One of the perks of working at a university is that not only do I experience the “New Year” each January 1, but I also get to experience the new year that comes each Fall as students move in to campus and we all look forward to the year ahead. As someone who teaches human sexuality classes to college students, I like to think of the things that they â€“ and frankly, all of us â€“ can do to improve our sexual health. As such, here are 5 things you can do for better sexual health:
- Check things out down there. Once each month, check out your genitals â€“ and those of your partner, if you have one â€“ for any changes. Though most lumps and bumps will be benign and harmless, some changes may indicate sexually transmissible infections (STI), skin disorders that might benefit from early detection, or even cancer.
- If you tan, wear bottoms. With few exceptions (such as for psoriasis patients), tanning booths aren’t exactly good for your health or skin. However, if you do choose to tan, consider wearing bathing suit bottoms. Genital skin isn’t used to UV rays and some reports have suggested that people who tan bottomless may be at an increased risk of getting skin cancer on their genitals.
- Get tested. If you’re in the market for a new partner, get tested for STIs so that you can report to duty with a clean bill of health. And if you’ve recently had a new partner, or think your partner has had other partners, or if you’re thinking about becoming pregnant or just want to be sure you’re clear on your STI status, then get tested. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, trich, syphilis and HIV are always good bets as far as testing goes. Some people choose to get tested for herpes as well and some women choose to get tested for HPV (unfortunately, HPV testing is not typically available for men).
- Look into birth control. Not ready to become a mom or dad yet? Then look into effective methods of birth control. Some people even double up just to be certain, such as by using a condom and still pulling out or by using a condom and the birth control pill. Visit PlannedParenthood.com for basic info and ask your healthcare provider to go over your options with you.
- Learn about sex. Good sexual health isn’t just physical! Being able to talk comfortably about sex is important, too. My favorite books include Because It Feels Good (because I wrote it), Becoming Orgasmic, For Each Other, The New Male Sexuality, Big Big Love and Moregasm. Check them out and see if one might be a good fit for you and where you’re at or want to be in your own sex life.
Debby Herbenick, PhD, MPH is a research scientist at Indiana University, a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, a widely read sex columnist and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure & Satisfaction.