The tragedy of AIDS flung the discussion of sexually transmitted diseases out into the light and right onto the front pages of the world's newspapers and magazines. People were talking about sexuality and sexual practices in an unprecedented way. Frank conversations about the relative safety of oral sex or anal intercourse were becoming quite socially acceptable. Gone were the days when 'safe sex' meant making sure you didn't get sprung by your parents. The world wondered whether it was facing the prospect of another Black Plague and that was the catalyst to dispense with a whole swag of social taboos. Along with this social revolution came a new honesty and directness in our approach to sex education. 'Don't do it until you're married' became a pathetic platitude irrelevant to the growing population of realists. It became clear that if people of all ages were to be able to protect themselves from AIDS (or any other sexually transmissible disease for that matter) then they had to have specific, detailed and unambiguous information uncluttered by moral judgments. More than that, they needed to be shown how to turn that information into action in the heat of the moment.
There is nothing quite like finding out you have a sexually transmitted disease to force you to take a look at your sexual attitudes and behaviors. Firstly, to figure out how you got it but more importantly so that you can prevent it happening again.
Knowledge means protection. I was lecturing recently to a group of health education students about the importance of educators being comfortable with their own sexuality and well informed about all aspects of sexual health so that they could cope with the questions and situations that were likely to arise in their classrooms. As an example, I asked them if they knew whether you could catch gonorrhea from oral sex. They were genuinely surprised that most of them didn't know the answer. Now, some important points arose out of this exchange; one was that no matter how much you think you know about sex, there is always more to learn. More importantly, unless people have detailed information about the potential risks of the variety of sexual activities they might encounter, then they cannot hope to protect themselves. By the way, in case you were wondering, you can get a gonorrhea infection in the throat from oral sex with an infected person.
Men's Health-Erectile Dysfunction