STI screens are a necessary evil for anyone who has sex with more than one person who has sex with more than one person who has sex with more than one person. You get the idea. The reality of casual sex is that you never know where your partner has been. Condoms give some protection against some infections but experience, and several sexual health websites, have taught me that they have their limits. And so I find myself at the doctor’s office asking for an STI screen every few months.
Over the years this request has resulted in mixed reactions. Despite the required level of professionalism that doctors are required to maintain they are still human and come with cultural and personal quirks. My city is a cultural melting pot. Wherever you go there will always be a wide range of cultures and heritages represented. This is especially evident in most medical practices. In the past when dealing with sexual health issues I have come across female doctors from certain cultural backgrounds that do not approve of a married middle aged woman being fully in touch with her sexuality. It has made me a little self conscious and cautious about sharing my lifestyle when asking for particular tests.
I recently decided to find a new General Practitioner. I had not really had a proper regular doctor for several years and had been existing with my various health conditions renewing prescriptions when I needed to but not really reviewing things or making changes. As part of the initial consult we discussed my sexual health and I requested an STI screen. This particular GP was very through, taking notes and getting a good picture of my background. She was also a relatively young Indian woman. As I mentioned before I haven’t had a good track record with this ethnicity. So while I was impressed with her professionalism I was still cautious.
As part of her background questions she asked how many sexual partners I had had in the last month. I honestly had no idea how to answer the question for several reasons. Firstly I honestly had no idea. I began a mental count back but I was coming off two weekend long lifestyle events. During both of these events I interacted sexually with multiple people in multiple ways. Debaucherous was the best word to describe the adventures of my vagina over the last month so the mental count back crashed and burned in a couple of seconds.
Secondly and more awkwardly I didn’t know how she would react to a casual shrug and a vague answer of “I’m not sure, maybe 20?” I still have that lingering self-consciousness about the “number”. The left over conditioning to be a good girl and I was sitting in front of a woman with a cultural background that defends the purity of women even more than a good Irish Catholic.
There was an awkward moment as she waited for my answer and I did the mental gymnastics and tried to come up with an answer. She must have been aware of my hesitation because she tried to reassure me with a comment,
“Nothing will shock me I promise.”
My eyebrows went up, “Really?”
She was as casual as she could be, “The highest I have heard is about 140.”
Well, my number wasn’t that high. But then I wondered how does someone sleep with 140 different people in a MONTH. That is like an average of four to five DIFFERENT people EVERY day!. The logistics alone would be challenging, let alone finding that many people who are interested.
What ever passed I gave some kind of answer between 10 and 20 and she gave me my pathology request and jars and I went on my merry way. I liked her more after that. So I will be back in her office in a few months to get checked over again.
Go me, adulting hard and all that stuff.