Comment: Glenn Dwight calls on all Kiwi men to open up about a topic that is an essential component of a healthy life.
Kiwi males: we're famous for being of few words. Ask us how our day is going and we'll say "not bad"; ask us what we're up to and you'll get "not much", and when it comes to organising contraception, we'll usually say "not my problem".
So this article is all about talking – and talking about those things we often find hard to talk about: sexual health, reproductive responsibilities, and prostates.
Now if we were playing that classic game "Name My Sex Tape", "Sexual Health, Reproductive Responsibilities and Prostates" probably isn't the best title, and I am pretty sure would not be a huge internet hit.
But maybe it needs to be because pornography is too regularly substituting for accurate sexual education. Long before Dad pulls out that 1973 Playboy magazine and starts talking awkwardly about the birds and the bees, using almost impossible to understand analogies, children are being indoctrinated by pornography.
Aside from the completely unrealistic nature of pornography (we don't even have cable TV repairmen in New Zealand) there is also the massive problem that contraception is almost non-existent. So it's important that as parents or trusted adults we talk to our children about safer sex.
We need to can the stigma
It's long past time to treat sexual health for what it is – an essential component of a healthy life. The conversations around safe practice need to have the same stigma as talking about washing your hands to prevent the flu – no stigma at all.
Kiwi males are also known for spouting endless sporting analogies.
Dads, it's time for you to step up to the plate and talk to your sons about sexual health: ask how they would feel about receiving the HPV vaccine, ask if they are accompanying their partner to Family Planning appointments, ask if they are sharing the cost of contraception.
And while on the sporting analogy, imagine if we could talk about sex as freely as we do about sport. We've all heard that guy who brags about how many "runs" he scored on the weekend, but imagine if we talked about improving communication so we knew for sure if our partner wanted to run or not, why our wicket keeps falling over, how rubbing the ball high on the inside of our thigh is actually to subtly scratch that damn itch.
If your mate was sitting in the changing room and said he was about to go out and bat without pads and a box you'd have no problem telling him he was mad. Safe sporting chat is easy, but safer sex chat, we often struggle with.
When it comes to sex, men, we need to make sure we are doing our part to ensure it is safe.
When we buy an icecream, we expect (otherwise demand) a paper condom for the cone, but when it comes to our penises – peniseis – peneigh (what is the term for more than one penis?), we can be far less discerning.
And sorry guys, but telling Derek* that "his personality is the only contraception he needs" doesn't really work. No, wait, it doesn't work at all!
STIs are increasing
One other thing to think about is how age and sexuality affect our sexual practices (yeah I know, a moment ago we were hiding behind "putting on pads" and "going out to bat" and now we are diving right in there! Just because she is post-menopausal or he "looks sweet as" down there, don't necessarily go chucking those condoms away.
Even if you are not worried about an unwanted pregnancy, safer sex still needs to be on your radar.
Because here are the hard facts. New Zealand surveillance data (provided by ESR, funded by the Ministry of Health with the cooperation of the diagnostic laboratories) tells us that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) affect males and females differently.
For example, their most recent research found that most cases of syphilis were in males aged 20-39 years and that the rates of syphilis for men across all age groups has been increasing the past five years.
Gonorrhoea rates have increased significantly in the same period, with higher rate increases reported in males. While the highest rates of chlamydia are reported in women under the age of 30, there is justifiable reasoning to suggest this may only be due to a lower testing rate in males.
Get your prostate checked
There is one more topic we need to talk about to make my original title true and that is prostates.
More specifically, prostate cancer. Yup, it's about this point that every male reading this is experiencing sphincter tightening. How do I know this? Because I used to be that person too. NEVER TALK ABOUT IT.
But recently I had to have a digital rectal exam. At this point you may be thinking I am about to tell you a story about how smoothly it went … well, the story doesn't go exactly like that because I had built the exam up into something bigger than it was.
I never talked about it with my mates; I never talked about it with anyone. So by the time I got to the doctor, I was (his words, not mine) "tighter than a tiger".
I think that was meant to relax me, but unfortunately it didn't, so he suggested I pull my knees up tight into my chest.
It was at this point I fell off the bed, smacking my head on a table on the way down, ending up on the floor with my pants around my ankles and a very confused doctor standing above me looking like a gloved cricket umpire with his finger in the air. Howzat?!
Now I tell this story not to put anyone off having their prostate tested. I tell this story because after that, the test was easy – but more importantly it showed me that it is important to talk about these things.
Yes, men, sometimes in life, someone may need to put a finger up your bum, but the alternative is that the Umpire of Life might give you the ultimate finger and end your innings for good. Also, it is a funny story and a great way to broach an awkward conversation.
So come on guys, let's start talking about prostate tests – and checking our balls while we are at it.
* Sorry to all the Dereks reading this, I am sure you are all great New Zealanders with equally great personalities.
• Since his easy digital rectal exam, NZME Creative Director Glenn Dwight's sphincter is no longer 'tighter than a tiger'; in fact, it's loosened up nicely – thanks for asking.