Respect Yourself--Protect Yourself
I waited in that room. The harsh florescent light cast an eerie glow on everyone seated there. I squeezed my boyfriend's hand and he smiled weakly at me. We had been having sex for months. I was on The Pill. He wore a condom. That's why we were there. Both he and I had had numerous sexual partners. Sometimes we used condoms, sometimes we didn't. It was dependent on our moods at the time. I remember thinking during one of these encounters that, "I've known this guy for years. I think he's clean. He looks clean. I guess we don't have to use a condom." From the stories Wes told, he had had the same thoughts. And had done the same things. So we were getting tested. Together. We were getting blood tests done to rule out any STDs, so that we would be able to forego the condoms when we were together. You see, this was the healthiest relationship I had been in. We actually cared about each other, and caring about each other meant caring about each other's health and safety. So here we were, at 16 years old, waiting in the County Health building, getting tested.
It took about a week for the results to come back. That was the longest week in my life. There would be longer weeks to come, but at 16 years old, those 7 days seemed an eternity. I got the envelopes on a Tuesday. I drove to Wes' house and we opened them together. I remember the black and white clearly:
Herpes Simplex Virus: neg
Human Papillomavirus: neg
Bacterial Vaginosis: neg
Human Immunodeficiency Virus: neg
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome: neg
Wes's letter read the same. We were safe. We were healthy. We were going to be okay.
I never had an unprotected sexual encounter after we broke up. I made every partner that I was with wear a condom, even if I was on birth control. I even made them wear condoms during oral sex. I bought dental dams so I could protect my partners and myself. When a guy complained about my "regulations" regarding sex, I explained to them, "I intend to keep my body free from any STDs. And because I care about your health and safety, I intend to keep yours free as well." And the conversation usually ended with a trip to the nightstand and a condom. If the guy wouldn't comply, we wouldn't have sex. It was that simple.
Sex comes with responsibilities. Those responsibilities are protecting your body and the body of your partner. It means being aware of what dangers you have put yourself at risk for and realizing that by having (unprotected) sex, you are putting your partner at risk, too. If you are responsible enough to have sex, you also need to be responsible enough to protect yourself and your partners. It means using condoms, dental dams, and other forms of birth control until you are sure that you and your partner are free from STDs. It means that unplanned pregnancies are not the only risks of having sex. Condoms are cheap. Treating STDs isn't.