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Myths About Safe Sex

Know the Truth Before You Sleep With Someone Without a Condom

By

Updated February 03, 2014

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

I have been infuriated by some of the things I read on the Internet when it comes to safe sex. Everywhere I look, there are people spouting ridiculous untruths to get their partners to sleep with them without a condom. I suppose some of them may actually believe the things they're saying, but in my mind that only makes things worse. Here are the top 10 things that, if you hear them, should make you run screaming from the bedroom -- at least as far as the drug store.

1. "Of Course I'm Safe... I've Only Ever Slept With Virgins."

Even in the unlikely circumstance where not only does the person making the statement believe that it's true, but the people who claimed virginal status also were telling the truth, this says nothing about whether or not a person has an STD. For many people, being a virgin simply means that they haven't ever had vaginal intercourse. Since anal and oral sex, and even frottage, can also transmit various sexually transmitted diseases, having "only slept with virgins" is no guarantee that your partner is free of infection.

2. "Almost No One Gets HIV From Vaginal Intercourse."

Worldwide, almost 90% of all HIV infections have been transmitted through vaginal intercourse. Although infection with other STDs increases the risk that HIV will be transmitted during any act of intercourse, the presence of another infection is by no means necessary for HIV to be passed on. However, when used correctly, both male and female condoms are extremely effective in preventing the spread of HIV by vaginal intercourse.

3. "I've Been Tested For Everything, and I'm Completely Clean."

It's impossible to be tested for everything. There are several common STDs for which there are either no commercial tests, or for which the tests are only accurate during an outbreak. There are also STDs, such as syphilis, which a physician may be reluctant to screen you for unless you are likely to have been exposed. Therefore, a person who tells you they have been tested for "everything" is either lying to you or has no idea what they're talking about. Ask them what specific diseases they have been tested for, and you'll get a better idea of the true status of things. It's possible they just have far too much faith in their physician.

4. "I Would Know If I Had an STD."

It would be nice if this statement was true -- everyone could save a lot of time and money by not having to go for regular STD testing. Unfortunately, not only are most STDs asymptomatic, you can't count on staying safe just by going for regular doctors visits. With the exception of the nurse practitioners at Planned Parenthood, very few health care providers regularly test their patients for STDs unless they are specifically asked to do so. This is why it's so essential to go for regular screening.

5. "I Would Know If Someone I'd Slept With Had an STD."

No. You wouldn't. The vast majority of STDs are frequently asymptomatic. That means they have no symptoms. Most of the time, the only way to know if your partner has an STD is to ask him/her to get tested, and then wait for the results. There is no way to tell by sight, taste, smell, or touch if your partner has an STD. You just have to ask...and listen.

6. "My Last Girlfriend Said Her Tests Were Negative -- Nothing to Worry About!"

Even if someone is infected with a sexually transmitted disease, not every sexual act will cause that disease to be transmitted to a partner. Therefore, just because someone's previous girlfriend tested negative for a range of STDs does not mean that that person is not infected. The only way for someone to know whether or not he or she has an STD is to go and get tested…. The same thing goes for you.

7. "You Can't Get Pregnant Your First Time."

This doesn't really have anything to do with sexually transmitted diseases, but I've recently discovered that there are still people who believe this, and I need to speak out. You can get pregnant your first time. Sometimes, you can get pregnant before you've even had your first period. The only surefire way to avoid pregnancy is to avoid vaginal intercourse. If that's not an option, you need to use a reliable method of contraception.

8. "Condoms Could Fail, So I Shouldn't Use Them."

Although condoms do occasionally break, when used correctly their failure rate is surprisingly low. However, even if that weren't the case, it would still be smarter to use a form of protection that might sometimes let you down than no form of protection at all. Except in the rare instance of breakage, condoms are extremely effective at preventing most STDs. Even the risk of those STDs that are transmitted by skin to skin contact can be lowered by using condoms, although not eliminated entirely.

9. "I Can't Use Condoms..."

It doesn't matter whether the rest of this sentence is "I'm too big," "I'm allergic," or even, "they're against my religion." It's just an excuse. First of all, condoms are very stretchy. In my college days we used to pull them over a pair of combat boots to demonstrate that they'll happily cover just about anything you'd be willing to put in your body. If anything, the men who have a legitimate gripe against condom makers are usually the ones whose penises are on the smaller side of average. As for the other reasons, polyurethane condoms are available for people with latex allergies. And, if condoms are against a person's religion, it's a pretty good bet that premarital sex is too... just tell those folks that they can't have it both ways.

10. "Don't Worry! This Can't Get You Pregnant!"

Oral and anal sex may not be able to make you pregnant, but they certainly can give you a sexually transmitted disease. The irony is that pregnancy is a self-limiting condition, but some STDs, such as HIV, HPV, and genital herpes, are not. The same thing goes for vaginal intercourse with anyone who has undergone elective sterilization or has a low sperm count. They may not be likely to have babies, but that doesn't mean they're safe from everything else. For those people who believe that oral and anal sex don't really count as "sex" because you can have them and still be a "virgin", remember -- virgins can get STDs, too.

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