5 straight up ways to… do sexual health
Mark Bittlestone is a stand-up comedian. He is also very gay man. Just a very gay man, doing a lot of straight-up gay stuff.
He’s on social media too! Follow Mark on Instagram here
5 Straight Up Gay Ways to… ‘do’ sexual health
Ok sooooo although sexual health is not an exclusively gay experience, being gay can, for some people, feel like a barrier to being regularly checked. You don’t want to have another mini coming out experience with the sexual health professional and for some people, when you do, they can often feel more loaded (this is too serious an introduction to say “pun intended” but…it wasn’t…I’m just incapable of not writing with extraordinary fluency). Anyway, the long and short (hehehe) of it is, this is a blog for ALL THINGS GAY, and I think talking about sexual health is important. So here we go…
1) Get a kit delivered to your door if you can.
In a lot of cities and states now you can get a self-test kit delivered through your letterbox (I’m in London and I get mine through SHL). This genuinely beats the experience of trudging to your local sexual health clinic by about A BILLION, although you have to take the blood yourself and the first time I did it I turned my bathroom into a warzone. My housemate came in at one stage and thought I was re-enacting an episode of Luther. Pro tip: have a bath before or dunk your hands in warm water for a few minutes, then prick (here he goes again) one of your fingers and squeeze out drops off blood into the little vial, a bit like you would push a mongoose out of the mouth of a python that had swallowed it (fucking hell I am a bizarre bloke). It sounds gruesome but actually after the first one I did I got really quick and now it’s super easy.
2. If you go into clinic, be your best, true self.
First of all, if it is something that makes you feel uneasy, know that you have literally nothing to worry about. But also, fuck anyone who would judge you anyway. I go to the Burrell Street clinic in London Bridge and all of the people I’ve seen there have been lovely, welcoming and reassuring. Also, let’s talk honesty because I know it can be tempting to lie. They once asked me “how many people have you slept with in the last three months?” and I said “two”, and the doctor replied “you fucking loser”, so ever since then I’ve been massively exaggerating my numbers. I’m joking but yeah… ALWAYS be honest about who, how many, condom or not, etc etc, because it can affect the treatments they offer and the speed at which they test it. Honesty is literally the best policy and they see a million people so, no offence, they don’t give a shit what you’ve been up to.
3. Get everything you can.
It’s not greedy to use services and resources that the state should be providing to you. When I go the STI clinic, I take the all you can eat buffet approach: get your dick out at the first available opportunity. Jokes jokes jokes. But if they’re offering, grab it. PrEP? Yes pls! Condoms? I’ll take ‘em! HPV vaccine? Whack it in my bum! Hep B? Go on then! I personally feel short-changed if I don’t leave with a swag bag after a finger up the bum. Note: this only applied in medical situations and not hook-ups. That’s just stealing.
4. If you don’t want to use condoms, get on PrEP & get checked regularly.
I’m not advocating unsafe sex, I’m just being realistic and saying that a lot of people don’t like using condoms. Taking daily or event-based PrEP can reduce your risk of contracting HIV by 99%. It doesn’t reduce your risk of getting other STIs though, and be aware that “super gonorrhoea” is on the rise and does not sound ideal (though the more I say it, the more it sounds like the next instalment in the Marvel franchise).
5. Talk about it.
There can be such a stigma around STIs and sexual health and it doesn’t do anyone any favours. In the autumn I got a text to say I had gonorrhoea while I was on a walk in Battersea (more like Battysea amirite) Park with my family, and I told them all then and there. It was good to share, and even though both of my brothers vomited all over themselves, I think the news went down pretty well (final pun I promise). So, yeah, chat to people about your sexual health, about STIs, about sex, etc. etc.
So there’s my five things. And hey, while you’re here, why not check out my videos on Tiktok and Instagram. They look like this….