This year's Teen Connect Youth Advisory Board marketing campaign is focused on increasing condom usage among teen males in Hillsborough County. However, men have historically been left out of the conversation centered around their own sexual health. This blog post is dedicated to normalizing and prioritizing male sexual health and also debunking myths or answering questions you might have!
Q: What do you think is some important information about sexual health that the majority of men don’t know?
A: Understanding the importance of sexual health and understanding the similarities and differences to women’s health. Men’s sexual health information, knowledge, and awareness generally is lagging behind across all demographics in society. It is vital for men to understand that it is just as important for their sexual health, to be routinely checked and monitored, as their female counterparts, both to protect themselves and also those they may eventually interact with. Many conditions that have usually been associated with women’s sexual health, do not affect solely women but are seen as such because women are more likely to go to routine checkups, seek help and be proactive about their own health. There are numerous conditions and disease processes that men and women are both equally at risk for. In addition, there are certain conditions specific to men’s health that many men may not even be aware of.
Q: What needs to change regarding discussions around men’s sexual health in our community today?
A: It is critical that we normalize men’s sexual health and the discussions around it, encouraging young men to go to routine checkups and seek help; like anything else in life, the sooner this becomes a habit, the better the long-term impact. Additionally, they can serve as a role model to other young men in their community, similar to what we see on the women’s side.
Q: How can you effectively protect yourself from STIs? If I am a straight man, do I need to be tested for STIs?
A: The best and only guaranteed way is abstinence, but realistically as we grow older and enter into relationships, intimacy, and sexual encounters become a large part. In the big picture, the more sexual partners you have, the greater your risk, in this regard it is important for everyone in a relationship to be honest. In the smaller picture, wearing protection, appropriate personal hygiene, and routine screening are the best ways to protect yourself and those you are with. ** It is highly recommended and encouraged that everyone is screened for STDs at least once, maybe more often based on the circumstances discussed above. ** Most important, however, is being honest with your partner, as the more sexual partners you’ve had, the greater your risk. Regardless, it is highly recommended and encouraged that everyone is screened for STDs at least once, but it may be smart to be tested more often based on the circumstances discussed above.
Q: Can men get UTIs or yeast infections?
A: Men can get UTIs and yeast infections as well, though not as common, it is important to look out for symptoms such as increased frequency/urge to urinate, any painful/tingling sensation when urinating, discharge, foul smells, which are further discussed below as part of another question. As discussed in the previous question, proper hygiene, safe sexual practices, routine screening, and honesty between consenting partners will help protect against these infections. (for the Instagram, “discussed in the previous question” would change to “discussed in yesterday’s post”)
Q: Can you briefly describe consent?
A: Consent is a clear, specific, agreement between two or more people for a specific act. In regards to sexual consent, it is important to get consent for each specific sexual activity, each and every time. Consent given once does not mean it always holds true for the future. Most importantly, consent is a choice. It should be given without threats, force, control, or manipulation. Additionally, in any specific activity or encounter, consent can be revoked or taken back later on, even if given in the beginning. It is important that all parties respect this. Sexual partners should talk about consent, preferences, and boundaries; keeping in mind that they may change and to keep the conversation and agreement fluid.
Q: If I am a man, where can I go for issues and information related to sexual health? Is there a male equivalent for a gynecologist?
A: If they wish to speak with a specialist, the male equivalent of a gynecologist, they may be interested in speaking with a Urologist. However, oftentimes, their PCP/Pediatrician or Adolescent Medicine Physician in their community is also well-equipped to evaluate and help with any men’s sexual health concerns. Depending on the area, their county or student health services can also be a great resource for addressing men’s sexual health concerns.
Q: What symptoms should males be aware of that may be indicative of sexual health issues?
A: In regards to infectious concerns, it is important to look out for increased frequency/urge to urinate, any painful/tingling sensation when urinating, discharge, foul smells, and newly developing rashes or lesions on and around the penis and scrotum. It is also important to monitor for non-infectious symptoms that may impact men’s sexual health such as issues with ejaculation or erections, including but not limited to trouble getting/keeping an erection, premature or delayed ejaculation, or decreasing libido. Included with this are men performing routine penile and scrotum exams when they are in the shower, to see/feel for any new lesions/masses.
Thank you YAB Member, Ella for coming up with these questions!
Nikhil Vallabhaneni, DO
USF Pediatrics, PGY-2