Dr. Miriam Grossman, M.D. worked at a campus counseling center for more than 10 years. The young women who came to her were in crisis. They were “working hard to fulfill their dreams: a college education, maybe grad school, a great career, and—at some point—a home, husband, and kids.” But they come to her office in tears because of struggles and setbacks caused by decisions and regrets. “She’s already involved with the wrong guy, or infected with genital warts or herpes. She’s already lost a great relationship, missed an opportunity, or failed a midterm. I’m her doctor, but all I can do is sit there, listen, and hand her tissues.”
Dr. Grossman’s book “Unprotected” should be a must read for every teenager in the United States, Canada, England, France…ok, the world. But until parents and youth leaders can get them their must read copy, here are a few things Dr. Grossman has prepared for young women to read before the regrets begin …information young girls should know before sexual intimacy.
1. Intimacy promotes attachment and trust.
Intimate behavior floods your brain with a chemical that fuels attachment. Cuddling, kissing, and sexual contact release oxytocin, a hormone that announces: “I’m with someone special now. Time to switch love on, and caution off. When oxytocin levels are high, you’re more likely to overlook your partner’s faults and take risks you otherwise wouldn’t…
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.” Because of it, you could develop feelings for a guy whose last intention is to bond with you. You might think of him all day, but he can’t remember your name.
2. Science confirms: alcohol makes him hot…when he’s not.
Science has confirmed the existence of “beer goggles”—when a person seems more attractive to you after you’ve had a few drinks….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 hook-up usually leads to regret.
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% 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% of girls admit to having feelings of regret, at least occasionally. Guilt and ‘feeling used’ are commonly cited, and overall, 80% of girls wish the hook-up hadn’t happened. Other studies have shown: 84% of women said that after having sex a few times, …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 increased, so did signs of depression in college women. 49% of students whose hook-up included intercourse never see one another again, and less than 10% of “friends with benefits” develop into romances.
4. A younger cervix is more vulnerable to infection.
Your cervix, the entrance to your uterus, 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 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. So it’s wise to delay sexual activity, or, if you’ve already started, to stop.
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 your mood, concentration, and sleep. They can deal a serious blow to your self-esteem…and to your GPA.
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. And of course no vaccine prevents a broken heart.
5. He may not know he has HPV or herpes.
Most guys who have a sexually transmitted infection don’t know it….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%.
6. The rectum is an exit, not an entrance.
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. Yes, you read that right. Researchers now speculate whether the virus can be shared during activities considered “safe,” like mutual masturbation.
According to the Centers for disease Control, approximately 30% 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 of HIV transmission during anal intercourse is at least 20 times higher than with vaginal intercourse.
The government website, www.fda.gov, provides no-nonsense advise about avoiding HIV: “Condoms provide some protection, but anal intercourse is simply too dangerous to practice.”
The rectum is an exit, not an entrance. Anal penetration is hazardous. Don’t do it.
“Young women are bombarded with the message: “Exploring and experimenting—as long as you’re “protected”—can be safe, satisfying, and beneficial.”
“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 so many partners with paying a price….We’re fighting a horde of bugs, and the bugs are winning. It’s no longer enough to communicate with your “partners,” get tested, and use condoms.”
“Any genital contact with another person is a serious matter. A single encounter can have life-long consequences, especially for a woman. That’s not sexist, that’s biology—your biology. Ignorance or denial of this fact will only increase your vulnerability.”
“You’re in control, it’s all in your hands. The distress that often follows casual sex is 100% preventable. Life may throw you some curve balls, but STDs, and encounters you’d rather forget, are burdens that you can avoid.”
“Listen to the lesson of hard science: It’s wise to be very, very careful about who you allow to get intimately close to you.”
Dr. Grossman concludes: “I believe in you. And I don’t want to see you in my office. Now go pursue your dreams.”
This information was taken from the booklet, Sense & Sexuality, prepared by Dr. Miriam Grossman for college coeds.