I’ve just returned to university to do my Masters in IT and during my orientation I learnt several things. While most of them were relevant to the course and university there were two other things that stood out.
First, next to the IT office is the student office where you can get free condoms (because of course it’s the IT students who are going to need condoms.)
The second was along with condoms, you can also get dental dams.
For those of you who don’t know what a dental dam is, it’s a little square of latex that dentists use to isolate the tooth they’re treating.
Now, if you’re like me, you’re probably wondering why these are supplied with condoms. Basically they’re for use when performing oral sex on a woman. (If you want more detail, Glyde, who make dental dams have also produced this pamphlet.)
I am 24 and I learnt this two weeks ago, which leads me to ask two questions;
1. Why did I not know this?
2. Who’s responsibility was it to teach me?
These are two questions that should probably be looked at together.
Simply put, I didn’t know because no one told me and when I think about it, I don’t know whose job it was to teach me.
I went to a public school and we did have sex education as part of science in year 7 but it wasn’t really about sex it was more about the reproductive process. We didn’t cover condoms at all.
There was more comprehensive sex education taught in year 10 where I know they were taught how to use condoms but it was taught in health which was an elective. I didn’t do this class because I chose what I considered to be more “fun” electives (i.e. drama/art classes) and I’m not sure what percentage of kids in my year level would have taken it.
Next, there’s my parents who have never really given me “the talk.” I think Mum probably tried and I just put my hand over my ears and told her we had covered it in school.
Seeing as most of my peers were at school with me, I doubt they were taught this either. The ones I have spoken to recently have confirmed that they have never heard of using dental dams as protection.
Then there was that whole Michael Douglas “oral sex gave me throat cancer” thing a few months ago which would have been the perfect opportunity to bring this up. Yet despite the fact Cosmo Australia had a whole article on HPV in their August issue, the use of dental dams was not mentioned. In fact, although they confirmed that you can give your partner HPV through oral sex, their conclusion was;
“We can go forth and enjoy sexy times, so long as we’re being safe and keeping up with our regular Pap smears.”
That’s it. No mention of what “safe” involves. Just keep having checks.
Thanks to Girls (ah Lena Dunham, is there anything you CAN’T do!) I know that men can’t get tested for HPV and that also once you have it there’s not a definitive cure for it. You can treat certain symptoms depending on the strain, but you can’t get rid of it completely. So isn’t more important to teach prevention?
Cosmo magazine and its younger sisters Dolly and Girlfriend always go on about condoms, condoms, condoms and using them when performing oral sex on men, which is fair enough, they’re important but if dental dams can prevent HPV aren’t they important too?
Even the Australian Government’s Health Department’s HPV page doesn’t cover it. It’s only about the vaccine.
Neither does bioCSL’s site http://www.hpv.com.au/.
So maybe I’m not the only one that doesn’t know, but this is something that clearly needs to be taught.
Surely the fact, that at age 24, I only just discovered this is proof we need better sex education programs in our schools and in the community in general.