Instead of heading straight to work this morning, I went to the nearest urgent care to have a professional take a look at my vagina, which maybe had a yeast infection and/or An STD From The Pits Of Hell Placed There By The Devil Himself. Although I don’t get nervous easily, I had never had symptoms of an STD, been tested for STDs, or even been to a gynecologist before, so I was worried.
I’ve had a great summer— I have an awesome internship, am living in a super fun city, and have had some of the best sex of my life.
However, I was under the impression that it was nearly impossible to spread most STDs though mouth-to-vagina oral sex, due in part to the fact that I grew up queer in the South, and the little sex education that we did have is heteronormative, incomplete, and truly bizarre. (My middle school health teacher had the class pass around a marshmallow and rub it on the bottom of our shoes. “Who wants to eat this now? It’s filthy! Don’t have sex before marriage.” Also, at one point I definitely asked “What if the government doesn’t even let us get married? When do we get to have sex?” – a question for which the poor woman was thoroughly unprepared.)
In addition to my lack of knowledge about STD transmission, it’s damn (pun intended) near impossible to find protective barriers for vaginal-oral sex anywhere. I had never used protection while having oral sex, and now was freaking out because WebMD had convinced me that I had genital warts and I would never have sex EVER again and I was going to die a young and tragic death from cervical cancer, and no one would come to my funeral, and my whole life would have been meaningless. Meaningless!
I agonized between going and not going to get tested. I was worried about judgement from the doctor’s end about having multiple (same-gender) partners, I was worried about my parents inquiring about the tests (I’m still on their insurance plan [thanks, Obama!]), and, paradoxically, I was worried about getting positive test results back.
After dealing with a little internalized homophobia, I found myself with my feet in the stirrups and a physician’s assistant asking about my sex life. The physician’s assistant left the examination room and came back a minute later. “I was looking for a child-size speculum,” she explained. “You have a really small vagina.”
It was weird.
In addition to having a physical exam for the yeast infection and The Bump From Hell Probably, I also decided to get tested for other STDs while I was there, because that’s a healthy choice and I’m a Real Adult who makes healthy choices.
So far, my worries have been unfounded, and I’m very happy I went. The physician’s assistant was courteous and professional, and not the judgmental, moralizing monster I had conjured up in my head. She respected my decisions and provided excellent care, even calling me “hon” in a very nice, non-patronizing way. When I texted my mom to let her know I was going to get checked out for a yeast infection and “get some other tests done”, she didn’t pry or ask questions beyond how I was feeling. And while I do have a mild yeast infection, the PA said everything else looked hunky-dory (the bump that I assumed was an omen of my impending doom turned out to be an abrasion from a fingernail) and sent me on my way with some medicine.
So please, friends: get tested. Having the exam itself and contending with potentially awkward questions might be uncomfortable in the short term, but letting infections of any kind go undetected can lead to a lifetime of complications and passing them on to your partners is definitely not sexy.
Also, not taking care of your body because of ingrained beliefs that stem from junk science and bad politics is SO messed up on so many different levels that I won’t even get into in this post, so take care of yourself, y’all! Get checked for STDs yearly, use FDA-approved oral sex barriers, make healthy decisions, and have wonderful, consensual, worry-free sex!