Desiree Spierings Looking After Your Sexual Health This Summer Interview New findings from the Durex Global Sexual Wellbeing Survey (involving 36 countries) have unfortunately revealed Australian (women and men) are gambling with their sexual health.
More than half (57%) of all Australian men and women did not use any form of protection when they lost their virginity
Only around one in three (39% of women and 30% of men) were in a stable relationship when they first had sex
One in five (19%) of all those in a relationship admit to not knowing whether their partner has ever had an STI or not. They often just presume!
Around one in eight men (13%) and 5% of Australian women who are in a relationship admitted to being unfaithful by also having sex with other partners
Australian women have had 11 partners on average, fewer than New Zealand women (13), but more than the British and Americans (both 10)
Interview with Desiree SpieringsQuestion: What are your top tips for women, in regards to looking after their sexual health, this summer?
Desiree Spierings: Make the choice to ALWAYS use a condom! So put it on, before you get it on! Using a condom should become the norm, except when both partners are tested and results are shared, because it will protect you against STIs and HIV when having intercourse or oral sex. You cannot know whether a person has an STI/HIV by just looking at them or talking with them. The person themselves may not even be aware of the fact that they have an STI/HIV. Additionally, you should take the responsibility for looking after your sexual health into your own hands and don't rely on whether your partner is going to suggest putting on a condom tell him to: 'put it on, before he gets it on!'. It is a high risk gamble you choose to take every single time you have unprotected sex!
Stick with one summer love and don't have multiple summer lovers! More partners means it increases your chances of getting an STI/HIV and the Durex Global Sexual Wellbeing Survey shows that Australians do get around. Australian men claim to have gone on to have an average of 24 different sexual partners in total - far more than the British (17) or Americans (20), but significantly fewer than New Zealand men (44). Australian women have had 11 partners on average, fewer than New Zealand women (13), but more than the British and Americans (both 10).
Let's talk about sex! Talk about the do's and the don'ts, so you get the loving you want. Part of having a healthy and safer sex life is having sex that is ethical, consented to, and pleasurable. Talking about it makes it more likely you both know what it is you want and what it is you are after when it comes to bedroom practices.
Get yourself and your partner tested for STIs/HIV You may not even be aware of the fact that you have an STI/HIV, so getting tested and sharing the results with your partner will make sure you both know what you are dealing with and appropriate steps can then be taken to do it safe this summer.
Practice safer sexual activities this summer, such as massaging, kissing and mutual masturbation. These activities are considered safer sexual activities compared to intercourse and oral sex, in that you cannot contract an STI from these. Except for Herpes which can be contracted via skin to skin contact. So it is important to still cover those places that may be infected with a condom or a dam, or not touch one and other when an outbreak is present.
Question: Were you surprised by any of the findings from the Durex Global Sexual Wellbeing Survey?
Desiree Spierings: I wasn't surprised by the findings of the Durex Global Sexual Wellbeing Survey, due to the fact that I talk to many Australians about their sex lives, and attitudes towards sex and safer sex practices. Protection during sex is largely seen by Australians as a means for contraceptive purposes. This also indicates that most people do not understand the risks of getting an STI when having unprotected sex. They seem to have a very relaxed attitude when it comes to unprotected sex, and they seem to feel like they are immune to it. For example they may say things such as: 'Getting an STI or HIV/AIDS will not happen to me and the people I choose to have sex with won't have it!'
Question: Can you explain how Australian women and men are gambling with their sexual health?
Desiree Spierings: It is important to realise that every time you have unprotected sex it is a high risk gamble you choose to take! Because there is no way to predict as to whether your sexual partner has an STI or not. Especially not by just looking at them, or even by knowing the person, because your sexual partner may have an STI without being aware of it.
Question: How can we educate the younger generations on the importance of using protection?
Desiree Spierings: First of all they need to understand the consequences of unsafe sex and of having an STI/HIV. The results of the survey show that almost one in two Australians expressed a need to know more about HIV/AIDs. So it is also about educating them on the consequences of contracting STI's and HIV and hopefully understanding the consequences will make them think twice about having unprotected sex. Secondly, it is crucial to educate Australians to take responsibility for their own health and safety. Especially since from speaking to many Australians about their sexual activities I have realised that most put the responsibility of using a condom onto the their sexual partner. And they say things like: 'It is his job to have one with him and put one on', 'If she wanted me to use one, she would have asked me to', or 'If he had an STI he would have put one on, or told me about it'. This indicates clearly that there is a barrier for taking responsibility for their own health and safety when it comes to bedroom practices and they are more than willing to take the risk. It is crucial to educate Australians to take responsibility for their own health and that not doing so can result in getting an STI/HIV every time they have unprotected sex, no matter what they believe about their sexual partner! In short Australians need to understand: It is a high risk gamble they choose to take every single time they have unprotected sex! Thirdly, there is a need to teach Australians how to breach the topic of wanting to use a condom with sex. Using a condom should become the norm, unless both partners have been tested and results are shared.
Question: Can you provide advice on how a women can ask a sexual partner about previous partners and STIs?
Desiree Spierings: Knowing about a sexual partner's previous partners and STI's would be great, but even when you are able to ask these questions, does not mean everyone feels comfortable answering these questions and even when we get answers, we then still choose to trust their answers. It would be much safer not to take the risk at all, and instead tell your partner you want to have safe sex!
Question: The survey showed that Around one in eight men (13%) and 5% of Australian women who are in a relationship admitted to being unfaithful by also having sex with other partners - how can Australian women help prevent cheating within their relationship?
Desiree Spierings: This is a choice you make. Every relationship has a relationship contract, which is unwritten and sometimes even unspoken. But there is this clear mutual understanding of the rules of the relationship. One of these rules may be monogamy. It is living by this contract that is important. We need to live by rules in society all the time, and it is pretty simple, it is about not breaking them. These societal laws are put in for our own well being and that of others. The same counts for the relationship contract, the rules are there so that when we stick to them, no one gets hurt. When we don't follow them, and it comes to light, it can often have devastating consequences for all involved.
It is important to realise that there are different types of affairs. Firstly, you have the 'accidental affair' where a the person made a mistake and for example got drunk and it happened. Often they feel very guilty and confess it to their partner the next day. And most of the time it does not happen again. Secondly, there are the man-hunters (when a female) or womanizers (when a man), this is where there are continues affairs with others (outside your partner). They do not tend to feel that guilty and it tends to happen over and over again. Additionally, you have the 'love' affair, this is where you fall in love with another person and often like to pursue more of a long-term affair or relationship with them.
It is important to realise that in all situations you still have a choice; 'to act on it, or not'. For example when we break the law by speeding when driving, you might get caught and you might not. But this was still a choice, to either not know about the speed limit in the first place (not knowing the rules) and if you did know to ignore them. Basically the reason behind it does not matter the point is: you broke the law. And with cheating: you break the relationship contract. Just like you have a choice not to speed, you have a choice not to cheat!
Question: Do you have any advice for Australian woman who wish to go into a monogamist relationship with the man they're currently dating?
Desiree Spierings: Talk about this unwritten relationship contract, so that the rules of the relationship are clear. It is important to realize though that when you have sexual affairs outside your relationship, you will put yourself and your partner at risk for getting an STI/HIV. So whatever you decide MAKE SURE YOU PUT IT ON, BEFORE YOU GET IT ON! This is for your own safety and everyone involved.
Interview by Brooke Hunter