As summer – namely the season most conducive to a more active sex life – has finally come to an end, it is an alarming situation that the latest study carried out by the YouGov Institute for Livi . From these exchanges with a panel of women aged 18 to 54 on the theme of sexual health taboos, it appears that many French women are still reluctant to discuss certain subjects, whether with those around them or with professionals. .s of health.
In recent years, we have witnessed several movements aimed at freeing women’s voices. If MeToo has allowed many of them to talk about the sexual assaults of which they have been victims, the speeches which aim to make women feel guilty and denounce the workings of a patriarchal society which constrains them to silence are gradually being heard on the public square. But consciences still need to be educated. The proof with the study conducted by Livi and the YouGov Institute on taboos around women’s sexual health. On March 2, 2022, 453 French women between the ages of 18 and 54 were questioned on this subject, and the results – then analyzed and commented on by Doctor Maxime Cauterman, specialist in public health and social medicine and Medical Director at Livi, prove that many ideas are still to be deconstructed…
STIs and STDs, the big taboo
When it comes to intimate health taboos, one topic tops the list: STIs. For 24% of women surveyed in the study conducted by the YouGov Institute, sexually transmitted infections are the biggest taboo. The percentage rises to 29% among 34-54 year olds. Generation difference or not, the observation is there: while STI cases have increased by 30% in 2020 and 2021, as Dr. Cauterman points out, many women are reluctant to talk about it. As a reminder, the Ameli site has identified the 8 most common STIs: syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydiosis, trichomoniasis, which can be cured if treated, while viral STIs such as hepatitis B, Genital herpes, HIV and human papillomavirus are “difficult or even impossible to cure depending on the type of virus”. Chlamydia infections mainly affect young women. All of this is essentially the result of not using condoms.
In France, STIs are on the increase, particularly among young people aged 15 to 24 since the Covid health crisis, as Dr. Christian Recchia warns in “Carnet de Santé” for Yahoo.
For Doctor Maxime Cauterman, “it is necessary to multiply the screening channels, because being able to choose between your attending physician, a Cegidd, a teleconsultation, a ‘lab without ordo’ or a self-test is decisive in the transition to It is also necessary to maintain collective vigilance and efforts to prevent and screen for HIV, in particular among the youngest and certain populations at risk.In 2020, the number of screenings for the disease fell by 14%. decrease mainly concerns people aged 30 to 45. For several years now, we have been talking about a ‘hidden epidemic’, with a significant proportion of infected people being unaware of it or not receiving treatment and therefore being more at risk of transmitting the virus.”
The situation is therefore more than urgent and alarming. But then why do we observe such distrust around the subject of STIs? Perhaps answers can be found in the preconceptions surrounding them. Talking about sexually transmitted infections from which one suffers is therefore talking about one’s sex life. And therefore expose themselves to judgments, again based on archaic ideas when it comes to women. The myth of the “bitch” with multiple partners has tough skin. However, it is difficult to say that men confide more in STIs.
Still, the taboo that surrounds STIs leads to another insidious consequence: misinformation and diagnosis made too late. Because, as the YouGov Institute points out, “although free HIV test screening came into force in France at the start of the year, this is not yet the case for STIs, which can also represent a brake on consultation.”
Intimate health: behind modesty, fear of judgment?
46% is the percentage of women surveyed who say they find it difficult to confide in their intimate health. Nearly one in two French people. A figure that is not surprising when we take into account various phenomena. According to a previous Ifop study for Qare unveiled in January 2022, 60% of women have already given up an appointment with a gynecologist. While 23% of mothers surveyed say they give up this care to devote themselves to the health of others, and 43% say they don’t have the time, 33% of young people surveyed said they were uncomfortable with their bodies, while that 31% of 18-24 year olds say they have never been to a gynecologist. For Yahoo, several young women had also detailed the reasons for this abandonment of care after traumatic exchanges with a professional.
Yes, the reasons for this discomfort of women at the idea of talking about their intimate health are multiple, and can often be based on fear of judgment. But Dr. Maxime Cauterman is sounding the alarm: “The attending physician is the preferred contact, but I have also noticed that being too close was not always easy to broach these subjects. So I am convinced that e-health services have their role to play.” Teleconsultation as a shield against the fear of judgment? It is in any case this option that 47% of the women questioned choose.
Abortion still taboo for many young women
The study conducted by Livi and the YouGov Institute highlights another big taboo for the younger generation: abortion. Among 18-34 year olds, 23% of French women questioned are reluctant to talk about this issue. A figure that is mainly explained by the fear of judgment. Even today, the image of the woman mother is sacred. And this, in spite of the many voices which rise to deconstruct the archaic ideas which suggest that the only destiny of a woman is that of becoming a mother.
Video. Chloé Chaudet (“I decided not to be a mother”): “It’s possible to regret being a mother”
“The promulgation of the Veil law on the right to abortion is 47 years old. Despite everything, the fear of tackling such delicate subjects and being judged is still very present among the younger generations. And even after a mature decision Thoughtful, many women can feel different forms of distress following the abortion. This is particularly linked to our system of values, to social pressure” underlines Doctor Maxime Cauterman, who recalls that 222,000 abortions were recorded in 2020 in France. .
Here again, this great taboo around abortion finds a very particular echo these days. In the United States, the Supreme Court’s decision to revoke the Roe v. Wade judgment, which had until then guaranteed the freedom of choice of American women who wished to have an abortion, reminds us of the extent to which this right is more than fragile. In France, the National Assembly voted, on February 23, 2022, the bill on the extension of the legal period for recourse to voluntary terminations of pregnancy, thus increasing from 12 to 14 weeks.
However, many women face psychological distress. Because in addition to the fear of judgment, there is the loneliness in which some can find themselves. This is why Doctor Maxime Cauterman warns: “The public authorities must commit to training more health professionals, improving the conditions of access and reception of abortion, support for women according to their needs. , to develop communication campaigns on their rights, particularly aimed at young women and finally to fight against disinformation.
Endometriosis increasingly visible… but still ignored by some
Further proof that there is still a long way to go, endometriosis ranks 4th among the major taboos in sexual health according to the YouGov survey for Livi. 18% of women aged 34 to 54 cite it as the 2nd biggest sexual taboo. Long lost in the middle of an immense medical desert, endometriosis still struggles not only to be considered by public health authorities, but also and above all to be diagnosed. This chronic and debilitating gynecological disease was only officially and concretely addressed by the high authorities of the State in January 2022. The Ministry of Health has undertaken to invest 30 million euros over five years for research , diagnosis and access to care, but also communication and awareness.
Video. Enora Malagré: “The most embarrassing part of this disease is that you feel like you can smell blood”
Among the main symptoms of endometriosis, there are particularly painful stomach aches during menstruation. This specific point may explain the taboo character that the women interviewed by YouGov confer on endometriosis. In a patriarchal society, they grow up with the idea that the menstrual cycle should not be discussed in society. You have to hide when you have your period, and this often involves elements of language or well-developed strategies. It is therefore difficult to talk to those around you about the abnormal pain of your period, and therefore about endometriosis, when the subject is so barricaded with taboos. So much so that the omerta even had direct consequences on the medical world, many health professionals often having difficulty diagnosing endometriosis.
But things are progressing, little by little. “For years, endometriosis has been misunderstood and often underdiagnosed. But women’s voices on this subject are becoming more and more free. Today, the proliferation of testimonials on social networks and the speaking out of public figures, encourage women to go for a consultation” rejoices Dr. Maxime Cauterman, for whom it is also “essential to raise awareness among health professionals via training systems.”
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