This Week in Sex is a weekly summary of news and research related to sexual behavior, sexuality education, contraception, STIs, and more.
STD Survey Suggests Distressing Trends for Women
In honor of STD Awareness Month, Women’s Health partnered with Planned Parenthood to see how well women across the country were protecting themselves against sexually transmitted diseases. They asked 3,385 readers about condom use, STD testing, and talks with their partners. The results show that only 16 percent of women use condoms every time they have sex and nearly 60 percent say they rarely or never do.
In fairness, not all relationships or behaviors are equal in their risks for STDs. For women in a mutually monogamous relationship where both partners have been tested, condoms may not be necessary. Unfortunately, the more alarming news from this study is that a lot of women have never been tested, so they wouldn’t know either way. Specifically, 31 percent say they’ve never been tested for any STD, and 38 percent say they’ve never been tested for HIV.
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Testing is the only way to know for sure that you haven’t been exposed and can safely forgo the condoms in a monogamous relationship. Testing is also important because untreated STDs can cause ongoing health problems, including infertility.
The other distressing statistic from the survey is that 37 percent of women have not discussed STDs or safer sex with their partners. It may not be the sexiest or most fun conversation a couple will ever have, but it’s one of the most important. And you have to have it before you decide not to use condoms. As Dr. Vanessa Cullins, Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s vice president for external medical affairs, told Women’s Health: “After you kiss, you need to start talking. One thing leads to another.”
Sex and the Cities: Where People Are Having the Most Sex
Men’s Health conducted a different kind of survey this month to see if they could figure where the most sex was taking place. Instead of asking residents of cities across the country how much sex we’re having (because we might be tempted to lie for the sake of our hometown’s reputation), the magazine looked at what it considered to be representative statistics. The magazine’s writers combined sales data on condoms and sex toys with birth and STD rates and ranked 100 cities accordingly. Those at the top were considered the most “sex-happy.”
Austin and Dallas, Texas, came in first and second, respectively, with Austin ranking highest in the nation for condom sales, 15th for birth rates, and 23rd for STD rates. Denver, Colorado, came in fifth, with the seventh highest ranking in condom sales, 20th highest birth rate, and 19th highest STD rate.
In last place was Portland, Maine, which ranked 95th in condom sales, 95th in birth rates, and 100th in STD rates. Neither New York City or Las Vegas made the list at all, but Reno, Nevada, came in 92nd and Yonkers, New York (right outside New York City) came in 98th.
While I think the list is clever, it’s far from scientific, and I’m not sure I agree about who is actually sexually “happiest.” It may very well be that residents of Portland, Maine, are boffing like bunnies, but they’re in committed relationships and using long-acting birth control methods so they’re not buying condoms, but also not getting pregnant or getting STDs. If that’s the case, that sounds pretty good to me.
Sentimental and Sexy? New Sex Toy Incorporates Significant Other’s Ashes
Dutch designer Mark Sturkenboom has created a new sex toy for those grieving the loss of a sexual partner. 21 Grams—named after the theoretical weight of the human soul—is a memory box that includes a scent diffuser, space for keepsakes, and speakers that could connect to an iPhone to play music. It also includes a blown glass dildo, through which you can see a small golden urn. The urn is meant to hold 21 grams of human ashes. The box can be locked with a gold key.
Sturkenboom’s idea is that this would provide a widow with another chance at real intimacy. He told Dezeen, “By bringing different nostalgic moments together like the scent of his perfume, ‘their’ music, reviving the moment he gave her her first ring, it opens a window to go back to moments of love and intimacy.”
It all sounds lovely, except maybe the ashes.