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World Sexual Health Day - Debunking Myths

On August 29th, we celebrated World Sexual Health Day early with a presentation by the Women’s Health Research Institute.
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​​The theme for the event was Debunking Sexual Health-related Myths. The Institute’s executive director Dr. Lori Brotto and Jennifer Breakspear, executive director, Options for Sexual Health (Opt), kicked off the event by welcoming a full house audience.​

Dr. Brotto stressed the importance of education and teaching children to use proper names for body parts which would allow them to feel comfortable with sexual related topics and to build a healthy view of sexuality as adults. She said there can be disastrous effects to wellbeing, for example sexually abused kids may be reluctant to speak up if they’re brought up to believe their body parts are shameful. 

How young people learn what is normal is important, which brings us to the first myth: there is only one image of female genitalia that is classified as normal. The quest for the perfect looking vulva is on the rise with an increase in genital cosmetic surgery, which is classified as female genital mutilation. In reality, normal healthy genitalia come in all shapes and sizes. Dr. Brotto’s team's research aims to understand genital self-image in adolescent women and what drives self-image. They hope the results will help to better inform how to talk about genital self-image among young women and to build a positive self-image to decrease rates of labiaplasties.

​“There are no photos in gynecological text books of what’s normal. Young people do not learn about normal genitalia in school and their information sources are typically not factual,” ​​
says Dr. Dorothy Shaw, vice president, Medical Affairs.

Another myth addressed at the forum is that Provoked Vestibulodynia (PVD), genital pain, is a psychological disorder. PVD is a common condition affecting 16 per cent of women with a higher prevalence among young women. Many women suffer in silence because it often takes a long time to diagnose without the presence of visible findings. The only study on PVD took place in 2010, which found that topical treatments were not better than a placebo. Even though PVD isn’t a psychological disorder, psychology is an important treatment aspect. 

The COMFORT study uses Eastern traditional practices of relaxation training and mindfulness meditation. They both are effective psychological treatments for PVD, and what the study hopes to accomplish is to determine which treatments are more effective for women possessing various symptoms for individualized care.

These are just two out of several sexual health related topics covered at the presentation. Learn more about the studies or participate in our research.

Visit or call 1-800-SEX-SENSE to talk to experts, teachers and counsellors about sex and sexual health.
WHRI; World Sexual Health Day; women's sexual health; Research
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