Q. I’m on the pill because my periods are all messed up. My boyfriend says since I’m on the pill it’s OK to have sex without a condom. The thing is, I’m not even sure I’m ready for sex. I love him and all, but I don’t know. And he keeps saying I’m on the pill, so why waste this? He keeps on bringing it up. I’m mixed up. Maybe I don’t love him, because if I loved him wouldn’t I want to have sex with him?
Mary Jo’s response:
When I receive a question like yours I feel so lucky and blessed to be available to young people like you. You’re facing some important decisions. Sorting out your feelings is pivotal to those decisions. I’m glad you stopped to think.
I’m concerned about any pressure you may be feeling. One of the most important criteria for any kind of sexual contact is consent. Consent means both people say “yes” and mean it. As long as you’re unsure about getting physical with someone, you’re not ready to give consent. Consent is complicated in your situation. You’re questioning your feelings for him and doubting your decision to wait. Being pressured into sex because you’re on the pill – or for any reason – isn’t OK.
Love and sex are not the same. People in love may wait to have sex; some people have sex without being “in love.” Whether or not you love him may have little to do with whether or not you want to have sex.
Women are often prescribed oral contraceptives (OCs, commonly known as “the pill”) for other reasons than preventing a pregnancy.
1. Help with painful or irregular period cycles: When a woman takes the Pill, she won’t ovulate (release an egg). Ovulation triggers a buildup in the endometrium (the lining of the uterus). A “true” period doesn’t happen when a woman takes OCs. Most pill packets contain three weeks of hormones and one week of placebo pills. The uterine lining breaks down in response to the drop in hormones when she takes the placebos. Most women taking OCs bleed less and for a shorter time. Most experience little or no abdominal cramping.
2. Help with other symptoms associated with period cycles: Physical complaints like breast tenderness or bloating can be eased by taking different types of pills. Most OCs also help clear a woman’s skin if she has acne.
3. Relief from endometriosis pain: Endometriosis is a condition where the uterine lining grows in other places in the pelvis. The pill changes the hormones, causing the lining to build up, and eases pain.
A doctor or health care provider may prescribe the pill for any of these reasons.
Taking the pill also doesn’t provide 100 percent protection from pregnancy. Young people in the Netherlands (where the teen pregnancy rate is much lower than the U.S. rate) talk about reducing risk through a technique they call Double Dutch. The female takes a hormonal contraception (like an OC) and the male uses a condom. The pill – or any other hormonal contraception – will not reduce the risk from STIs (sexually transmitted infections). Only a barrier method like a male condom is effective in preventing transmission of bacteria or viruses that cause STIs. Two viruses – herpes and HPV (human papillomavirus) – can also be spread skin to skin, so using a latex condom will not provide full protection.
Have you shared your hesitancy with your boyfriend? Have you been honest? If he cares about you he’ll listen to your feelings and respect them. If you’ve been up front and are communicating well, is he hearing you? Bringing this up again and again without him hearing you may show disrespect.
Deciding to have sex is a big decision. Do you have an adult in your family who will listen to you sort out your thoughts? Sometimes young people underestimate the adults in their lives. People who love you may be ready to support you; you’ll never know if you don’t seek their help.
I’ll be happy to meet with you. I’d also be happy to help you talk with someone in your family. Take it slow and listen to your instincts.
As our staff and I prepare for our 12th annual Awards Night (7 p.m. Monday at Trinity High School), I am once more touched by the talent, passion and commitment of our young people. The event is free and open to the public. Our first-place Washington’s Got Talent winner, Nicole Klein, will perform. Our Real Talk Performers will present two original educational dramas prior to distribution of our Community Awards. “Invisible,” a one-act play created and performed by eighth-graders from our Washington School District Junior High Advisory Board, looks at ways middle schoolers feel disassociated and alone. Performers are Siarra Demichele, Mary Jablonski, Tayla Jay, Toni Maurer, Ian Smith, Alexis Strawn, Shelby Studt and Maci Ward. “The Real Love Story,” performed by high schoolers from McGuffey, Trinity and Washington, examines love in its many forms. Those performers will be Jaime Barton, JR Berdine, Star Brown, Sasha Edwards, Dalton Fonner, Caitlin Hanna, Lily Koscho, Amber Lyn, Esperenza Patterson, Sarah Smith and Logan Weakland. Come early and enjoy food and friendship.