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4th February 2022

PCOS: If only I had as many admirers as I do ovarian cysts

Embracing sex positivity with a chronic condition can be tough
PCOS: If only I had as many admirers as I do ovarian cysts
Photo: Izzy Rooke-Ley.

I love sex. 

Whether it’s with a long-term romantic partner, a (maybe little bit more than) platonic friend who just knows how you do, or a whole host of strangers who make for a raunchy debrief with the gals the morning after, (consensual) sex can be incredible. Can’t it? 

With ‘hot girl summer’ seeming a now distant memory as we’re firmly in the throws of ‘cuffing season’, not only does there always seem to be some way or another of justifying our debaucherous urges, but sex has become, dare I say it, ‘trendy’. The plethora of information around safe sex, and contraceptive options means that (from a somewhat privileged position) gone are the days of risking Syphilis or pregnancy-provoked social ostracisation just for a cheeky romp. 

As much as I may romanticise the heck out of the 19th century romantic poets, my god they got around without a second thought for the voracious spread of STIs. I’m not sure even I would have risked ravishing Byron – sorry my man. Not that I would have been his type, being unrelated to him and everything. 

However, although obviously I fully endorse modern hook-up culture, there are definitely certain complications that arise from having multiple, casual partners – especially when, like me, you have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS). Unfortunately, there seems to be very little education around chronic conditions like PCOS, despite it affecting 1 in 10 women in the UK. 

The symptoms of this condition mean, amongst other delightful complications, that I don’t get regular periods. This is due to an imbalance in hormone levels which makes ovulation less regular or likely. Obviously, it doesn’t take a genius to work out why this might be slightly anxiety-inducing if, like me, you maybe sometimes forget the safe-sex rules that were drilled into you during sex-ed. Or at least the two hours of nervous laughing and cringe-inducing labelled diagrams that my failing comprehensive school passed off for sex education. Is it any wonder that girls I used to sit next to in maths class have now already surpassed the average number of children (1.7 in the UK) in their early 20s? 

Luckily (for me, and my avid anti-maternal predisposition), another symptom of decreased, or entirely absent, ovulation is a decreased rate of fertility. So, for the most part, if any ‘incidents’ did happen, unplanned pregnancy is relatively low down on my list of daily concerns. 

That being said, have you ever really bonded with your best mate until you’ve been crouched together in a bus station public loo, waiting for her to confirm whether it’s one line or two because you can’t bear to look? Traumatic? Absolutely. But it’s all material. 

Of course, there are treatments that help alleviate some of the issues associated with PCOS. The hormonal coil (IUD) for example can help with hormonal imbalance (namely decreased progesterone and increased testosterone). Of course this also provides ease of mind when it comes to pregnancy preoccupations. However, speaking from personal experience, hormonal contraception can really mess you up big time. So whilst it may mean that you are less likely to develop health conditions like diabetes or cancer, you may be depressed AF. So that’s really fun. 

Another delightful symptom of PCOS is that sex is sometimes genuinely painful. This is because (TMI – sorry) a penetrating penis can actually knock the ovaries and cause fluid leakage from the multiple cysts. Erotic, I know. With a regular partner whom you know, while this definitely doesn’t make you feel the sexiest you’ve ever felt, I’ve had less anxiety about explaining the situation and – most importantly – halting intercourse! It is at times like this that I’d like to reiterate the importance of communication always. 

However, with a one night stand, although (usually) intoxication clearly gave me enough confidence to get into bed with them, I am completely awkward enough to find explaining this symptom of PCOS (especially mid-shag) to a complete stranger. They want a shag, not my medical records after all! Hence why occasionally, what has started as a fun fling has resulted in a few days of pain-killer dependency. 

I think, as well as my own self-confessed anxious awkwardness, this tendency that women have to just grin and bear it can also stem from societal pressures. Whilst casual sex is great, I find there’s definitely a pressure to perform in a certain way, and that involves actually going through with the deed once you’ve made it all the way to theirs. 

I recognise of course that there’s a whole host of problems associated with this ‘keep calm and carry on’ mindset. This is due to how the system has failed women in terms of proper education around sex and gender relations. No surprise there then. 

In any case, even despite all of these complications, I still think sex, in whatever capacity you are comfortable and happy with, can be great. With any luck, without wanting to kill the mood, this article might help any fellow PCOS sufferers. Maybe we’ll even buck up and be able to have these conversations with our friends and partners. 

Anyway, happy frolicking my loves. I hope you get from your experiences whatever makes you feel good, happy and healthy. You, my darling, are ravishing. Whether you’re sexing up the city or celebrating celibacy. To end on the wise words of my best mate: ‘Stay safe, stay sexy’. 

Love from your seXion, xoxo

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