Birth control is sexy, not scary

Many of us do not like to discuss our sexual health unless forced to at the doctor’s office. Admittedly, we only do so with our very close friends or sexual partner. But in order to maintain proper sexual health it must be discussed. It is hard to define what sexual health and all of what being sexually healthy entails, but for those of us who need a little nudging to get to conversation started, a website called Bedsider.org is here to help.

The World Health Organization’s definition of sexual health indicates that a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships is an important part of sexual health. At Bedsider.org, users can discuss all manner of…interesting topics. Like the following tweet about the sexual body: “@Bedsider: Things that swell during sex: Genitals, breasts, your inner nose. And an orgasm can clear your sinuses. The body! So fascinating!” To that end, one can see that being free of infection and preventing unwanted pregnancy also contributes to sexual health. Contraception addresses this latter part of that sexual health definition directly.

We all need protection. From birth, humans have searched for the protection they felt while inside the womb – that safe little, watery bubble that kept us hidden away from the dangers of life. As children, we found and sought that protection from our caregivers: parents, grandparents, teachers, etc. We protect ourselves in cars and on planes with seatbelts, on motorcycles and bikes with helmets, and for life’s unexpected emergencies, we protect ourselves with insurance. So why not also protect ourselves during sex? It seems simple enough – even logical: protect yourself. Not only from the slew of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) that we could be exposed to, but also from pregnancies for which we may not be prepared.

In its various forms and methods, the goal of contraception is to assist with planning when to have children. However, navigating through which method is best for each particular situation can be challenging. Our nation’s culture has made it somewhat uncomfortable to talk about sex. Despite pop groups like Salt-n-Pepa and TLC trying to demystify sex and bring frank discussions about STIs to the forefront, communicating about sex, STIs, and birth control is still secretive and shame-inducing.

Helping to bridge this gap and remove the long hanging and dusty shroud from S-E-X is Bedsider.org: a free online birth control support network. According to Liz Sabatiuk, Social Media Manager at the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, the goal of Bedsider is to help women in to do a better job using, sticking to, and getting info about methods [of birth control] to keep them from getting pregnant until ready.”

Bedsider is a brand of the Campaign with their website being the flagship of that brand. While the Campaign does try to prevent both teen and unplanned pregnancy, Bedsider focuses on unplanned pregnancy prevention. The high incidence of unplanned pregnancies amongst young women is startling. “For single women aged 18-29, 7 out of 10 pregnancies are unplanned. That’s really high,” says Sabatiuk.

Bedsider uses their website, presence on social media platforms, and web tools to connect with the women in their target demographic. The site offers a comprehensive database of clinics, a news section, pictures of birth control methods, an emergency contraception finder, as well as a features section. The site even allows you to sign up to receive method and appointment reminders with sexy and fun factoids.

Visitors to Bedsider can also watch videos posted by real women to learn about their experiences with different methods of contraception. Their resources and information on methods, prices, and availability is comprehensive which eliminates a lot of the work out of the process of finding the right method.

Through their unique approach, Bedsider is filling a role that Sabaituk feels is very necessary in sex education, “Adults need sex ed, but we don’t want to sell it that way. [Bedsider] is not designed to be finger-wagging or destructive.”

A site launched by Planned Parenthood seems to suggest that Bedsider’s amusing handle on contraception is catching. The site, www.wheredidyouwearit.com, allows condom users to anonymously check in on a worldwide map using the barcode found on their condom wrapper and rate their safe-sex experience.

On the road to overall health, we cannot avoid talking about sexual health. Embracing social media tools as the sites in this article have may be the way toward removing the shame from contraception and sex. Making the overall experience sexier by making it more engaging is the new technique that may prove more successful in getting young adults to be more aware of the importance of sexual health. People are not deviants for wanting information about sex and contraception or wanting to be safe while having sex. Sites like those discussed in this article can serve as a resource to both young adults and medical providers wanting to give their patients an alternative way of gaining the knowledge they seek about birth control and sexual health.

Graciano Petersen
National Publications Committee Vice-Chairperson 2011-2012
 
Image courtesy of: http://cdn.babble.com/strollerderby/files/2011/08/family-planning-and-contraception.jpg 

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