[The Rewards of Sexuality – an excerpt from Sense & Sexuality]

The rewards of sexuality—with the right guy, at the right time—are immense. Ask an older woman you respect who waited and chose the right man; you might be surprised to hear her describe love and passion that has lasted for decades—and keeps getting better.

Yet you’re bombarded with a different message: you can reap these rewards with nearly any guy, at almost any time. You’ve been told that exploring and experimenting—as long as you’re “protected”—can be safe, satisfying, and beneficial.

Don’t fall for it. It’s easy to forget, but the characters on Grey’s Anatomy and Sex in the City are not real. In real life, Meredith and Carrie would have warts or herpes. They’d likely be on Prozac or Zoloft. Today a woman cannot have so many partners without paying a price.

“Safer sex” guidelines were developed before you were born, but now we live in a different world. Now we’re fighting a horde of bugs, and the bugs are winning. It’s no longer enough to communicate with your “partners”, get tested, and use condoms. In this century, if you wish to avoid genital infections, you need a different plan.

Recognize that sexual activity—any genital contact with another person—is a serious matter. A single encounter can have life-long consequences, especially for a woman. That’s not sexist, that’s biology—your biology. Ignorance or denial of this fact will only increase your vulnerability—don’t let that happen. Instead, learn about the distinct sensitivities of being female—go beyond the brief information provided here—and use that knowledge to inform your decisions. That’s real empowerment.

You’re in control, it’s all in your hands. The distress that often follows casual sex is 100% preventable. Life may throw you some curve balls, but STDs, and encounters you’d rather forget, are burdens that you can avoid.

Listen to the lesson of hard science: it’s wise to be very, very careful about who you allow to get close to you.

I believe in you. And I don’t want to see you in my office. Now go pursue your dreams.

Miriam Grossman, M.D.