Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health is Important, so Stop Stigmatizing it

LifestyleSex

Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health is Important, so Stop Stigmatizing it

Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health is Important, so Stop Stigmatizing it! Health is not a thing we should be messing with. It’s a key component in ensuring all of us are living life to the fullest capacity. Unfortunately, not all aspects of health are viewed in the same way. If appendicitis and heart attacks were viewed in the same way as women’s sexual and reproductive health we’d have a lot more deaths in those areas. However, the same principle applies. When women’s health is stigmatized, fewer women are able to identify symptoms associated with poor sexual or reproductive health and/or are too nervous to come forward with any issues they may be having. With the direction women’s health seems to be going today, it’s important to start a dialogue on these issues and do things differently. Women shouldn’t feel ashamed of their bodies or any medical attention any part of their body may need.

How Women’s Sexual and Reproductive Health is Stigmatized

Sex and reproduction as topics are difficult to talk about to begin with, but those topics related to women are even more difficult. How men are viewed in terms of sexual experience and how women are viewed is night and day — the playboy and the whore. The stigma of women who have sex and their need for sexual health is rampant in our culture and it’s affecting how women speak about it.

“You need birth control, you want to buy condoms, you want to get checked for STD’s, you must be a slut.”

“You have a yeast infection? Gross.”

It’s an embarrassing topic for many women because of the stigma attached to it. Having sex, being proactive about protection, and staying on top of reproductive health is so important for the overall health of women, but it’s hidden by many because of what those things imply. Buying condoms as a man implies they are having sex, which is cool. Getting birth control as a woman is so stigmatized that politicians can’t agree on when, where, and how a woman gets it.

The Dangers it can Cause

Negative statements about sexual and reproductive health are dangerous because they are keeping women from seeking help in terms of birth control, protection, and many overall health issues. If you’re embarrassed to talk about a health problem, you’re less likely to have the problem diagnosed and treated. Some important facts about sexual health are:

More than half of people will have an STD/STI at some point – it’s not a problem that only affects those that are more sexually active
-Birth control is not only used to prevent pregnancy, it’s also used to help other reproductive health conditions
-Yeast infections can be caused by a whole slew of things  including stress and antibiotics, not because a woman isn’t hygienic
-Cervical cancer caused by HPV can be prevented if detected early enough. HPV is estimated to be contracted by 75 percent of sexually active people in their life.

Some of these facts are important to know in order to break down some stigmas, such as the notion that STD’s and STI’s are uncommon and only affect those that have many sexual partners. Unfortunately, they are quite common and can happen to anyone who is sexually active so it’s important to use protection. Birth control is not just used by those that are sexually active, many women use it to help other conditions like endometriosis and PCOS. Yeast infections are common, are easily treated, and are not an indication of hygiene — which is similar to many other reproductive health issues. And HPV is common, and early detection is incredibly important to prevent more serious outcomes.

Women’s Health Today

Gradually, the discussion and dialogue on women’s sexual and reproductive health is trending in the right direction. Younger people are more educated and there is a cultural shift towards awareness on women’s issues in general. However, policy continues to waver. In a world where reproductive rights, health insurance, and education depend on who’s in office, it’s important for women in the United States to prepare. Know the difference in various health insurance plans  and what is available to you, research policy decisions and vote accordingly, and educate your children so that they don’t fall victim to the same stigmas that have negatively affected the health of women before them. Unfortunately, today a woman’s health relies largely on what type of care she can afford. The first step is for everyone to be educated on women’s sexual and reproductive health and to understand that it’s no different than any other type of care and it needs to be a part of open dialogue.

What We can Do Differently

Electing more women into office, paying female athletes the same as male athletes, paying women the same in general, and having fair maternity leave are just a few of the other issues women are facing in today’s society. Having sexual and reproductive health looked at from an informative and educational viewpoint instead of one that carries judgement is on the list of women’s issues that need improvement. It can seem like a daunting task to work towards removing stigmas and improving health, but small changes can make a world of difference:

-Vote with women’s issues in mind on a local and national level
-Teach your children about the realities of sexual and reproductive health
-Donate to organizations that promote women’s health
-Start discussions about removing stigma
-Encourage others to seek solutions to any medical issues they may be having
-Speak up when others are stigmatizing a woman for her sexual or reproductive health issues
-Keep your own sexual and reproductive health in a good place

Both men and women should be concerned with their own sexual and reproductive health and how their health can affect others. Being educated, taking precautions with sexual and reproductive health, and being open with friends and family are all steps to take towards promoting dialogue about this important issue. Stigmatizing women for their health or sexual experiences is something everyone should be conscious of because it’s an issue incredibly important to women today.

Sometimes perpetuating a stigma can happen absentmindedly, so taking some time to reflect on how each of us views women’s sexual and reproductive health can be helpful. Find those societal judgements you may have about a woman who’s sexually active, a woman who has an STD, or a woman who walks into a women’s health clinic and make a conscious effort to silence them. It’s important because women are important and it’s harmful to make any woman feel like they are less than just because they are female and need sexual and/or reproductive care.

 

Guest Post by Chelsy Ranard

Twitter:  @Chelsy5

Dirty and Thirty
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