By Rachel Allison
Hollywood and the media send “in your face” messages of sexual lies that far too often men and women swallow, hook, line and sinker. “Sex on the first date? That’s okay, it was love at first sight”. “You waited to have sex until the third or fourth date? You’re a pillar of self-control.” “You choose to wait until you are married to have sexual intimacy? You are a prude. “
Let’s talk facts.
1. According to medical studies intimate behavior floods the brain with oxytocin, a chemical that fuels attachment. When oxytocin levels are high, a person is more likely to overlook the partner’s faults, and take risks not normally taken. When it comes to sex, oxytocin, like alcohol, turns red lights green. It plays a major role in what’s called “the biochemistry of attachment.”
According to Dr. Miriam Grossman, MD, girls, in particular, can develop feelings for a guy whose last intention is to bond with her. She might think of him all day, but he can’t remember her name.
2. Science has confirmed the existence of “beer goggles”—when a person seems more attractive to you after you’ve had a few drinks. In a British study, eighty college students rated photos of unfamiliar faces of men and women their age; alcohol consumption significantly raised the scores given to photos of the opposite sex. Drinking affects the nucleus accumbens, the area of the brain used to determine facial attractiveness. It’s probably one of several reasons that casual, high-risk sex is often preceded by alcohol consumption.
3. A recent study of the hook-up culture at Princeton University reveals: Before the hook-up: Girls expect emotional involvement almost twice as often as guys; 34 percent hope “a relationship might evolve.” Guys, more than girls, are in part motivated by hopes of improving their social reputation, or of bragging about their exploits to friends the next day. After the hook-up: 91 percent of girls admit to having feelings of regret. Guilt and “feeling used” are commonly cited, and overall, 80 percent of girls wish the hook-up hadn’t happened.
Other studies have shown: 84 percent of women said that after having sex a few times, even with someone they didn’t want to be emotionally involved with, they begin to feel vulnerable and would at least like to know if the other person cares about them.
As the number of casual sex partners in the past year increased, so did signs of depression in college women. Forty nine percent of students whose hook-up included intercourse never see one another again, and less than 10 percent of “friends with benefits” develop into romance.
4. A younger cervix is more vulnerable to infection. The younger cervix has a vulnerable area one cell thick, called the transformation zone. It’s easy for HPV (the human papillomavirus, which can cause genital warts, and even cervical cancer) to settle in there. That’s why most teen girls are infected from one of their first sexual partners. By adulthood the transformation zone is replaced with a thicker, tougher surface. Even though these infections are common, and usually disappear with time, learning you have one can be devastating. Natural reactions are shock, anger, and confusion. “Who did I get this from, and when? Was he unfaithful? Who should I tell? And hardest of all: Who will want me now? These concerns can affect concentration, sleep, mood, and can deal a serious blow to one’s self-esteem.
The HPV vaccine is a major achievement, but the protection it provides is limited. You are still vulnerable to other infections like herpes, Chlamydia, HIV, and non-covered strains of HPV….not to mention the emotional trauma inflicted.
5. Most guys who have a sexually transmitted infection don’t know it. Routine testing for men does not provide information about HPV or herpes. It’s easiest to transmit herpes or HPV when warts or sores are present, but it can also happen at other times, when everything looks OK. Condoms only reduce the risk by 60-70 percent. So you may still pay a price, even if both partners are tested and a condom is used every time.
6. And about those other sexual activities…having more than five oral sex partners has been associated with throat cancer. Turns out that HPV can cause malignant tumors in the throat, just like it does in the cervix.
In a study of sexually active college men, HPV was found both where you’d expect—the genital area—and where you wouldn’t: under fingernails. Researchers now speculate whether the virus can be shared during activities considered “safe,” like mutual masturbation.
According to the Center for Disease Control, approximately 30 percent of all women will have had anal intercourse by the age of 24. Even with condoms, this behavior places them at increased risk of infection with HIV and other STDs. For example, the risk for HIV transmission during anal intercourse is at least 20 times higher than with vaginal intercourse. The government website, www.fda.gov, provides no-nonsense advice about avoiding HIV: “Condoms provide some protection, but anal intercourse is simply too dangerous to practice.”
7. Seventy-five percent of college freshmen say that raising a family is an “essential or very important goal.” But 55 percent of younger high-achieving women are childless at 35. And 89 percent of them think they’ll be able to get pregnant into their forties.
It’s easiest for a woman to conceive and deliver a healthy child in her twenties. Fertility declines slightly at 30, and more dramatically at 35. Some may imagine that the waiting rooms of fertility clinics are packed with obese women smoking cigarettes. Wrong! They are filled with health-conscious women who work out and count calories. They are there because they’re forty.
Hollywood’s lie? “Exploring and experimenting with sex is fulfilling, exciting, and satisfying.”
Don’t fall for it. It’s easy to forget, but the characters on Grey’s Anatomy and Sex in the City are not real. In real life, Meredith and Carrie would have warts or herpes. They’d likely be on Prozac or Zoloft. Today a woman cannot have multiple partners without paying a price.
Most of this article comes from Sense and Sexuality by Miriam Grossman, M.D.
For your bookshelf: “Unprotected” by Miriam Grossman, M.D., “The Female Brain” by Louann Brizendine, M.D. and “Taking Sex Differences Seriously” by Steven E. Rhoads, Ph.D.