Is there any connection between pornography, STDs and unplanned pregnancy?

Last month was Teen Pregnancy Prevention Month (among other designations).  Efforts were focused on reducing the number of teens facing unplanned pregnancies – a number that has declined significantly in recent years.  This is a good thing, but focusing solely on pregnancy prevention, while overlooking other painful consequences of the misuse or too-early use of sex hurts young adults in the long run.

Typically pregnancy is only a possibility three to six days a month for the average female. But STDs – sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STIs) – can be acquired any day of any month that a guy or girl is sexually active.  And the effects of STDs can be as life-altering as pregnancy, with no upside at all – unlike pregnancy, which results in people like you and me! Lighthouse offers free testing for the two bacterial STDs most commonly found in young adults.

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When Sex isn’t Sexy

While most television shows and movies include casual sexual encounters, rarely are the lovers (and I use that term loosely) shown getting tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs, for short).

Some consequences of uncommitted sex make it to the big screen.  Unexpected pregnancies have become an expected plot twist, thanks to movies like Juno and Knocked Up that center on the concept of an ill-timed conception.  The emotional drama after a relationship turns sexual or a sexual relationship ends makes for interesting viewing (think 500 Days of Summer, Friends with Benefits, or Vanilla Sky). But STDs seem to be the unspoken, unexpected consequence.

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What movies and sit-coms leave out when it comes to sex

Couple Close UpThere is little left to the imagination in most movies or television shows when it comes to sex.  But STDs get little or no airtime.  Sexually transmitted diseases are like the “he-who-must-not-be-named” character who never appears on screen.

This isn’t surprising.  STDs don’t have any positive qualities.  They are not like an unplanned pregnancy that may be poorly timed and challenging to deal with, but results in a small human being, of infinite worth.

But STDs are a real part of the story of modern sexuality and worth talking about – mostly because they can cause significant and sometimes lasting damage.

STD rates are at an all-time high, according to a just-released report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  New national data shows that cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are climbing in the U.S. and have reached an all-time high.  The report shows that though rates of these sexually transmitted diseases fluctuated over the last five years, all three spiked in 2014. The center called the increases “alarming.”

The volume of chlamydia cases last year was particularly alarming.  Nationwide, there were about 1.4 million cases, the highest number of annual cases of any condition ever reported to the CDC.  (For prevalence rates from the report, click here.)  “STDs are a substantial health challenge facing the Unite States,” the CDC report summary says.  “Each of these infections is a potential threat to an individual’s immediate and long-term health and well-being.”

Chlamydia and gonorrhea are common and curable diseases, but if untreated can cause serious problems such as infertility in women.  Officials estimate that undiagnosed STDs cause 20,000 women in the country to become infertile each year.  I have also read reputable sources who believe chlamydia can negatively impact fertility even when treated.  This is one of the reasons Lighthouse provides free testing for chlamydia and gonorrhea. We want women to understand and appreciate the fragility of their fertility, and take steps to protect it. (We also offer the free testing to men because they are part of both the problem and the solution.)

Health officials recommend using condoms during sex to prevent the spread of these diseases. But condoms are not 100% effective – even when used correctly – and they are 0% effective at protecting you from a broken heart.  There is another way to protect yourself from the negative consequences of sex:  limit your sexual activity to one partner for life.  Trust someone with a whole-hearted commitment, before you entrust your physical and emotional health to them.

Abstinence before marriage doesn’t sound very sexy.  But it definitely deserves our attention.