OK, here is the first of several posts addressing issues that might come up during this fun and stressful prom season. Talking about safe sex…. Yes, a buzzword or phrase you hear All. The. Time. Here is my definition – safe sex covers 3 components: Emotionally safe sex; pregnancy prevention; and prevention of sexually transmitted infections.
Today we talk about EMOTION and SEX.
I figure doing a sort of "MythBusters" theme here would be good. Starting with the OVERARCHING Myth that “for prom to be good, prom has to include sex”. NOT TRUE NOT TRUE NOT TRUE… did I say, that is NOT TRUE?!
Myth 1: Everyone is having sex.
BUSTED: OK, no, not everyone is having sex. Facts: More than half of high schoolers have NOT had sex. So if everyone you know is swearing they have or they brag about it or you feel like you are the last virgin on the planet, well…. Do the math. You look to your left and you look to your right, and chances are, at least one of ‘em hasn’t done the deed (or deeds as the case may be, since there is more than one type of sex).
Myth 2: It’s just sex, nothing more. If I use birth control, condoms, practice safe sex, etc etc, everything will be fine. No other consequence. Just seals the deal for Prom – then tomorrow, a new day.
BUSTED: So, I think this is pretty cool stuff actually – nothing like science to try to explain why things happen. Like why after sex you feel an attachment to your partner. The FACT here is that when scientists have done studies to try to figure out if sexual behavior causes any changes with body chemicals, they are finding that it does. To get a bit more scientific here….sexual behavior causes the release of chemicals in the nervous system (brain and nerves in the body) that actually create bonding and attachment. There are a ton of cool studies that look at this (in animals, but believe it or not, certain animals are pretty good predictors of what happens in humans). What happens is that sex causes increases in adrenal steroids (your adrenal glands make steroids), endogenous opioids (translation: chemicals made by your own body that make you feel good and kill pain ), oxytocin (more so in girls) and vasopressin (more so in boys) (2 other chemicals that your body makes that do a whole host of things, but in relation to this topic, increases emotional feelings). This, mind you, is a really simplified explanation of what happens, but the TAKE HOME POINT is: Although there are guy / girl differences in how the chemicals are released, they have the effect that BOTH guys and girls have a chemical reason to become more attached to their partner after sex, and it is not something you can control or wish away.
But wait, there’s more…. You know that saying “Love is blind?” – there is even some evidence that the increase of these chemicals can make you make some bad decisions. Like you have sex with someone that is not a healthy partner for you, and your brain knew it before. Now all those crazy body chemical reactions occur, and you cannot see logically anymore and have increased your bond to this person that might not be the best for you…. Get the idea here? So, having sex at prom just to say you did DOES have emotional consequence.
MYTH 2a: So, you’re saying that if I DO have sex with my date, my date will totally bond with me and it will 100% guarantee make us closer together and make him / her have deeper feelings for me?
BUSTED: Well, like most things, it’s not that simple. Sex does not always increase bonding. But there is no way to know if it will or won’t. The key here is to know what is right for you personally and for where your relationship is with your date. A few scenarios – your date wants to seal the deal prom night. You don’t. Try these – maybe they can help (Thanks to ACOG and more here... )
- Smooth Date: If you loooovvveee me, you’ll have sex with me…
- Strong You: If YOU really looovvveee me, you won’t pressure me.
- Smooth Date: You’re the only one I’ll ever love.
- Strong You: Good, then we’ll have lots of time later for sex.
- Smooth Date: If you don’t want to have sex with me, then I’ll find someone else who will.
- Strong You: That’s your choice. Mine is to not have sex with you.
Reality check – I don’t have my head in the sand – I know that these conversations cannot be easy. But remember, you are in charge of your mental and physical health. Know what is right for you, so you don’t say yes, when you don’t really want to, and then BAM – all those bonding chemicals rev up and here you are totally attached to someone who isn’t good for you (if they were good for you, would they really have pressured you?!?! Thinkaboutit.) Making breakups that much more awful.
On a related note to you Smooth Dates out there: No means no means no. And if your date doesn’t say no but also doesn’t agree, that does NOT mean yes. Ladies, this applies to you as well. Pressure can come from girls or guys. And both guys and girls have feelings. Equal opportunity issue here.
Prom planning is more than the outfit, the ride to the prom, the after party…. It is knowing what your plan is for the other stuff too – sex, alcohol, drugs, rides home. Here is a start to that discussion. Make a plan with an adult so you have a safe ride no matter what – carry a phone number so that you can call to be picked up if you are unsafe or in a place that is getting out of control. If you plan, you will have fun. And that is the point, right?!