Opinion: Sex as sport, and that’s perfectly okay

March 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm  •  Posted in Sex Health by  •  6 Comments

Recently a woman wrote to me saying that she’d tested positive for HPV, asking me to remind her why being slutty is fun. She went on to write that the nurse had informed her 70 percent of adults test positive for some form of HPV, so it wasn’t something she needed to be informing her partners of, and that given she’d been vaccinated for HPV she likely didn’t have one of the scary, cancer linked strains.

Yet she also went on to write “I’m getting very tired of my body’s revenge on my sex habits.”

Slutty. Revenge. In the spate of recent attention the word “slut” has gotten courtesy of Rush Limbaugh I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to discover that such judgmental opinions are held even amongst sex positive thinking individuals, even if they only apply them to themselves.

Being sexually active and adventurous is fun because, well, sex is pretty fun. But, yes, it comes with risk. So do lots of things. For whatever reason we’re more judgmental when it falls in the sexual realm. We still give power to those who would label those who have sex and then get ill as sluts, as people who brought misfortune on themselves, in a way we don’t for people who play sports and break their arms or their legs or their necks. That reckless Sidney Crosby – what was he expecting? Hockey is nothing but rampant concussions and neck injuries. That hockey harlot has no one to blame but himself.

Too many in society are more sympathetic to smokers who get lung cancer and heavy drinkers who get liver cancer than are understanding of those who get HPV or herpes or HIV or (insert STI variety here.)

But let’s get away from substances and go back to activities. Should we look down on sun sluts who get skin cancer, whether it’s because they spent every spare minute soaking up the rays on the beach sans sun tan lotion, or simply because they got a few bad burns as a fair skinned kid?

Secret: I got athlete’s foot back when I was working out at the gym, likely because I made the mistake of showering without foot wear. I don’t know if you’re familiar with athlete’s foot, but suffice it to say it’s yucky. Now it was my responsibility to treat that, and I did, but should I be looked down upon for my poor judgment in showering? Should I have decided to stop going to the gym because of it? Should I have said “I will shower no more!” (Actually, not showering might have led to further flare ups at the time, but I digress….)

The fact is that my friend most likely doesn’t have a “scary” strain. And while she could have minimized the chance she would get it by having fewer partners she wouldn’t eliminate it, or necessarily reduce her chances all that much either. It’s not just how many people you’ve had sex with, it’s how many they have or how many partners the people they’ve slept with have slept with.

So, people, start thinking of sex like a sport: if you want to play you wear the proper gear, you minimize your risks, and then you enjoy playing the game. You’re going to suffer a few sprains and injuries along the way and hopefully not anything worse. In the end I think you’ll find you’ve enjoyed life more out on the field than you would have simply watching from the sidelines, safer option or not.

Speaking of sex as sport, this demonstrates why you shouldn’t play without protection, although hockey might be more popular with women if they could!!



  1. Gregarious / March 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm / Reply

    In a city so taken by hockey, what a great comparison to draw, and a great ad to go with it! As I’ve seen much more how things work in Berlin, being risk aware and consential has taken on even more meaning into wider reaches of life. There isn’t the same judgement there than here. Or that I don’t understand the judgements yet, but I don’t think so 🙂

    Whether it is skin cancer, broken ankle or HIV, we need more compasion for the unique and complex history of each person. No one lives sqeeky clean in every way, and if they do, they mostly live to regret it, and have different issues with health and happiness.

  2. Ryan / March 22, 2012 at 11:33 pm / Reply

    I think it is terrible that health care professionals down play the need to disclose… even if 70 percent of adults have HPV… that is 30 percent that are clean… I would like to think that we should be trying to increase the number of non-HPV carriers.

    I like the parallels that you have drawn…. fascinating… and true!

    Great article. 🙂

  3. Katie / March 23, 2012 at 8:31 am / Reply


    the only way to prevent the transmission of HPV is to not have sex. Even condoms don’t protect you. On the plus side, there are 100 strains of HPV–40 that affect the genitals–and most of them are benign. It’s the 4-7 that cause cervical cancer and genital warts that you have to worry about.

  4. Ziv / March 23, 2012 at 9:02 am / Reply

    As Ryan said, I too am shocked that a health care provider should council a person to refrain from disclosing an STD.

    I am curious if you tore her a new asshole over thinking that that is acceptable behaviour.

  5. Sarah / March 25, 2012 at 1:42 pm / Reply

    I’m very surprised about the advice as well. However, from my understanding on HPV, people are supposed to assume that the person they are sleeping with has HPV already. And then hope that their immune system is strong enough to fight whatever strain they get.

    However, if someone knows they have it, then I think they should disclose this. I don’t have HPV and have been monogamous for 8 years. If I decided to sleep with someone I would want them to tell me they have HPV, and yes, that would change my mind about whether I sleep with them or not (I would not sleep with them knowing they have HPV). I don’t want to get HPV, specifically because I’m not sure that my immune system could clear the virus right now, as my health is not 100% at the moment.

    Full disclosure is always best. How would that person feel if their next partner contracted HPV from them and it happened to be the strain that causes cancer (the vaccine is not 100% effective in all cases) and their new partner gets cancer? It would be very easy to pinpoint who gave it to them, especially if the person who got cancer had been monogamous for many years.

  6. Nurse in the know / August 27, 2012 at 5:05 pm / Reply

    The information given about HPV in this article and one of the comments is inaccurate. As a nurse who has it I have done all the homework to learn everything the medical profession currently is in the know of. I’d suggest people do their own research into it if they care to know more. And if someone has ethics they will tell a potential sex partner they have it.

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