Science - December 8, 2005

Kids more scary than venereal disease

Condoms sell like hot cakes in Wageningen. But this probably has little to do with recent reports that there has been an increase in sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among young people in the Netherlands. Female students in Wageningen regard rubbers as a good alternative to the pill, which is full of hormones. A chat with four – anonymous – students.

‘Getting pregnant scares me more than getting an STD,’ says one of the students, her round face framed by curly hair. She uses a condom to prevent pregnancy, not to make sure she doesn’t get venereal disease. ‘It’s stupid of course, but the idea of having a baby in nine months’ time seems more real and more worrying.’

She doesn’t take the pill, but that’s not so unusual among students in Wageningen. ‘I don’t want all those hormones in my body,’ says her friend, dressed in black. ‘It makes me fat and moody,’ the curly-haired student adds. ‘And it turns me off sex, so what’s the point of taking it?’

Because the two friends are not on the pill, they always have ‘safe sex’. If there’s no condom around the party’s off. ‘I remember the time I knew for sure that I had one condom left somewhere in my room. But when the moment came I couldn’t find it anywhere. I called it off,’ tells the student in black. ‘A moment later I remembered that I had mistaken the packet for a scrap of paper and had thrown it away. So there I was with no clothes on, going through the rubbish bag. And I found it too, complete with coffee grounds!’

Super sperm
The two students are aware of the extra risk involved with only using a condom for sex. ‘Sometimes I think about that one sperm that might get through the condom. The super sperm!’ says the girl with curls.

That’s why ‘double dutch’ – sex with pill and condom – is better according to the only man in the group. He talks animatedly about his girlfriend, who he’s been going out with for five years. Although she is on the pill, they still use condoms when they make love. ‘I’m not about to stop. I’m not ready to be a father. I’d rather be double safe.’

The third female in the company – with glasses and straight blonde hair – would also rather be safe than sorry: it’s pill and condom for her too. Except for one time: ‘I had been out and I had had too much to drink. He wanted to go to bed with me, but didn’t have any condoms. I didn’t either. But he wouldn’t give up and in the end he persuaded me. Because I was drunk I let it happen.’

She decided to have a test to see if she had an STD. ‘I could have got all sorts of things from him. You don’t always know what your partner has been up to.’ Nevertheless she didn’t go to the doctor immediately. ‘I was embarrassed. You know that you should have safe sex, so you feel stupid. I was afraid that the doctor would tell me off.’ She was spared a sermon and an STD as well. But the experience has made her stricter: safe sex or not at all.

Small
The student with curly hair also finds it difficult to go to the doctor. Despite getting a tear in a condom a while ago, she did not have a test. ‘It’s too scary. You have to go to the doctor and explain what you’ve done. Suddenly it becomes very real. Just imagine if…. venereal disease is something dirty, while sex is just something normal.’

But how normal is sex in a small town like Wageningen where everyone knows everyone else? According to the four students, a different person in your bed every night is more difficult here than in the big city. ‘The student population is not very big here,’ says the one in black. ‘Everyone knows everyone, at least through someone else. Oh, are you living with him? Forget it… Wageningen is very small!’ / LH

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