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Virgin territory

High school student is smart to plan ahead

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I'm a straight 18-year-old female, a senior in high school, and I'm still a virgin. I'm fine with this. I'm going to a university about 3,000 miles away next fall, and I am starting to wonder about going on some method of birth control. My degree is going to take me six years to complete, and I expect that within those six years I might want to have sex with someone. Would going to the doctor and having an implant or IUD inserted be dumb? (I might want a long-term method of birth control.) I trust the doctor I have here at home; the second I turned 14, he gave me tons of info on birth control and how I can get access to it. So I would be more than comfortable getting it through him.

Please let me know if I'm overthinking all of this and whether or not I should cross birth control off of my pre-college to-do list.

Thinking I Might Encounter Love Yearnings

"It is in no way 'dumb' to consider contraception as a virgin," says Dr. Unjali Malhotra, medical director for Options for Sexual Health British Columbia, aka the Planned Parenthood of British Columbia. "It is actually best to get on a method prior to ever having sex to ensure she is happy on her chosen option before acutely requiring it for birth control."

Dr. Malhotra also supports — acutely supports — your preference for a long-term method.

"Although oral contraceptives are popular," says Dr. Malhotra, "they have up to a 9 percent 'typical-use' failure rate." Pills can fail a woman who forgets to take them — which is all too common — but a woman can't forget to take her IUD or implant. Which is why progesterone-releasing IUDs have failure rates of 0.2 percent, copper IUDs have failure rates of 0.8 percent, and implants have failure rates of 0.05 percent.

"TIMELY can choose between a nonhormonal copper IUD, a progesterone-releasing IUD, and a progesterone-releasing implant," says Dr. Malhotra. "Timing wise, she has options of a three-year implant, five-year IUD, and 10-year IUD. There are advantages to each, which she can discuss with her physician. And, despite myths to the contrary, there are very few risks with an IUD, and she can remove it and get pregnant at any time if she wishes."

None of these options, however, will protect you from sexually transmitted infections, TIMELY, so use condoms regardless. For more info about birth control, sexual health, and STIs, go to optionsforsexualhealth.org.

I have been treated badly in several past relationships. I am now in a great one, but I have a hard time believing/trusting that nothing bad will happen. How can I get over this dread?

Student Asking

Something bad is going to happen — believe it. Sooner or later, your new squeeze will do something bad and you'll get hurt. Hopefully the bad that happens won't be as bad as the bad you experienced in the past relationships — no physical or emotional violence, no unforgivable betrayals, nothing that requires you to end this relationship — but your new partner will behave badly toward you at some point. And you will behave badly toward your new partner. There's some bad even in the best relationships. You'll experience less dread if you can accept that.

What are the effects of perpetuating the myth that gay men should all be tanned and chiseled Adonises? Because that is all one sees.

Not All Adonises

In the last 24 hours of casual media consumption — cable news, daily papers, my Twitter feed, straight blogs, queer blogs — I've seen my fair share of tanned and chiseled Adonises. I've also seen pictures and/or video of Bayard Rustin, Barney Frank, Harvey Fierstein, Harvey Milk, Daniel Hernandez Jr., Ian McKellen, Evan Wolfson, Jared Polis, Bruce Vilanch, Alan Turing and more. All great guys, all of whom have made or are making a difference (leading the civil rights movement, leading the LGBT rights movement, making art, telling jokes, helping to defeat Nazi Germany, pushing the boundaries of drag as an art form), but not one of whom was, is, or ever aspired to be an underwear model.

Images of perfect male bodies can fuel body-image issues in both gay and straight men. Gay men in particular are at higher risk of anorexia, bulimia and "bigorexia," aka muscle dysmorphia, aka "gay dude who lives at the gym." So those images of tanned and chiseled Adonises can do harm. But if all one sees are images of tanned and chiseled Adonises, NAA, then that's all one is looking for.

Yes, the media — gay and straight — focuses too much on the young and the hot. But if you're not seeing gay men of all ages, sizes, shapes and colors, NAA, it's because you're choosing not to see them. Open your eyes.

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