Sexual Health Roundup: Valentine’s Edition


Pubic Hair Grooming Increasingly Leading to ER Visits

Whether people go for the neatly trimmed looked, the landing strip, or the full on Brazilian it seems that how they get there may take to them to the ER as often as it takes them to the beach. It seems almost comical, until you read the report by scientist at the University of California, San Francisco about the cuts, scrapes, and burns to the urogenital area that have been rising in recent years. Pubic hair grooming injuries increased five-fold between 2002 and 2010 with an estimated 2,500 injuries in 2010. The majority of these injuries (57 percent were in women) but no small number (43 percent) occurred among men. And these figures are likely an underestimate given how many people may not seek help.  

Our increasing fascination with barely there or not there pubic hair has been well documented as a beauty trend in everything from fashion magazines to pop culture (I’m thinking of a certain episode of Sex and the City) to surveys to academic research. The current report points to surveys which suggest that a majority of young women (70 to 88 percent) partially or fully remove their pubic hair as do 58 to 78 percent of men (both gay and heterosexual). This changing cultural norm was documented by researchers at the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University in a 2011 study in which they looked at Playboy centerfolds from 1953 to 2007. They say that pubic hair began disappearing from the pictures in the seventies and was completely gone by the late 2000s.

I have been part of numerous debates among colleagues about what it means that society has now convinced women (and men too) that a natural part of puberty is problematic. Many argue that pubic hair exists for a reason—to protect sensitive skin and that we should be encouraging young people to leave it alone. Others say that it’s a harmless beauty fad. Which side one is on is most often a result of age with older colleagues (those who came of age when pubic hair was still thought of as fashionable or sexy) arguing in favor of the natural state and younger ones in favor of a little man- or –woman-scaping now and then. 

Though this study by no means settles the sociological argument, it does suggest that we should warn young people about the potential for injuries that come with various methods of grooming pubic hair. The study found that 83 percent of injuries were from razors, 22 percent from scissors, and 1.4 percent from hot wax. Moreover, though the mean age of those injured was 31, a good deal (29 percent) of injuries in women occurred in those under 18.

While we can continue to debate the merits and socio-cultural issues of why people do it—it seems like we need to help young people (and adults) figure out how to do it without hurting their most sensitive areas. 

Sex Burns Far Fewer Calories than We Thought

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner but anyone who thought they could burn off all the calories in a heart shape box of Russell Stover’s chocolates by climbing in a heart shape bed (or any other kind for that matter) will be disappointed by research out of the University of Alabama, Birmingham which debunks numerous myths about dieting. It turns out that slow and steady doesn’t necessarily win the race (aggressive dieting is good), that physical education classes will do little to curb childhood obesity, and that reasonable goals may fail you (go ambitious). It also turns out that sex does not burn 200 to 400 calories. In fact, the average sex session so to speak burns just 14 calories. That’s it, just 14. That’s not a box of candy; it’s not even a piece of candy. In fact, it’s not even as many calories as there are in a cup of everyone’s favorite diet food—celery

Oh well. It’s not reason not to have sex. And, I would argue it’s not a reason not to eat the candy—but that’s just me. 

Condom Cabs Come to New York for Valentine’s Day

Walking home from dinner could burn those calories that sex won’t but if you’re in New York City on February 14th or 15th you could take a condom cab instead. Sponsored by the makers of Trojan, these cabs will ferry people around Manhattan free of charge between 7 pm and 2 am.  In addition to a driver, the cabs will have a Trojan representative who will quiz passengers to see what they know about condoms and offer riders a tour of a new website sponsored by Trojan and the American Sexual Health Association. 

Called Condomology, the website is found at www.factsaboutcondoms.com and includes infographics, slide shows, and fact sheets about condoms.  It also has three pretty cool videos; a Guide to Getting it On, a tour of the Trojan manufacturing plant, and mini-documentary about the history of condoms. So even if you’re not in NYC, you can learn a lot about condoms on Valentine’s Day.

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