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Street Smart or Sex Smart?

This article first appeared on the CozyCot website.

So, how did you select your secondary school after your PSLE (Primary School Leaving Examinations)? How did you decide what career to pursue? Before any major purchase, what would you do before making the final choice?

Of course, you must have conducted some form of research into all kinds of things – from the best places for luxury bargains, which degree to pursue, what career prospects exist, to which type of housing is affordable. This research might have taken the form of asking trusted friends, seeking advice from family members, or even surfing the internet, to help you make all sorts of decisions.

Now to my point – why don’t we take that care when it comes to sex and sexuality? What exactly do you know about sex and sexuality? Surely, this topic deserves some of your attention, considering how uninformed or bad decisions can be detrimental to your well-being? How about learning what you should know so you can at least go out and get the necessary information?

Many women believe that they know enough about sex and sexuality – why wouldn’t they? They’ve dated, they know what’s going on, they’re street smart and no-one will take advantage of them. They know how to look after themselves, right?

Sex and sexuality are two distinct terms, which are often thought, incorrectly, to have the same meaning. While sex is an activity usually involving sexual intercourse between two persons, sexuality is a much broader term. Sexuality education is a lifelong process of acquiring information and forming attitudes, beliefs, and values of one’s sexuality. It encompasses sexual development, sexual and reproductive health, interpersonal relationships, affection, intimacy, body image, and gender roles.

Contrary to popular belief, sexuality education, HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) or STI (sexually transmitted infections)  prevention, and adolescent sexual education programs do not encourage the early start of sexual intercourse, the frequency of intercourse, or even an increase in the number of sexual partners among the young. Instead, understanding sexuality can actually delay the onset of intercourse, reduce the frequency of intercourse, reduce the number of sexual partners, and increase condom or contraceptive use.

These are some things a sexually informed woman ought to know:

- Sexual development and reproduction – the physical and emotional changes associated with puberty and sexual reproduction, including fertilisation and conception.

- HIV/STI and safer sex practices – information on HIV/ STI and modes of transmission, how to prevent yourself and your loved ones from these infections as well as where to go for medical advice if you ever contracted these infections

- Contraception and birth control – what contraceptives are available, how they work, how people use them, how to decide what to use or not, and how they can be obtained.

- Relationships – what kinds of relationships there are, love and commitment, marriage and partnership, the importance of self-esteem and communication skills in a relationship and the law relating to sexual behaviours and relationships as well as the range of religious and cultural views on sex, sexuality, and sexual diversity.

Some good web resources include: Scarleteen , WebMD, and HPB Sexual Health

I’d like you to really think about it, and answer (to yourself), honestly: What do you really know about the topics above? Are you making good decisions about your sexual health? Are you well informed about all these issues? And, if not, what can you do about it? Can you be not just street smart, but sex smart as well?

Dr Martha Lee is Founder and Clinical Sexologist of Eros Coaching in Singapore. She is a certified sexuality educator with AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counsellors and Therapists) as well as certified sexologist with American College of Sexologists with a Doctorate in Human Sexuality from the Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality. She is available to provide sexuality and intimacy coaching for individuals and couples, conduct sexual education workshops and speak at public events in Asia. For more, visit  HERE.

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