It’s a lesson that we should all have learnt by now, and one that is so engrained in our consciousnesses that it almost goes without saying – ‘You made your bed, you lie in it’. And never has this been more relevant when the bed you have lain is riddled with disease. Possibly. You’re not sure. He seemed a little suspect. A little too nonchalant with his ‘No’ as he answered your very sensible question of “Do you have any diseases that will upset my downtown?”, as he frantically ripped off your clothes. And you happily obliged.
But after the post-coital joy subsides and you realise the condom wrappers beside the bed don’t quite correspond to the frequency of your liaisons from the night before, or you hazily recall that time you both agreed “Just make sure you pull out in time” was a valid form of contraception, you know what you have to do... The stirrups are a-calling. And we ain’t talking Jilly Cooper. We’re talking pointless paper seat covers, neon lights and a position even more undignified than the one that probably got you into this mess in the first place – the STI Clinic.
Contrary to what my friends may tell you, I don’t just take my pants off for anyone, particularly someone who is brandishing stainless steel implements, but after the few occasions of what I call ‘moments of passion’ but are more aptly categorised under ‘sexual stupidity’, I have faced the dirty bed I may have laid in and made that dreaded – but necessary - appointment.
There is no denying that this appointment is nerve-wracking. No one wants to sit and talk sex with a stranger without a drink or orgasm in sight, but sometimes needs must. Unfortunately I appear to have developed an ill-advised defence mechanism for these nerve-wracking situations (namely a lady between my legs asking about my sexual history) – and that is humour.
It all began during my first visit. After a slew of international paramours during my self-proclaimed ‘Summer of Love’ which in reality was less free spirited 60s and more a blurry consequence of a brutal break up and working abroad for the summer, I returned a violent berating from my friends. And rightfully so. For the love of my vagina, I went to the clinic for my first STI screening. Sitting nervously, legs crossed (a move which would probably have served me well a few months earlier) I waited for my name to be called before being led into the examination room – a place where not only would I learn the valuable lesson of facing the consequences of my stupid actions, but also that I am not funny. And that the STI clinic is not the right venue for comedy.
The test began with the usual questionnaire – “Vaginal, oral, anal?” – “Yes, yes, HELL NO”. “And can you tell me all your sexual partners for the last three months?” Thankfully I had rehearsed my list in the waiting room. But she wanted more. She wanted nationalities. So we went back over the list and I revealed my sexual passport for the summer. Hearing it out loud I was simultaneously impressed and mortified by my exploits and felt this was the opportune time to crack the ill-timed joke; “I guess it wasn’t just my backpack that did some travelling this summer”. Laughter. Only mine. Doctor stares at me, before delivering the final blow of “If I were in your situation, I would not be laughing”. Nice. And now time for an AIDS test during which she conveniently couldn’t find a vein for the next 20 minutes. Needless to say it was not the most pleasant of trips. But all was well and my vagina lived to see another day.
Thankfully the next time was much less traumatic. Sitting in the waiting room, an attractive man walks past carrying the biggest box of lube I’ve ever seen. Inevitably my inner monologue goes into overdrive, creating a sordid situation around what he was going to do with all that lube. This thought amused me for about 2 seconds until I remembered what that lube was for, namely my own impending liaison with a speculum. My name is called. But hark – no speculum! A self swab – a simple, delightful cotton bud. My only regret of this happy revelation was remembering at the start of my appointment I said to the lovely nurse who kindly offered a smear test - ”Why not, while you’re down there!” She had no intention of going ‘down there’.
So ladies who clench at the thought of the speculum, fear not. You might not even need one. And if you do see that ominous tray, here is a tale for you to ponder as you hoist your legs into those stirrups. Upon being faced with an attractive male doctor between her thighs, a thought traumatic enough for most people, my lovely friend explained how Dr Handsome, unable to locate her cervix, proceeded, with the determination of the best lover, to prod and poke until, she eloquently revealed, she was “essentially fucked by the speculum”. They found it eventually. And she probably still prays for the days of self swabs. While these tales from the stirrups may amuse – or bemuse as to why I apparently enjoy inadvertently flirting with sexual health nurses – I hope they serve to prove that yes, ridiculous things happen, but it was a ridiculous thing that got you into this situation. Use a condom. Take the test. With 1 in 10 of women having Chlamydia at this very moment, a little speculum fucking really should be the least of our worries. Saddle up, ladies.