Sexual Issues

Tantra Sexuality: Weaving Spirit and Sex

Rhiannon No Comments

Tantra Sexuality: Weaving Spirit and Sexspirituality photo

Sit or lay down, with your partner or with yourself.  And breathe.  A deep, abdominal breath.  And do it again.  And just by breathing, you have the foundation of improving your sexual experience through tantra sexuality.

An area of interest of mine for some time now has been sex and spirituality, and how to gain a deeper experience of our spirituality, sensuality, and sexuality through the practice of a variety of techniques, and an area of increasing interest of mine has been tantric sexuality.

My colleagues at the Southwest Sexual Health Alliance invited Sally Valentine, PhD, LCSW to present to therapists on deepening the tantric awareness of practitioners and I want to share a little about the day.

So what is Tantra? 

“Tantra is where sex is transformed into Love and Love is transformed into the Higher Self”  Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, OSHO

“Tantra is the weaving of spirit and sex.  Through an awareness and consciousness of our energies we are able to shift our energy throughout our bodies, which can enhance our depth of connection with ourselves and our partner.  Tantra partnering includes honest communication, eye gazing, and fully tapping into our senses by means of touching, tasting, smelling, seeing, and hearing.  Practices of tantra include fully breathing, breathwork, visualization, and meditation” (Valentine Counseling, 2017)spirituality photo

A lot of the work I do in my practice weaves tantra naturally into couples and intimacy work, but to break it down to the average person, tantra involves four basic principles and four levels:

The four basic tantric principles that I weave into my work as an online sex therapist include:

1. Presence: Being in the moment, this moment

2. Open-Heart: Free of Judgment, unconditional Love

3. Reveres Sex: Vehicle for Higher Consciousness

4. Reveres the Body as Sacred and Divine

Tantra Practice has Four Levels

1. Body/physical: Tune into the senses/embrace the body

2. Mind/mental: Overcome old beliefs/shame

3. Heart/emotional: Let go of fear, open up to trust, giving, and receiving

4. Soul/Spiritual: Activate energy, experience of Self/Spirit

The four levels of tantric practice is exactly what we address in sex therapy at SexTherapy-Online.  All these areas are attended to.  I often get the question- What is Sex Therapy?  What does it look like?.  My answer can vary but you’ll usually hear me say something like “All my clients come to me for a sexual issue, but it is rarely ever really just about sex.  It’s about life.  Sex is just what brought you to me.  Life is what we will work on”.  These four levels are exactly what we address in therapy.  We will address all of these areas.

Why Tantra?

Tantra is a change agent and can facilitate sexual healing and enhance emotional, sexual, and spiritual intimacy.  Tantra promotes healthy communication, honors the self and others, and explores how attitudes and beliefs of sexuality affect sexual satisfaction.   Tantra promotes change by increasing awareness in energy through meditation, eye gazing, and breath work.

“Tantra is a mode of sexual healing and sexual healing takes place when the individual experiences safety and validation for their experiences.  Sexual education may enhance understanding of what had occurred.  Healthy sexual communication enables one to reach into greater levels of intimacy and increase sexual self-esteem.  This may be facilitated by psychotherapy, personal growth programs, and spiritual practices, such as tantra.  Some tantric practices that facilitate sexual heal thing and enhancement of emotional, sexual, and spiritual intimacy are (but not limited to)” (Valentine, 2017):

– honoring self and others

– sacred space

– healthy communication

– breathing

– energy awareness

– eye gazing

– heart connection

– meditation

One of the first and most basic components of of Tantra is Tantric breathing and is fundamental to a lot of our therapeutic work.  It might be annoying when someone says “Take a Deep Breath”, but there is science behind why that works.

Tantric Breathing Yogic Breath

Tantric yoga breath reduces anxiety and mental stress, strengthens cardiovascular system and stimulates the nervous system, improves oxygenation (allowing the lungs to work at full capacity, increasing the amount of oxygen in the blood), helps expel toxins from the body and improves stamina and vitality. Below you will find some instructions on the tantric yogic breath.

“Take a full breath.  Breathe from your belly, concentrating on filing your lungs completely up.  Place your hands over your belly and feel your belly expand on inhalation and return back to normal when you exhale.  This is both mechanical (movement of their body) and visual, imagine that you are breathing all the way down to your perineum, knees, floor, etc.  Start with 2 minutes increase over time.”  (Valentine, 2017)

It might seem silly, but sometimes we need to start our sessions with some deep breathing to change the way our body interacts with our systems.  Deep breathing provides your body what it needs.

Just as important to the practice of tantra that breath is, eye gazing is also another fundamental exercise.

Eye Gazing

eye photoEye gazing is when you face another and look into each others eyes softly and connected and lovingly.  The importance of eye gazing is that it facilitates deeper intimate connection, increases oxytocin, decreases anxiety, in some case may increase anxiety (due to vulnerability, threatened, shyness, intrusive feelings), and may illicit emotions of joy, sadness, calm, and loss.  Here are some instructions below:

“Face each other and look/gaze into each other’s eyes, softly and lovingly.  (Is natural in ‘new’ love but wanes over time).  Poet, Rumi, calls it ‘consciousness of union’.  See/feel the depth and uniqueness of your partner.  Notice what feelings come up, notice what thoughts comes, notice your bodily sensations.  Allow yourself to be present and just ‘be’.” (Valentine, 2017)

Sexual Energy

Sexual energy is life force energy and sexual energy is innocent.  When sexual energy is open: it flows and increases vitality, creativity, healthy boundaries, passion, and sense of well being.  When sexual energy is blocked or closed: one may experience rigidity in the body, pain, emotional distance, and distress.  Tantra is about weaving sexual energy within oneself and others.

Sex is sacred.  Sex is spiritual.  Sex is being connected to oneself and others.  If anything you read interests you, feel free to reach out to me via the form below or give me a call and we can set up an appointment to begin your tantric journey.

 

Common Barriers to Good Sex

Rhiannon No Comments

Being nearly 10 years in practice, over the last decade, I have been able to identify some common barriers to good sex within relationships.  Here is a brief blog on some common barriers I have found.  If you have some of these barriers, it’s important to do the work to remove them or help limit the effects that these barriers have on your sex life.

Trauma
Unresolved and/or complex trauma is a huge barrier to good sex.  It’s also a barrier to general happiness and satisfaction in life and can be one of the main sources of anxiety, depression, and other mental health concerns.  And any type of trauma (even if it is not sexual) can impact your sex life.

Grief and Loss
I see grief and loss as one of the main causes of sexual functioning concerns and sexual disatisfaction in a persons life.  Whether active or unresolved, grief and loss appears to directly affect the sexual functioning system and it would be worth the time to resolve and do work around this.

Fear
Fear of anything, nothing, and/or everything can create a barriers to good sex.  We live in a fear based society and fear is instilled inside of us from a very early age.  Fear greatly affects our ability to feel safe with ourselves and partners and in the world and can be huge barriers to good sex.

 

 

Lack of Knowledge
Most people don’t feel super knowledgeable about sex and a lack of knowledge about sex can be a barrier of good sex.  I encourage my clients to be “students of sex”, lifelong learners, recognizing that there is no ceiling on how much one can learn about sex.  I will never stop learning about sex, and I sometimes feel like there is so much to learn about sex I will never learn it all, and this is MY profession!  Sex is an never-ending journey- an EXCITING never-ending journey.  Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Lack of Experience
Experience doesn’t mean competence, but our culture often values more experience as being more competent.  Lack of experience can often create a barrier to good sex, but it doesn’t have to.  As mentioned above, we are lifelong students of sex.  Since we have our whole lives to learn about sex, experience is all relative and quantity is not more important than quality.

Low Sexual Self Confidence
Self-esteem and self-confidence is a huge contributor to whether sex is good or not, and if you have low sexual self confidence and low sexual self-esteem, it can be a great barrier to good sex.

Body Image Issues
I generally believe that you have to feel pretty good about your body in order to want to share it with someone else.  If someone doesn’t feel good about their body, they often don’t feel like sharing it with others.  Body image issues can be huge barriers to good sex.

Closed Mindedness
The most common way I see closed mindness coming up is when people think that they know what sex is supposed to be like, or what their partner is supposed to be like or like.  It’s this closed mindedness to the individuality and nuances of sexuality that prevents good sex from happening.

Perfectionism
Human beings and SEX is imperfect.  Having a perfectionistic attitude toward life and sex is a HUGE barrier to good sex.

 

 

Marijuana and Sex: Therapeutic Cannabis for Sexual Functioning

Rhiannon No Comments

Marijuana and Sex: My General Thoughts on Therapeutic Cannabis for Sexual Functioning

This November, Maine and Massachusetts, two of the states that I provide online sex therapy to their residents, pass laws legalizing recreational marijuana for consumers over the age of 21 (making the laws similar to alcohol consumption).

I have long had many thoughts about the therapeutic use of marijuana/cannabis/THC for certain sexual functions in certain people but haven’t really had the science or empirical proof to back up anecdotal reports.  But as we start to move into a new era around the use of marijuana, I just want to make a general statement that marijuana is worth researching on its negative and POSITIVE effects for some sexual functioning concerns.  That’s right, positive.

marijuana photo

That isn’t a general statement that I want everyone to think to just use marijuana for sex.  That isn’t what I am saying at all, because some usage can actually harm sexual functioning.  But for certain sexual functions, it has been reported that therapeutic cannabis actually do a lot of good.  But there are a lot of factors, like type of marijuana, dosage, routes of transmission, etc. and sometimes the costs are not worth the benefits.

I particularly like some of the sex specific products that are being developed, such as lube with THC infused in it, so the route of transmission is vaginally or anally.  And for certain issues (like desire, performance anxiety, and pre-orgasmia in women) it has been reported that marijuana has really helped in improving the negative symptoms of these issues.

But like with anything that could be harmful or helpful, or a little bit of both, I like to talk to my clients about staying within the boundaries and balance of what is legal, moral, and ethical and when the benefits outweigh the risks.  We discuss manageable use, just as we would discuss if we were to use any substance for sexual functioning.

Want to talk about this more?  Email me at the contact information below and we can set up an appointment.

The Risks and Benefits of Sexting

Rhiannon No Comments

Sexting didn’t exist when I was an adolescent and young adult, but I am glad it exists now!   Back in the day, sexting for me was as elaborate as a note that asked if someone would go out with me and hlove note photoad a yes and no check box.  Or maybe someone drew a penis on a desk.  That was pretty much it.  But with the increase in texting (starting mid/late 1990’s, actually the FIRST text was sent in 1992 but texting didn’t become popular until a little later), it was only a matter of time before we sexified texting and made it an amazing tool (as well as a tool to use with caution) to accentuate our sexual communication.   In fact “sexting” became an official word in the dictionary not that long ago (2012) so don’t feel bad if you don’t really know what I’m talking about

First off, for consenting adults, in general, I fully support sexting.  Now what is sexting technically?  Sexting is defined by Miriam Webster as “the sending of sexually explicit messages or images by cell phone”, but

sexting has also included emailing, chatting, and other media that is text or image based.

BENEFITS

I think there are a lot of benefits to sexting between consenting adults.  I think sexting builds desire, creates excitement, keeps the fire stoked at times when you are away from each other, is a safe way to explore yourself sexually, is a safe and fun way to explore fantasy and sexually explicit content, and in generally can be super erotic.  For partners who are apart from each other during the day or for long periods of time, sexting can keep that fire warm and hot even when they aren’t in the same location.  And sexting doesn’t have to be nude pics, dick pics, or sexually explicit words.  It can be as simple as just texting an eggplant emoji with a question mark to your partner with a kiss (don’t know what I am talking about- check out these links:

A Beginners Guide to Sexting with Emoji

69 Emoji Combinations That Symbolize Sexual Acts

Definitive Emoji-Sexting Glossary

Other benefits- no one ever got an STD/STI or got pregnant from a sext.  (Not to my knowledge… not yet at least). Sexting is a safe way to explore different fantasies, fetishes, and sexual enactments that can be stopped at any time (turn off the phone) and can be creative and artistic and help people develop their authentic sexual selves or try things that they might not in real life that can enhance and improve their sexual lives.

Sexting can often resolve or help reduce the negative symptoms of a sexual functioning concern and be a good tool in sex therapy.  Sometimes people are a lot more comfortable being sexual via images and texts than they are in person, which is a good start in the right direction.

Sexting is a creative and artistic way to express and develop yourself sexually. This is why I think sexting is popular amongst teens and adolescents:  as teens and adolescents develop themselves sexually, sexting is a safe way to explore some themes that might not be super safe in real life (IRL).

RISKS

The risks are important to mention but I don’t want to nay say what I feel like is a really good tool and resource for consenting adults.  Some of the risks include the fact that you can’t control the information or images that you are sending once you press that send button- so its important that you trust your sexting partner and establish that these thoughts and images are for their eyes only.  Even creating a verbal agreement with that partner won’t protect you from them misusing the content if they want to, so just press send at your own risk.

We often don’t think about this, but be careful sexting on a phone that your company/business pays for or on an account that you share.  Information isn’t TRULY private at all, I think we all know that confidentiality and privacy is an illusion in this day and age.  Don’t send something that you really don’t want anyone ever to see ever.  Know that when you put information, text, or an image out there, it likely won’t disappear…it’s out there.  And many companies have policies against using electronic devices for anything sexual and you could get in deep trouble, fired, and sometimes prosecuted for sending/receiving sexually explicit media on company devices.

Make sure you know who you are talking to and sexting.  It’s super important that you NEVER EVER EVER send a sext to someone that you don’t know for sure who is on the receiving end.  And you really don’t know who is receiving the sext right?  So be very careful.  Sending a sext to someone who is underaged is illegal…even if you didn’t intend to send it to them.  Make sure you keep passwords and locks on your phone, and even set up a setting where the text messages and images don’t come through on the home screen where anyone underaged can see a sext.

As with any and all type of communication, you can’t always really tell the inflection and tone and meaning in a text or image.  So sometimes misunderstandings can occur.  And what is difficult with sexting is that consent gets a little hazy.  It’s important that you have someones consent before being sexual with them, but consent and sexting isn’t always present (we don’t have language in our culture just yet on “is it okay if I send you a dick pic?”) but we need to…

 

Overall, sexting mindfully and safely can be a very beneficial and creative way of expressing yourself sexually, but use carefully and appropriately with consenting adults.  And HAVE FUN!

 

Stress, Sex and the Holidays

Rhiannon No Comments

Stress is one of the most common contributors to low sexual desire and the holiday season has proven to be one of the most stressful times of the year!  But don’t let holiday stress affect your sex life!  Sex and the holidays do not need to be mutually exclusive events!  Here are some tips to make sure that this holiday season you have less excuses for why not to have sex and more heat in the bedroom, or in front of a warm fireplace, or under the mistletoe or…

1. Plan Ahead

Try to schedule everything.  Around the holidays, our routine goes out the window and as creatures of habit, that immediately sends us into a stress filled tail spin that can spiral to the point of breaking.  Make lists, schedule your week, fit everything in.  If you aren’t usually an agenda or planner person, use one to stay organized during the holidays.  Put your every day tasks that you might forget in the planner in one color and holiday tasks in another color.  Be creative on keeping your self organized, from shops you need to check out to what you are having for dinner.   Use the calendar option on your smartphone to assist with this. Schedule things in advance and do not wait until the last minute.  The term “waiting until the last minute” is in and of itself stressful- just don’t do it!  Scheduling and planning are huge stress reducers.

If you don’t regularly plan sex with your partner, maybe stressful holiday times are a great time to start intentionally setting aside time for intimacy with your partner.  And just because you set aside some time, doesn’t mean you have to have sex.  In fact, pressure to have sex is another desire killer!  Just set aside some time each week (at least once a week) to have some alone time with your partner.  It doesn’t have to be sexual, just close and intimate.

2.  Blow Off Steam

Whatever you put into your body in stress needs a place to leave your body (and screaming at your family members does not count as stress leaving your body).  If stress can’t or doesn’t leave, it can be manifested in muscle pain, emotional distress, gastrointestinal issues, relationship concerns, sleep disturbances, low sexual desire, and/or complete overload.  Make time to de-stress and blow off steam.  Exercise, meditate, do yoga, read, knit, play a musical instrument, walk your dog, do anything to blow of the steam before the tea pot starts to whistle.

Having sex is another way to blow off steam and provided you do not have issues with compulsive or unhealthy masturbation, taking time to be sexual with yourself is also a great way to blow off steam.  Easy on the pornography, or better yet, use your imagination or read an erotic holiday story for a fun holiday sexual fantasy with (or without) your partner!

steam train photo

3. Nourish Yourself

You can’t expect your body to act in top condition if you aren’t giving it the necessary fuel it needs to run smoothly.  Make sure that you still take time to eat healthy food and snacks.  Not traditionally a healthy eater?  Try to give yourself one healthy snack or portion of your meal a day and pack an apple or carrot sticks in your bag before you leave to provide you with a healthy option.  If you are a stress eater, know that you aren’t “rewarding” yourself when you eat unhealthy.

Being sexual with yourself or with a partner can be very nourishing.  Take the time to go slow and enjoy the sensual experience of nourishing yourself (and your partner) sexually.  A fine meal at a nice restaurant is a wonderful form of foreplay and is made to nourish our sensual needs too.

4.  Play and Laugh

All too often, we forget to enjoy the holidays for what they are for: family and friends.  We get so caught up what we need to do or get, where we need to be (5 minutes ago!), and how we need to act.  Let your hair down a bit, kick off your boots, and play with your cousin’s dog, sit with the kids, and tell funny stories.  Playing and laughter will reduce your stress and give you a good recharge to why the holidays can be fun.

And that goes for times in the bedroom too- have fun with sex and recognize that laughter is VERY sexy.  Don’t take things so serious and try new things.  Most couples wish their sex was less serious and more playful!

5.  Redefine

If you walk in the door thinking your holiday dinner is going to be a disaster, the likelihood of it being something different is reduced.  Redefine the holidays as an opportunity to check in with family members, see babies and kids grow, and catch up on big family milestones.  Even if those “disaster” characteristics are present, it doesn’t cost you anything to say silently to yourself: “At least my daughter-in-law has a brain” instead of critiquing her differing political views.  Redefine how you look at the negative aspects of the holidays and challenge yourself in being more positive.

Redefining sex might be long overdue- do you look at sex as a chore, as something you just do to “get it over with”, or something that is necessary to keep your marriage/relationship together?  If any (or all) of these apply, it is definitely time to redefine how you look at sex.  Sex is an opportunity not an obligation.  If this is how you feel, it might be time to contact a qualified sex therapist for assistance.  See information below.

6. Manage Your Finances

Give only what you can, and be okay with that.  Finances are a major source of stress for people and add the holidays in the mix and it can get overwhelming.  Most of us can understand that gone are the holidays in the thousands, and here (to stay it seems) are the holidays where it is more about family and friends than giant presents and extravagant gifts.  The best gift you can give (to yourself and others) is staying within your budget this holiday.

Finances and sex are two of the most common topics couples argue about.  Consult a qualified financial coach to assist you and your partner with managing everyday finances as well as long-term financial considerations.  Set out a plan and stick to it, and recognize the holidays aren’t the best time to address ongoing financial habits (as this is the most vulnerable time for spending).  If you haven’t come up with a plan yet, and are already way over budget, try to do little things to keep the stress off.  Try not to let stress and worry about finances affect your sex life.

7.  Do Good

Even though this is a very stressful time, volunteering your time, donating items, participating in charity events, and helping out others is a great way to relieve stress.  I would recommend doing it in person (even if you don’t feel like you have one more minute to do anything more, make a minute).  You would be surprised how less stress you feel when you give to others and gain a little perspective.

And when it comes to doing good for others, give your partner some extra attention around the holidays.  Perhaps doing something you both don’t do that often, but you know you/they like.  Give to give, not to receive.  No reciprocal intimacy can be very rewarding (and erotic).

8. Accept and Allow

Holidays are often a time when individuals and families have a lot of stress over a loss.  This can be a loss of a family member, a loss of functioning, a loss of a pet, a loss of a job, a loss of relationship, or any other loss.  Because the holidays are a bench mark for the year, it is easy to get into the habit of thinking “I was doing this last year with so and so, and this year… nothing”.  Accept the fact that the holidays are hard and allow yourself (and others) the opportunity to grieve and express their grief.  If this time of year is especially hard, seek out help either from friends and family or from a counselor.

If you are mourning the loss of your intimate partner or intimate life or any loss at all, don’t use sex to replace the actual feeling.  Just feel and move through the feeling.  Real intimacy isn’t about escaping negative feelings, its about processing them and moving forward with them.

9.  Rebuild

Family dynamics.  What are the first words that come to mind?  Stress, anger, resentment, old memories, money?  If these are some words that come up for you, you are like many other families during this holiday time.  But instead of piling on more words to your destructive family relationship pile of negativity, why not take your shovel and scoop off a few from the top this holiday season.  At the very least, don’t add on any more, but I challenge you to try to let go of some of the old resentments you might hang on to because of stressful family situations.  Why should you be the one that has to?  Well you don’t have to, but you are reading an article on how to reduce stress during the holidays so maybe it is in your best interest to be the bigger person and get that shovel out.

If you are holding out resentments towards your intimate partner around the holidays, try to not let it get in the way of intimate time and rebuilding moments with them.  Sometimes, one can find themselves more committed to the resentment than the relationship.  Let go, if you can.

10.  Relax

The holidays can and are fun.  Make your friends and family and fun and food take priority over anything stressful.  Keep everything in perspective and relax and enjoy yourself.  Allowing yourself to relax is sometimes just as difficult as relaxing so take the time you need, a few deep breaths, and smile.

And there is nothing more relaxing than a steamy, sexy night with your partner (or yourself).  Remember that sex is a GREAT way to relax.  Don’t feel that way about sex?  Then call me and I can help.

Stigma, Shame, and Consent for STD-STI Status

Rhiannon No Comments

I have a bit of a bee in my bonnet.  bee photo

The news of Charlie Sheen’s HIV Status has been circling around tabloid and celebrity media for some time now.  Up until today, it had been very “secretive”, with little teasers here and there of people talking about a mystery celebrity that was HIV positive that had possibly infected many people.  The fact that someone’s HIV status has been sensationalized in this manner is just absolutely disgusting to me!  Our sexual health is a very personal topic and for it to be exploited and publicized in the media is in poor taste and very insensitive.  I will state, for the record, that as of now, I have no idea of what Charlie Sheen’s HIV status is and nor do I think it is any of my business.  And I do not want anyone to interpret my writing this blog as an endorsement of the publicity that this topic has received.  In fact, whether it is true or not, I want this blog to be about how we treat STD-STI status and how its stigmatization leads to more infections and more shame.  I also want to talk about how if your partner doesn’t know your status, you really don’t have their consent to knowingly expose them to a STD/STI.

Stigmatization, Shame, and Consent
It is news stories like this, and locker room gossip, that lead to the greater stigmatization of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or sexually transmitted infections (STIs).  And with greater stigmatization leads to shame and greater secrecy: the more something is stigmatized, the more it is likely that someone will try to hide or not share their status, and my opinion is that if you have a STD/STI and you do not share that with a partner, you are victimizing that partner by not giving them the right to choose whether they want to risk their health and wellness and sexual self-image on a sexual relationship with you.  And they might want to take that risk.  Or they might not.  But consent is the name of the game in sex these days.  You need a yes before you can proceed, and that has to do with STD/STIs as well.

So if you knowingly have an STD/STI and do not share that with your partner (no matter how much they do or do not matter to you), you are taking away their right to choose whether to be exposed to a sexually transmitted disease.  And not only does it victimize your partner, it is also in very poor taste.

“I got tested, so I’m all good.”  Really?  What did you get tested for?
News Alert: When you walk into your doctors office and ask for an STD Test, you will likely get tested for the following:
HIV
Chlamydia
Gonorrhea
Syphilis

Why only those four you ask?  While I am not COMPLETELY sure, I have an idea it’s because those are the four diseases that are required to be reported to the Center for Disease Control.  So my guess is that the research, testing, and treatment for these diseases have some money tied up into them.  Also, HIV and Syphilis can be very fatal untreated (and chlamydia and gonorrhea is no walk in the park either).  But I don’t want to get into this too much, I am just writing to notify you that this is what likely will occur.   I may be totally off the mark and some testing is WAY better than no testing!

What they WON’T test you for (unless you ask or they determine you to be “high risk”) are as follows:
Hepatitis C
Hepatitis B
HPV (Human Papilloma Virus/ genital warts)
Herpes (HSV I and HSV II)
Vaginitis: Yeast Infections or Bacterial Vaginosis
Molluscum Contagiosum
Crabs (Pubic Lice)
Nongonococcal Urethritis
Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Scabies
Trichomoniasis

And to really freak you out, there are new STDs/STIs being discovered that aren’t on this list: read more

So when you say “I’ve been tested” the questions to follow should be:
1) When was the last time you were tested?
2) What were you tested for?
3) How many sexual partners have you had since you have last been tested?
4) Do you regularly use condoms during sex?
5) Since the last time you were tested, did you have sex with someone you knew who had an STD/STI?

It is essential you are your own health advocate in these situations.  And you might need to pay a little money out of pocket, because insurance does not always cover all of these tests (as they deem them unnecessary unless there is evidence of symptoms or risk).  But your sexual health is invaluable (as well as the sexual health of your partners), so I suggest you make the investment to test for as many as you can.

So what are we dealing with?  
While the statistics vary, according to the American Sexual Health Association (http://www.ashasexualhealth.org),

More than half of all people will have an STD/STI at some point in their lifetime.

Each year, one in four teens contracts an STD/STI.

One in two sexually active persons will contract an STD/STI by age 25.

One out of 20 people in the United States will get infected with hepatitis B (HBV) some time during their lives. Hepatitis B is 100 times more infectious than HIV.

It is estimated that as many as one in five Americans have genital herpes, a lifelong (but manageable) infection, yet up to 90 percent of those with herpes are unaware they have it.

With more than 50 million adults in the US with genital herpes and up to 776,000 new infections each year, some estimates suggest that by 2025 up to 40% of all men and half of all women could be infected.

Over 14 million people acquire HPV each yearand by age 50, at least 80 percent of women will have acquired genital HPV infection. Most people with HPV do not develop symptoms.

It goes on and on, so I won’t get too bogged down.  But you get the point.  It isn’t just about HIV anymore… and the consequences of a positive status on many of these diseases/infections can have devastating consequences due to stigma, shame, and low sexual self-esteem.

Stigma and Shame Around STD/STI Status
Many people these days say “HIV, whats the big deal, it’s basically curable now”.  I’m not going to attest to the medical advances around HIV and other STDs/STIs.  What I do want to talk about is no matter the cure, no matter the treatment, the stigma and shame that surround ANY diagnosis of an STD is there and it is enough to knock you down off your sexual high horse and come back to reality that you are a human being and can get diseases from other human beings, no matter how careful or how careless you are about safe sex.  So even if there are medical treatments and cures for sexual transmitted diseases and infections, they don’t address the stigma and shame you may feel after you receive your first diagnosis of a STD/STI.

And that stigma and shame just might cause you to NOT want to tell a partner about you status.  Not tell your partner that you sometimes get cold sores on your mouth.  Not tell your partner that you had to burn genital warts once or twice or many times.  Not tell your partner that you have had several abnormal PAP smears and you are afraid you have cervical cancer, the third most common cancer among women.

And stories like Charlie Sheen’s HIV Status, and the numerous reports about which celebrities have genital herpes, and the locker room whispers about who has what and who gave what to who, contribute to this stigma and shame.

If you really like your partner, or if you just want to be a good person, tell your partner about your status and let THEM make the choice.  Victimization occurs when you take that choice away from someone.

And if you are struggling with telling your partners about your status, getting tested, or dealing with stigma and shame around a diagnosis of an STI/STD, feel free to give me a call at the information below.  You are not alone, in fact, you are VERY not alone.

No Habla Espanol: Spanish Resources for Sexual Issues

Rhiannon No Comments

No Habla Espanol: It’s difficult to find resources in Spanish for anything to do with sexual issues. Recently, a colleague of mine asked if I had any Spanish resources for sexual issues as she had a client that was looking for resources to assist with some dyspareunia and vaginismus.  Off the top of my head, I didn’t know of any, but felt like it was a great question and in efforts to be culturally competent and inclusive, here is what a short search online resulted in.

(Note: While I do have some basic knowledge of Spanish [seven years and several weeks in Spain should provide that] I don’t have the language skills to review all of these resources so I cannot personally vouch for these resources entirely)
spanish photo

En La Mujer (For the Woman)

Vaginismo (Vaginismus) 
http://www.vaginismus.com/_lang/es/
http://www.womenscenteroftexas.com/resources/women.aspx?chunkiid=127548
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/spanish/ency/article/001487.htm
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IBRO: VAGINISMO Y COITO DOLOROSO

Dyspareunia
http://es.familydoctor.org/familydoctor/es/diseases-conditions/dyspareunia.printerview.all.html

Dolor Pelvico (Pelvic Pain)
http://www.nichd.nih.gov/health/topics/pelvicpain/espanol/informacion/Pages/default.aspx
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IBRO: Sana El Dolor Pelvico

Sexualidad para la mujer con cáncer (Sexuality and Cancer) 
http://www.cancer.org/espanol/servicios/tratamientosyefectossecundarios/efectossecundariosfisicos/fragmentado/sexualidad-para-la-mujer-con-cancer-cancer-sex-sexuality

Disfuncion Sexual Mujeres (Sexual Dysfunction in Women)
http://es.familydoctor.org/familydoctor/es/diseases-conditions/sexual-dysfunction-women.printerview.all.html
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/spanish/ency/article/001487.htm

El Sistema Reproductor Femenino (Female Reproductive System)
http://kidshealth.org/parent/en_espanol/general/female_reproductive_system_esp.html

Womenshealth.gov/espanol
http://womenshealth.gov/espanol/index.html

Disfuncion Orgasmica (Orgasmic Dysfunction) 
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/spanish/ency/article/001953.htm

Por Los Hombres (For the Men)

Disfuncion Erectil (Erectile Dysfunction)
http://kidney.niddk.nih.gov/Spanish/pubs/ED/index.aspx

Problemas Sexuales Comunes La Disfuncin (Hombres y Mujeres) 
http://kinseyconfidential.org/los-recursos-en-espanol/problemas-sexuales-comunes-la-disfuncin/

Adictos Sexuales Anonimos: https://saa-store.org/book/

 

Some additional resources that some colleagues have recommended include:

http://www.amssac.org/ (Mexico)

http://www.sexovida.com (Argentina)