On May 2, politico.com reported that an initial draft majority opinion from the Supreme Court had been leaked. This draft opinion stated that the Supreme Court will vote to overturn Roe V. Wade. This is a draft, meaning this overturn has not happened yet, but it is very likely, almost certain, that it will a few months from now when it is finalized by the Court. 

What is Roe v. Wade?

Roe v. Wade is a 1973 case that federally legalized abortion in the United States. Overturning Roe v. Wade would make abortion illegal federally, meaning that it would be up to each individual state to determine its own abortion laws. This is incredibly alarming for reproductive health, as well as the safety and health of people with uteruses. 

Experts are concerned for many reasons, based on the logic in the draft. The arguments the draft uses with its case to overturn Roe deal with a person’s right to choose. This same logic could potentially be used to overturn same-sex marriage, as well as interracial marriage in the future, although, at this point, that is just speculation.

Where have we seen this before?

Over the last several years, we have seen states enact incredibly strict abortion laws, such as the law in Missouri attempting to make it illegal to seek an abortion to treat an ectopic pregnancy (the only treatment for this type of pregnancy), as well as harsh laws in Texas and other conservative states making it illegal for someone to seek an abortion after only six weeks. Many people don’t even know they are pregnant after six weeks, and abortion is safe anytime within the first trimester, which is much longer than six weeks. If or when this draft passes, what does this mean for reproductive health?

How could this change reproductive rights?

This proposed overturning of Roe is troubling for many reasons. Many people and lawmakers that oppose abortion and seek to enact strict laws making seeking an abortion difficult identify as “pro-life.” If someone has an ectopic pregnancy, a non-viable pregnancy when the fetus grows outside of the uterus, the only treatment is an abortion. If the pregnant person does not abort the non-viable fetal tissue, it will rupture and they will most likely die. If someone is raped or a victim of incest, I would argue an abortion would be life-saving for the victim. Both of these examples directly contrast the pro-life argument. 

Why is this a matter of safety?

Before Roe, people were still having abortions, they were just incredibly unsafe. Women would use coat hangers or other sharp objects to try and puncture the cervix and abort on their own. Oftentimes these women would hemorrhage and die. Roe guarantees access to safe and legal abortions where women could make the choice, for whatever reason, to safely end a pregnancy without threatening their health. In fact, in the United States, abortion is safer than giving birth. Overturning Roe would threaten that. 

What could it mean if Roe is overturned?

With the federal law being overturned, it would be up to each individual state to make its own abortion laws. This likely means that conservative states would make abortion illegal or enforce strict laws about when someone can have an abortion, while more liberal states would stay legal. I am of course speculating, as this hasn’t gone into effect yet. If someone in a red state wanted to seek a legal abortion, they could potentially receive one if they traveled to a blue state. 

This might sound like a minor inconvenience, but it is not. In order to travel to another state for this procedure, you’d need to be able to take time off work, have access to a car, as well as money to pay for a hotel room in this other state. If you already have children, you need money to pay for childcare, or money to have a large enough hotel room so they can come with you. What if your job doesn’t give you time off, or taking a day off and traveling to another state means having to choose between making your rent payment or being forced to give birth? Privileged, wealthy women will still be able to access abortion once this goes into effect, but there are so many women who will not have that privilege. 

Could this affect contraception access?

I also worry that this will cause other laws not based on science regulating women’s reproductive health to go into effect. Louisiana is speculating about criminalizing IUDs and Plan B as part of their new abortion bill changing the state’s legal definition of human life. IUDs and Plan B, as well as every other type of birth control and emergency contraceptives, do not abort an already fertilized egg or fetus. These contraceptives prevent fertilization and implantation in the uterus from ever happening, meaning they prevent pregnancy. Period. Contraceptives are literally not abortion, however, conservative male lawmakers don’t seem to care about science. 

Having varying opinions on whether or not you as an individual would have an abortion is your right. You know what is best for you and your body. Male politicians who will never have the experience of being pregnant should not have a say in creating laws that force pregnancy and birth. The right to choose what we do with our bodies is just that – a right. Reproductive rights affect everyone, whether you have the capacity to get pregnant or not. If you have sex with people that can get pregnant, this draft affects you too. Overturning Roe v. Wade will not stop abortions. It will only stop safe abortions. This will kill women. Comprehensive sex education, as well as access to free or low-cost contraceptives, will stop abortions.

Here is the full Politico article outlining the specific arguments the Supreme Court used in its draft. If you have questions about abortion or reproductive health care, ask your doctor or visit Planned Parenthood. Those are both great resources for reproductive healthcare, even if you just have questions.

Warning: This article defines sexual assault and discusses examples of sexual assault.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. According to RAINN (the largest anti-sexual violence organization in the nation), sexual assault refers to “sexual contact or behavior that occurs without explicit consent of the victim.” This can include anything from unwanted touching to being forced to perform sexual acts on someone else, to rape. No matter the definition or act of sexual violence, it is never the victim’s fault. 

How common is sexual assault?

Every 68 seconds, someone is sexually assaulted in the United States. Despite this violence being so terribly common, only 25 out of every 1,000 rapists end up in prison for their crime. Because this violence is unfortunately so common, Sexual Assault Awareness Month is important to draw attention to conversations around consent, supporting survivors, as well as how to report an assault. Sexual violence is an umbrella term that encapsulates all forms of sexual assault and abuse. 

What constitutes sexual assault?

The exact definition of what legally constitutes sexual assault varies from state to state. Sexual violence includes sexual assault, intimate partner violence, incest, date rape, and child abuse. Other forms of sexual violence also include sexual harassment, stalking, coercion, revenge porn, plus several others. RAINN.org provides an immense amount of resources for survivors of sexual violence. They have statistics, examples, a free hotline, as well as other resources available for free. 

Sexual assault can be a big topic, and it can be hard to know what you as an individual can do to help. You can be informed about consent and practice it with all of your sexual partners, you can be an active bystander and intervene if you see something that doesn’t seem right, and you can be there for people in your life who disclose surviving abuse. 

What is consent?

Consent is when someone freely and completely agrees to something another person has proposed. In order to fully consent, the person consenting cannot be under the influence of any drugs or alcohol, they should not be coerced, and there should be no pressure whatsoever. The person is freely choosing on their own accord. Consent exists in everyday life and obviously in sexual relationships as well. 

Consent is ongoing and can change at any time, meaning just because you’ve had sex with someone before does not mean you have to have sex with them again. You are allowed to change your mind at any moment during a sexual encounter, and you are allowed to communicate that to your partner. The legal definition of consent varies from state to state, and horrifically, Indiana does not have a legal definition of consent., which makes persecuting sexual assault crimes much harder than it should be.

How can you help prevent sexual assault?

Be an active bystander by intervening if you are out and observe something that seems unsafe or not quite right. Step in when you see something not quite right. RAINN has a wonderful page on what you can do as a bystander if you notice something escalating that seems dangerous. They use the acronym CARE to provide a guide for bystander intervention. Create a distraction, Ask directly, Refer to an authority, and Enlist others. If your intuition leads you to believe the dynamic between two people seems alarming or unsafe, trust that. Create a distraction such as interjecting yourself in the conversation, then when you have a moment with the person you are concerned about, ask them directly if they are safe. Ask if they know this person who keeps talking to them. Ask who they came with. Interjecting as a bystander can be scary, and you might even think, “Oh it’s nothing, I’m just overreacting.” It is much better to overreact than to let something slide that doesn’t seem right. 

Be a source of support and love for survivors in your life. If a friend or loved one discloses they are a survivor of abuse, respond by saying something like, “Thank you for trusting me with this information. I love you. I’m here for you however you need me.” Ensure that they continue to feel safe sharing things with you by being supporting and showing you understand that sharing this information is a big deal. RAINN also has a wonderfully thorough page on its website with examples of how to respond in a supportive way if a loved one shares this information with you. 

We should be talking about sexual assault prevention every month of the year, but having April as a reminder is a good place to start. If you are experiencing or have experienced assault, call the RAINN hotline at 800-656-4673. It’s free and confidential. They also have a live chat feature on their website. Check out the rest of the site for more tools, examples, and information on support. You are not alone, and it is not your fault.

Infection and death rates for the Covid-19 pandemic have been steadily decreasing over the last few months, which is a relief to say the least. Mask mandates are being lifted, and people are more and more comfortable returning back to large gatherings and reintegrating into society. With the intensity of the pandemic slowing down, it might be easy to think that means vaccinations and booster shots are no longer necessary, but quite the opposite is true. 

How are vaccinations helping?

Vaccinations and booster shots are precisely why mask mandates have been lifted and infection rates are slowly declining. As coronavirus continues to exist in our society, it can be hard to know when to get boosted. How many boosters do you need? If I’m vaccinated, isn’t that enough? Don’t worry, dear reader. I’ve got the info for you. 

If you have not received your Covid-19 vaccine yet, I highly encourage you to do so. If you have questions or concerns, contact your doctor or pharmacist, and they can assist you. Once you do receive your vaccine, it’s time to think about your booster shot. The Covid-19 vaccine is given in one or two doses, depending on the kind of vaccine you receive. When to get your booster depends on the kind of vaccine you received, and when you received it.

What is the booster shot?

A booster shot is given as one dose, and it helps boost your immunity to coronavirus. Similar to how we get a flu shot every year to help protect us against the flu, booster doses help provide continuing protection against Covid-19. It is worth noting, however, that just because you are vaccinated and boosted, that does not mean you will never get coronavirus. The vaccine and booster ensure that if you do catch Covid-19, you will get less sick, and you will not require hospitalization due to the virus. Similar to how receiving the flu vaccine does not guarantee you won’t get the flu.

Getting the Pfizer vaccine

The Pfizer vaccine is available for everyone 12 years and older. It is given in two doses. The first dose is administered by your pharmacist or doctor, then the second dose is given about 4 weeks after the first dose. Anyone of any age is eligible for their first booster shot five months after they’ve received their full dose of the Pfizer vaccine. If you’re 18 years old or older, your booster shot can be either Pfizer or Moderna, as long as you receive the mRNA vaccine booster. If you are 12-17 years old, your booster shot must also be Pfizer. If you are 50 years old or older, you are eligible for a second booster dose at least four months after your first booster. For people under the age of 50, no word has been given yet on when they are eligible for a second booster.

Similar to the initial vaccine, the booster shot comes with some side effects. In my experience, my booster shot side effects felt like a less intense version of how I felt with my vaccine. I had a headache and body chills, as well as fatigue for a day, then I was back to normal.

Moderna vaccine details

The Moderna vaccine is available for everyone 18 years and older. Similar to the Pfizer vaccine, it is also given in two doses. The first dose is given, then the second is given about 4 weeks after the first. Everyone 18 and older is eligible for their first booster shot five months after their second dose of the vaccine. If your initial shot was Moderna, you can receive Pfizer or Moderna as your booster, as long as the booster shot is also an mRNA vaccine. Similar to Pfizer, adults 50 years old and older are eligible for their second booster at least four months after their first. 

The one-time Johnson & Johnson

The Johnson & Johnson vaccine is available for everyone 18 years old or older and is given in one dose. You’re eligible for your booster shot at least two months after receiving your J&J vaccine. It’s recommended to receive either the Pfizer or Moderna booster for your booster dose. If you received the J&J vaccine for your vaccine and your first booster, you’re eligible for a second booster at least four months after your first, regardless of age. If you received Pfizer or Moderna as your first booster and you’re over the age of 50, you are eligible for your second booster at least four months after that first booster. 

How do you set up a booster shot?

When you’re ready to schedule your booster shot, you can contact your doctor if you have any questions or concerns, but you can schedule just as you did for your vaccine. I received both doses of my Moderna vaccine at my local pharmacy, so I received my booster shot at that same pharmacy as well. You can schedule your booster elsewhere if you’d like, depending on availability, but for peace of mind and ease, I used the same pharmacy for all three. You can schedule your appointment online with any local pharmacy. In the surrounding area, CVS, Walgreens, Meijer,  and Kroger all have doses available and easy online scheduling. Some pharmacies even have walk-in appointments available, depending on how many vaccines they have at a given moment. 

I imagine that as the months go on, more people will be eligible for their second booster shots. I also imagine that we’ll likely have to get our booster shot regularly, similar to how we get our flu shot regularly as well. Remember, just because you are vaccinated and boosted, that does not mean you will never get coronavirus, but it does drastically decrease the severity of the infection, as well as drastically decreases the chance of hospitalization or death. If we want to keep seeing mask mandates lifting and people safely gathering, we need to protect ourselves and our neighbors by receiving the vaccine and available booster doses. 

If you have any questions or concerns or are even unsure if you want to get your booster, call your doctor. If you have received your booster and know anyone who is wary, talk to them about your experience, and encourage them to protect their health and the health of those around them. 

Additional information can be found on the CDC website. 

A great thing about the internet is how quickly we can find new information, and how we are easily able to share information with others. An equally not-so-great thing about the internet is that anyone can share anything as if it’s fact and a bunch of people can see it. Recently I’ve seen a lot of stuff online and on social media about using boric acid suppositories to balance your vaginal pH and treat vaginal infections. Although I think sharing knowledge about vaginal health is super important and is a conversation that should happen more often, telling people on the internet to put medicine inside their vagina without consulting their doctor is not a good idea. 

What are boric acid suppositories?

Boric acid is a weak acid that has traditionally been used as an antiseptic to treat cuts and burns. Because it is acidic, it can also be used to help maintain a healthy vaginal pH. Your vagina has a natural pH balance between 3.8 and 4.5 and is naturally acidic. This pH can be thrown off pretty easily, however. Your menstrual cycle, a new sexual partner, unprotected sex, condoms, and scented soap or laundry detergent can all throw off your vaginal pH. Most of the time, our vaginas are able to adjust back to homeostasis, but if things get thrown off too much, that’s when an infection occurs. 

Boric acid suppositories can be used to treat yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, and trichomoniasis (an STD). Yeast infections are usually treated with antifungal medication that can be taken orally or inserted into the vagina. Bacterial vaginosis or BV is usually treated with an oral antibiotic. Trichomoniasis is also treated with an oral antibiotic. Basically, boric acid suppositories have worked for some people as additional or alternative treatments for these infections, however, the evidence is not strong enough to say that this is a great treatment for anyone. 

When to ask your doctor about treatment

If you have lingering symptoms of a vaginal infection even after your initial treatment plan has been executed, ask your doctor before using boric acid suppositories! Putting a foreign substance into your vagina can be risky, so it is imperative you consult with your doctor to make sure it is safe for you to do so. Boric acid is available over the counter, whereas these other treatment options are not, so I assume that’s why it has gained popularity online. If your body responds positively to the suppositories, it can help alleviate symptoms of your infection and restore your pH. Side effects include burning at the vaginal opening, watery discharge, and redness around the labia and vagina. You cannot use boric acid suppositories if you are pregnant, as it is fatal for the fetus. It will also irritate any tears or wounds in the skin around or in the vagina. Finally, boric acid should never be ingested orally, as it is poisonous. 

If you want to try boric acid suppositories as an over-the-counter treatment for yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or trichomoniasis, please, please consult your doctor first. Do not put any medication into your vagina without talking it through with your doctor.

On March 10, 2022, Missouri state representative Brian Seitz proposed a bill that would make it illegal for women to have an abortion to treat an ectopic pregnancy. The only way to treat an ectopic pregnancy is to abort the fetus. If it is left untreated, the woman carrying the fetus could die. 

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants somewhere outside of the uterus where it is supposed to grow. Most commonly, ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes where the eggs are carried to the ovaries and uterus, but the fertilized egg can also incorrectly implant in the abdominal cavity or cervix. The fertilized egg will not survive in this kind of pregnancy, and if left untreated, the ectopic pregnancy can rupture, causing bleeding that is life-threatening to the mother. 

If someone is diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, it can be treated through an injection of a medicine that will dissolve the tissue of the egg. If there are other complications or the pregnancy was farther along, the tissue must be removed through a laparoscopic procedure. Both of these treatments are technically abortions, as they remove the tissue from the mother’s body. There is absolutely no way this tissue can grow into a child, and if it is left in the mother’s body, it will lead to a rupture and potentially kill the mother. There are literally no other options for treating this type of pregnancy, as it is not viable and is life-threatening.

What is the ectopic pregnancy abortion bill?

Despite all of this information, Mr. Seitz proposed HB 2810, making it a class A felony if a woman has an abortion after 10 weeks, or if she has an abortion to treat ectopic pregnancy. In Missouri, the jail time for class A felonies ranges from 10 to 30 years. Mr. Seitz’s proposed bill would literally kill any woman that had an ectopic pregnancy and resulting complications. 

When he presented the bill and was told that it is impossible to treat an ectopic pregnancy any other way, Seitz replied saying, “They don’t have the hospital machinery to tell if this is an ectopic pregnancy. They might just think it’s a normal pregnancy, and they want to abort that child. I would like to see that sort of unlawful activity stopped.” This is untrue. Ectopic pregnancies are diagnosed via ultrasound and blood tests. After receiving further pushback, Seitz claims that his bill was misrepresented. 

Making decisions about women’s health

Since this proposed bill is based on no medical facts and would quite literally harm the person who is pregnant, it is unlikely it will pass. It is still terrifying and incredibly frustrating that a bill like this can be proposed in the first place. Politicians should not make decisions about women’s health, especially male politicians who very clearly have no idea what they are talking about or know how the female reproductive system works. Medical decisions should be left up to the person being treated and their doctor. 

For a politician that claims to be pro-life, this bill is quite literally the opposite. It is dangerous for the woman with an ectopic pregnancy, and it is baffling that Seitz doubled down on his ignorance when questioned about the bill, proving he truly has no clue what he is talking about, nor has he considered the repercussions of this harmful and deadly bill. 

As of January 21, 2022, the first-ever injectable HIV treatment has been approved. This injectable drug called Cabenuva is a revolutionary breakthrough for HIV treatment. 

What is HIV?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that takes over cells in the body of an infected person and weakens the immune system, making it impossible for the virus to get cleared out. HIV can be spread through certain bodily fluids such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid or pre-cum, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk. People can become infected with HIV by sharing a needle or having unprotected sex with someone who is infected with HIV. Although HIV is a virus that will stay in your body indefinitely, there have been great strides made for the treatment of HIV over the last several decades. 

What is the traditional HIV treatment?

People who are HIV positive typically take a daily pill to keep the level of HIV in their blood low enough that it can no longer be detected on a lab test. Once the blood levels are this low and stay that way for at least six months, the person can no longer spread HIV. This phase of HIV is typically called “U=U,” meaning undetectable=untransmittable. If the virus is untransmittable, that means you can’t spread it to someone else. Yay! Although you can get to a point in treatment where the virus is U=U, you still have to take meds for HIV every day if you have the virus. 

How does the injectable HIV treatment work?

This new injection works similarly to the daily pills, but it is a once-a-month injectable treatment administered by a doctor, rather than something taken every day. Patients who are eligible for the injection should consult with their doctor first, of course, then will take once-a-day “starter pills” for the first month of treatment and can start getting the shot shortly after. 

Patients will schedule what Cabenuva calls a “Target Treatment Date,” which is the same date each month to come into the office and receive the shot. If something comes up and that Target Treatment Day has to be missed, patients are still covered within their “Flexible Treatment Window,” which is seven days before the treatment date, and up to seven days after. This once-a-month injection is just as effective as the daily pills patients are used to taking, as long as it’s taken within this treatment window.

Why is an injectable HIV treatment a big deal?

The daily pill first came onto the scene in 2006 and has been a great option to keep patients undetectable, but now with this monthly injection, there are more options. A once-a-month injection is a great option for someone who doesn’t want to have to worry about taking a pill every day or someone who doesn’t have a schedule or lifestyle that allows that to be accessible. Since the injection has to be administered by a doctor, this is also a great option for someone who would enjoy having a monthly check-in with their provider each time they get their shot. 

Are there any side effects?

Similar to the daily pill, the injection does come with some possible side effects: fever, tiredness, muscle aches, trouble breathing, blisters or sores in the mouth, swelling of eyes, swelling of the mouth, face, lips, or tongue. The Cabenuva website also notes that you should contact your doctor immediately if you develop a rash after the shot.

This is a wonderful development for HIV treatment and helps make living with HIV easier and more manageable. I also want to be clear that people living with HIV have healthy, fulfilling lives. They have great sex lives, loved ones and careers. Treatment options like the daily pill and now this injection help make living U=U easier than ever. Visit Cabenuva’s website for more info, and contact your doctor if you think the once-a-month shot is for you.

From the beginning of time, people with uteruses have experienced menopause. Menopause occurs when a person’s estrogen and progesterone levels decrease and their period permanently stops. This decrease in hormone levels typically starts between the ages of 45 and 55 in people with uteruses, but it can sometimes start earlier or later. Once you have gone without a period for a whole year, you are officially menopausal. Congrats! If you want to start preventing symptoms now, you may be able to thanks to the connection between exercise and menopause. 

What to expect in menopause

The time leading up to menopause where you experience symptoms like hot flashes, mood swings, and decreased muscle mass is called perimenopause. This begins during the ages of 45-55 (sometimes sooner, as I mentioned), and symptoms from this period can last for up to 14 years after menopause is done. That seems unfair to me!! During this time, your baby-making hormones are decreasing, and your body is no longer able to make a baby. That’s why it causes someone’s period to stop. Similar to puberty when all of your sex hormones are gearing up, menopause can come with a lot of symptoms. In addition to hot flashes and mood swings which we are typically aware of, menopause can also cause a decrease in bone density and a decrease in muscle mass. 

Estrogen levels are linked to healthy bones and muscles in women and people with uteruses, so when these levels decrease, bone mass and muscles decrease as well. Many studies have shown that people who practice some form of exercise, particularly weight-bearing exercise, experience some milder symptoms related to this decrease during menopause. 

How exercise can help symptoms

Lifting weights and doing strength training helps increase bone density. It’s recommended that women in the early 40s start exercising intentionally to lessen the symptoms of menopause even before they begin. If you lift weights, even light ones, and build up that bone density and muscle mass for years before your menopausal symptoms even begin, your body will be in an even healthier state to make up for some of those losses once those hormones start to fluctuate. 

Cardio exercise is also recommended for menopausal women. Dancing, going for walks, light jogging, and yoga are all great for relieving stress and mood swings that accompany changing hormones, but they also ensure the body is fit and healthy, creating as pleasant of a menopausal experience as possible.

Start to exercise and menopause may be milder

If you begin weight training now, when perimenopause beings, hopefully, some of the physical changes in the body will be less noticeable or less painful. Although a great stress reliever, unfortunately, weight training won’t stop hot flashes from happening. Some women will treat this with hormone replacement therapy, or HRT. During this treatment, patients take either estrogen, progesterone, or both to help alleviate menopause symptoms. By adding in some hormones through treatment, the decline in these hormones in the body will hopefully be milder. 

Although I am decades away from experiencing menopause myself, it’s something I’ve become increasingly fascinated with. Despite learning about my period and birth control very thoroughly, no one has ever talked to me about what to expect in menopause. It seems like a scary adventure no one is talking about. 

Resources such as The Menopause Manifesto by Dr. Jen Gunter talk in-depth about this time of life and ways to handle the changes and live a wonderful life after menopause. This, in addition to exercising and talking with your doctor can make menopause a less scary thing to navigate.

Condoms are one of the most popular forms of birth control. They are relatively inexpensive, easy to find (they’re available in nearly every grocery store and drug store), non-invasive, can be used as needed, and are effective at preventing pregnancy and preventing the spread of sexually transmitted infections. What’s not to love?! A lot of college campuses and health centers will even give them out for free. However, I have noticed in the last year or so, more and more stores are selling locked-up condoms behind glass or putting them inside of a clear plastic box that needs to be unlocked.

Have you noticed locked-up condoms?

Typically, items that are expensive or often stolen are locked away like this. I’ve seen some stores that will lock razors or even expensive skincare at a drug store behind glass that needs a key to open. I’ve noticed at my local grocery store, ALL of the condoms are inside individual plastic boxes that a clerk needs to unlock to release, similar to how some alcohol has a lock on the top that you need help opening. Although I understand that stores don’t want condoms to be stolen, I think this is a harmful solution. 

How locked-up condoms stigmatize sex

People can feel awkward buying condoms at the store, especially young people who are coming into their sexuality and have just begun having partnered sex. If the store you’re buying condoms at doesn’t have a self check out, the idea of looking a stranger in the eyes as they ring up your condoms can be intimidating for some people. Having safe sex is a normal part of life, and buying condoms to do so shouldn’t be intimidating. 

We live in a sex-negative culture where we typically don’t comfortably talk about these topics. Now imagine going to the store to buy condoms only to find they are locked up behind a glass case or need to be specifically unlocked at check out by a clerk. I worry that this extra step of intentionally asking a stranger to unlock the birth control at the store will deter people from buying condoms as frequently, resulting in more instances of unprotected sex. We don’t want that! We don’t want more exposure to STIs! We don’t want young people exploring their sexuality to put themselves at risk of an unwanted pregnancy. We don’t want anyone of any age to be at risk for that either. 

Other options for purchasing condoms?

I understand that perhaps stores don’t want these items to be stolen, but in the grand scheme of things, someone stealing a $5 pack of condoms is worth it to me. This is also coming from someone who believes birth control should be free everywhere for anyone. 

Condoms can be bought discreetly online, but it’s fast and easy to purchase them at a drug store as well. Not all stores have started locking up their contraceptives, but I’ve noticed enough that it worries me. My grocery store for example locks up all of their condoms but doesn’t lock up their razors or razor blades. In terms of items being stolen, I believe stolen razor blades are more hazardous than stolen condoms! And also way more expensive. 

I’m not sure what the solution is, but my hope is that this extra step of unlocking affordable birth control doesn’t deter people from purchasing condoms. If you need a little boost in confidence, I did write about how to confidently buy condoms. You’re welcome.  

I recently saw a commercial that stopped me in my tracks! This doesn’t happen often, or ever, really. I heard the woman on my television say, “Flex Disc even empties itself out while you pee.” Excuse me?! Sure, I’ve heard of menstrual discs before. Even contemplated trying them. But a menstrual disc that empties itself out while I go to the bathroom? That was a novel concept to me! I had to learn more. And then of course share that knowledge with you all. [Photo Credit: Amazon/Hello Giggles]

What is the flex disc?

Flex Disc is a single-use menstrual disc meant to be worn for up to 12 hours. Flex Disc is made from a body-safe material, although the website doesn’t specify what that is. This disc is inserted into the vaginal canal and sits at the base of the cervix in the vaginal fornix. The disc collects your period blood here and leaves your vaginal canal open. 

The website mentions several times and even encourages Flex users to enjoy mess-free period sex while the disk is inserted. I love that! Since the disc sits at the opening of the cervix, the vaginal canal is wide open for business. Flex Disc users have also reported they’ve experienced less cramping since switching to the disc, and the disc produces 60% less waste than other disposable menstrual products. 

How does the flex disc work?

To insert, you pinch the disc between your fingers so it is as long and thin as possible. You insert the disc into the vagina, and when you can no longer keep pinching, release the pinch and push it into place using either a thumb or pointer finger. They also suggest doing some Kegels or squats once it’s in place to make sure the disc is situated. 

You can keep the disc in for up to 12 hours, and at the end of the day, or whenever you’re ready to change it, you insert a pointer finger to take it out. With clean hands, grab onto the edge of the disc, and pull it out of the vagina, keeping it as flat as possible to avoid spilling blood. You empty the blood into the toilet, then throw the disc away. Don’t reuse the disc once you take it out! If you have a particularly heavy period, Flex suggests emptying the disc out throughout the day, then inserting a new one. And here comes the good part! The disc can empty itself while you use the bathroom. 

How does it empty itself?

Essentially, the natural muscle tension of our body helps hold the disc in place as we’re living our life throughout the day. When you sit on the toilet, the muscles relax a bit. If you “bear down” slightly, the disc can somewhat pop out of place, emptying a bit of blood while you empty your bladder. With clean hands, use your thumb or pointer finger to situate the disc back into place just as you did when you first inserted it, then carry on with your day. 

This company stands out

The fact can the disc can naturally empty itself BLEW MY MIND! Our bodies are so cool. If disposable period products aren’t your jam, Flex does have a menstrual cup available as well. I’ve seen other menstrual discs on the market, but the period and sex-positivity that Flex has really stood out to me. They mention period sex several times on their website and use inclusive language to make it clear that this product is for anyone who has a vagina and menstruates. Check them out at flexfits.com

Content warning: This article discusses stealthing, a form of sexual assault in which a condom is removed during a sex act without consent. 

Stealthing is the nonconsensual removal of a condom during a sex act. This is sexual assault. Despite being sexual assault, this topic is rarely discussed, even though it happens too often. Thirty-two percent of women who sleep with men, and 19% of men that have sex with men have reported this happening to them. California just became the first state to outlaw this specific act, which I think is great progress in the right direction. 

Is stealthing assault?

Many people don’t discuss stealthing because I think many people don’t realize it is assault. If you consent to having sex with someone under the condition that they use a condom, then in the middle of sex, they remove the condom without you knowing, you are not continuing to consent to what’s happening. That is assault. This is a problem because it is sex without consent, even though it began consensually, but it can also put someone at risk for an STI or an unwanted pregnancy when the sex they agreed to with a condom would not expose that risk at all. Consent is essential for all sex acts. It’s essential in many of our interpersonal interactions in fact. Consent says that everyone involved in whatever is happening says “yes” to all that is happening. If someone removes a condom without the other person’s knowledge, it is impossible for them to consent to that.

How are stealthing cases handled?

California just outlawed stealthing earlier this year, and I hope this brings much-needed attention and discussion to this topic. Many sexual assault cases do not end in favor of the survivor, and the way investigating sexual assault cases in this country is handled is not great. This is a step in the right direction though, allowing survivors of stealthing in California to sue the perpetrators. 

I first heard about stealthing several years ago through an article I saw online, but I had never heard of it discussed amongst people I knew or in any discussions of consent. It was also a topic of discussion on the most recent season of “I May Destroy You,” where the main character is raped after being drugged, then several weeks later is assaulted again when her partner removes the condom during sex when she turns around to switch positions. She asks him about it afterward and he says he “assumed” she could feel that he took it off, blaming her for being upset. 

How can I talk about consent?

Hopefully, other states will follow in California’s footsteps and outlaw stealthing as well, furthering this conversation of assault and consent. Sexual consent is ongoing throughout a sex act. If someone agrees to sex with a condom, then that condom needs to stay on the whole time, unless there is consent for it to be removed. This act being outlawed can also act as an opportunity for people to further discuss consent. As I mentioned, consent is ongoing, and it can be changed at any time. It is a discussion. Sex without consent is an assault. Hopefully, this being outlawed can help acts of stealthing to decline, and other states will follow California’s example.