Ashley Diaz, Social Media Editor
Bergen Community College held a women’s rights discussion about their bodies and sexually transmitted diseases.
In this workshop, Bergen counselor Lois Carmichael brought up issues that aren’t talked about among women. She talked about how to have safe sex, which is a conversation not all parents want to have. The women who attended this event were eager to shine a light on a topic that is seldom spoken of.
According to the pamphlet distributed at the workshop, having unprotected sex can lead to risks in a woman’s body that many are too afraid to talk about. There are a lot of risks that come with the “hook-up culture.” Most STDs don’t even show up in their early stages, a person won’t usually realize that they have one until it is too late. Carmichael believes this is relevant information in an age where many teens and young adults see hooking up as the norm.
Carmichael said that despite only making up a quarter of the population, 18 to 24-year-olds are among half of the people afflicted by newer STDs.
It is often difficult for women to have the “are you clean?” conversation with their partners, but it is definitely one that they should have. According to Carmichael, most men don’t even know that they have an STD since they are less likely to get checked than women are. “Guys don’t always know they are carrying a disease,” stated Carmichael.
According to Carmichael, every year instances of STDs are increasing and are affecting more women than men. Guest speaker, Debbie Provencher, believes women should wait until their mid-20’s before having sexual relations because a woman’s cervix isn’t fully developed until then. Since the cervix isn’t fully developed, it makes young women more susceptible to STDs.
“You are the one that’s responsible for your body,” said Carmichael, speaking to the group about being careful concerning sexual relations with too many partners. She believes women should be more conscious about their sexual health since one slip up in their youth can affect their future, as well as their children’s future.
“You don’t have to give yourself to someone just because they pay for dinner,” Provencher said.
“A woman’s right is not only just to have sex, a woman’s right is to know she doesn’t have to,” said Carmichael in an interview, adding, “a woman’s right is to know the risk it does to her body.”
The speakers made it clear to the women listening that you’re exposed to every single person your partner has been exposed to. This can be daunting to think about considering that, as Provencher put it, two partners can quickly become 20.
This set in motion a conversation about what women with STDs plan to do next. Carmichael says that girls come to her and tell her that even though they have an STD they still want a future; they want a husband and children of their own.
According to Carmichael, the workshop was mainly to talk about mental and physical protection, as well as the heavy weight of STDs and how to prevent them in the first place. Provencher said, “there is never 100% safe sex,” and that’s why women should make informed choices when they choose to have sex.
Human papillomavirus, more colloquially known as HPV, is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It can be transmitted orally or even just by physical contact, which is why there are so many cases of it. Carmichael said studies show that you can even pick up diseases from under your fingernails if the guy is infected. Women should always get checked just to make sure they do not have any STDs.
To practice safe sex, women should “limit their sexual partners, commit to monogamous relationships and use protection,” according to Carmichael. She said that the workshop wasn’t a “you’re right, you’re wrong” discussion, since everyone has their own opinions when it comes to how they choose to have sexual relationships. Rather, she said it was just to tell women what could happen to their bodies and how to take care of it.
Carmichael emphasized in a follow-up interview that there are many issues we don’t talk about. She reports seeing many girls who get an STD and the, in her words, life-shattering effects they face. They don’t know what the future is going to hold for them, whether they’ll have children or a husband, or even if they’re going to tell their parents.
Women with STDs can have difficulties with giving birth. Carmichael stated that babies can die during childbirth, and even the ones that survive can have blindness or respiratory diseases. If there’s a flare-up during labor, the mother has the option to get a Caesarean section (a surgical procedure for delivering a child by cutting through the wall of the mother’s abdomen) but this can put the baby and the mother at risk.
Carmichael said the reason men were not invited to the workshop was that it was a woman’s body discussion. This was supposed to give women the freedom to talk about their sex life without feeling judged in front of a male audience.
Carmichael suggested that if she ever did the workshop again, she would not use the pink “Sense and Sexuality” booklet by Dr. Miriam Grossman because it had too many controversial opinions in it. She also thinks this could be a class or elective that could be taken at the college, co-ed this time.
She claimed this workshop was an open discussion for young women concerning the psychological effects that come with sex and the risks that come with it.
The presentation stated how people always think “I’ll never be the one” when it comes to STDs, and how they can affect all aspects of your life. They told the audience that statistics are climbing dramatically and it is becoming more common in the late teen to young adult age group.