By msnbc.com contributor
msnbc.com contributor
updated 4/13/2006 10:56:05 AM ET 2006-04-13T14:56:05

What's a woman to do when her husband seems to be comparing her to his exes? And how do you handle HPV? Sexploration answers your queries.

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Q: I have been married for eight years and my husband has had some freaky girlfriends before me. I was only 19 when we met and not outgoing in bed. Now I’m starting to want to do different things but am worried he compares me to the other girls. This is making me more reserved. How do I break away from the good-girl style?

A: I have had, maybe, 10,000 conversations with guys since I hit puberty. Of those, I’d say about 3,000 involved sports. In the last few years I’ve maybe had 1,000 conversations about money (and still do not understand exactly what it means to “sell short”) and, oh, 500 conversations about motorcycles, politics, work and why termites seem to love my house.

So that leaves 5,500 conversations about women and sex. Now, if more than half the conversations men have with other men involve women and sex, you can bet there’s comparing.

I have it on good authority women do this, too, by the way.

But remember this: He no doubt compared you eight years ago and when he did, he decided to marry YOU, not a freaky woman.

Sure, he may sometimes think about that brunette, the candle wax and the "Frankie Goes to Hollywood" sound track, but anything special you do for him will be a thrill because it’s coming from you.

Besides, when it comes to experiments, effort is way more important than execution.

Let go!        

Q1: I am a 20-year-old female college student. I was diagnosed with genital warts over six months ago, but have been symptom-free for six months and have had a negative Pap smear. I was wondering if you could discuss HPV. Are future partners at risk?

Q2: With my last partner, I developed genital warts and was diagnosed with HPV. He swore he never had any warts himself and that he couldn't have given it to me. I believe that he is a carrier of the virus. Does this sound likely?

A: Human papillomavirus, or HPV, is one of the most misunderstood, but the most common, of all sexually transmitted diseases. Here are the facts:

  • There are many strains of HPV and most Americans — experts estimate about 80 percent — have been exposed to at least one. If you’ve had sex, you’ve probably had HPV. Your immune system will clear most infections, you’ll have no symptoms and you’ll never know you were even exposed.
  • Some strains cause genital warts. The warts can be removed by freezing, burning or with chemicals.
  • Two strains of the virus account for most cases of cervical cancer. Most cervical cancer deaths could be eliminated if every woman had access to regular Pap smears.
  • HPV’s role in penile cancer is still uncertain.
  • Condoms reduce the risk of HPV transmission.
  • Two HPV vaccines, one by Merck and one by GlaxoSmithKline, may soon be available for young girls who have not yet been exposed to these cancer-causing strains, an amazing breakthrough and the world’s first proven anti-cancer vaccine.

Questioner 1, if warts are gone and you remain symptom-free for two years (be aware that warts can be difficult to detect), partners are probably at no greater risk than they’d be otherwise.

Questioner 2, since so many people have had HPV, and because it can be transmitted non-sexually, you have no way to know just how you caught it.

Brian Alexander is a California-based writer who covers sex, relationships and health. He is a contributing editor at Glamour and the author of "Rapture: How Biotech Became the New Religion" (Basic Books).

Sexploration appears every other Thursday.

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