective. In fact, doctors often recommend that you use an additional control method in the first weeks of taking the pill. Merely skipping the pills is enough to alter its effectiveness.

Myth: The average penis size is about 5 to 6 inches.

Fact: According to the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender, and Reproduction at Indiana University, Bloomington, US, the average erect (hard) penis length is between 5 to 6 inches, and an average flaccid (not erect, or soft) penis length ranges between 1 and 4 inches. Unfortunately, the size of the penis is a constant source of worry or concern for most men as the penis is associated or synonymous to their manhood and even virility. In recent times, there has been an increase in the promotion and sale of medications said to aid penis enlargement and elongation. The effectiveness of this is however still scientifically uncertain.

Myth: The stock of semen in the body is limited, so if you waste it by masturbating, you will soon run out of semen.

Fact: This is simply not true because semen is not stocked but produced in the body throughout a man's life. It will continue to be produced as long as the reproductive organs are working and in good, health condition.

Myth: Only homosexuals have anal sex.

Fact: Some heterosexual (male and female) couples also have anal sex.

Myth: Vasectomy makes a man impotent.

Fact: Vasectomy makes a man sterile, not impotent. This means that his semen does not contain sperms any more, and therefore is unable to impregnate a woman. However, he can still achieve full erection and have a pleasurable and fulfilling sex life.

Myth: Losing one drop of semen is equal to losing about 40 drops of blood.

Fact: Semen is not made of blood and so losing semen cannot affect your blood.

Myth: Masturbation leads to psychological problems.

Fact: Only anxiety and fear caused by myths about masturbation can cause psychological problems, not masturbation itself.

Myth: Nocturnal orgasms (wet dreams) occur only in men.

Fact: Women also experience nocturnal orgasms.

Myth: It is abnormal or immoral to feel sexually attracted towards more than one person at a time.

Fact: It is natural and common for both men and women to feel sexually attracted towards more than one person at a time, particularly if you are a young, single adult. For those in a committed relationship, restraint is advisable to avoid relationship problems.

Myth: Menopause is the end of a woman's sex life.

Fact: Though women cannot conceive after menopause, they can continue to have a normal sex life.

Myth: Sex education leads to promiscuity in young adults.

Fact: This is certainly not a scientifically sound opinion. Sex education can help young people have safe and responsible sex. Lack of information from correct channels fuels curiosity and makes them experiment with sex in the wrong manner.

Myth: The "morning after" pill causes an abortion.

Fact: Plan B, also known as the "morning after" pill, is a medication taken for the prevention of pregnancy when one has had unprotected sex. It can be used up to three days or 72 hours after unprotected sex. The main function of the morning after pill is to delay ovulation or prevent the egg from being fertilized. It cannot affect an already fertilized egg which has been implanted in the uterus. Therefore, it cannot be used to terminate an already existing pregnancy. The morning after pill is not the same as RU-486, a pill that causes an abortion. The morning after pill is an over-the-counter drug while the RU-486 is not.

Myth: Most women can have an orgasm through vaginal sex only.

Fact: Only about 25-30% of women reach orgasm through vaginal sex only. The other 70% need more manual or oral stimulation to achieve orgasms. As a man keen of giving pleasure to your partner, you might need more than the wham bang.

Myth: Emotional "abuse" is not really abuse.

Fact: Emotional abuse is perhaps next to physical abuse. In my opinion, it is even worse because it is often difficult to prove, making it even harder to get help. Some emotionally abused persons may even not know they are abused until someone points it out to them. This sort of abuse impacts not only of the victims self esteem as it can have long term psychological trauma and health implications.

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