Sexual health and body image

As a sexual health educator, body image is not something I often think about.  Yes, I want to empower students to make the best sexual decisions for their life (which may include not being sexually active).  While I think it is important to have a positive body image to ensure that you are being sexually active for the right reasons (and you are not searching for someone else’s validation), body image is not a normal discussion point when I am talking about sexual health.  I stumbled across this article and I think it is important and manages to frame body image and sexual health in a provocative and important way:  through the lens of STIs.

Simply put, the rates of STIs in this country are pretty high- especially among individuals aged 15-24.  The CDC estimates that of the 20 million STIs that occur in the US each year, half of them are among this age group.  Luckily, many STIs can be quickly treated with antibiotics.  One of the STIs that cannot be quickly treated is herpes.

Herpes is a STI that carriers a huge stigma.  I remember rumors in college going around about one girl who “had the herp”.  My friends and I all shook our heads, thinking about how awful it’d be to have herpes.  The author of this article, however, states the truth about herpes- that it just isn’t a big deal.  It really is just a skin condition, and compared to STIs like gonorrhea, which can cause infertility if left untreated, herpes is just an annoying thing to have to deal with when it flares up.  Approximately 2/3 of adults have the herpes virus.

I think the author of this article was incredibly brave.  By writing about her body on the internet, she had the potential to face extreme backlash.  However, instead she was able to highlight her positive body image, for being able to accept her body for what it is, herpes and all!


Disclaimer:  Even though it is not a big deal, you should still protect yourself from herpes and other STIs!  Free safer sex supplies are available around campus through the Get Yourself Protected Campaign.  STI testing is available at Stamps Health Services.


By:  Julia Greenspan


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