Do women absorb the DNA of every man they have unprotected sex with?

Do women absorb the DNA of every man they have unprotected sex with?

I’ve been asked many times, mostly by worried pregnant mothers or potential baby fathers if a fetus’s DNA can be changed or effected by either another man’s semen while she is pregnant or from her sexual activities with previous partners.

The short answer is no.

There is a false belief that women absorb and retain the DNA of every man they have unprotected sex with. This belief has been spread through some articles, but stems from a 2012 research project that showed that the brains of some autopsied women had male DNA.  Some who heard this quickly jumped to the conclusion that they must have received this male DNA through sperm.

The truth is, this is called microchimerism and the explanation for the male Y chromosome being found in some female brains is not really that complex.

Pregnancy

When women become pregnant, they play host to another human with its own set of DNA. Some of this DNA gets absorbed through the placenta and remains with the woman for the rest of her life. If she has any male children then she will absorb some male DNA which explains why some of the women autopsied (aged 32 to 101) had male DNA in their brains even decades later.

The DNA a mother inherits from her child is often up to 10% of the free floating DNA in her blood stream. Often call foetal origin cells, they have also been found in the mothers skin and all major organ including the heart.

Blood Transfusions and Organ Transplants

When we receive blood transfusions or organ transplants, we are also receive some DNA from the donor. This is known as medical chimerism and is something the medical world has been aware of for a long time. If a woman receives a transfusion or transplant from a male, it is likely she will also absorb some male DNA.

Having an Older Male Sibling

If a woman has an older brother, the chances are her mother has absorbed some male DNA from him during her pregnancy and also passed it along to her daughter. This explains why some of the women autopsied who did not have any male children, blood transfusions or transplants, still had the presence male DNA.

Effects

Research suggests that having male DNA passed on to these women doesn’t affect them as far as femininity goes, but that it could have several beneficial effects:

  • Lower risk of some cancers
  • Longer life span
  • Better tolerance of successive pregnancies
  • Decrease risk of Alzheimer’s
  • Diminished symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

So while many women have the presence of male DNA, it’s not because they were having unprotected sex. They do not carry the DNA of ex-lovers and thankfully are not bonded to them for life, however, they will be bonded even on a cellular level with their children til death.

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

Human Trafficking Awareness Month

January is Human Trafficking Awareness month and believe it or not, it’s a bigger problem than you may think.

Around the world sex traffickers make more illegal profit a year than Google, Nike and Starbucks combined.

Human trafficking is modern day slavery. People are enslaved through the use of fear, violence, drugs and psychological control.

Often when we see people walking the streets or online selling their bodies we assume that they are willing participants, but more often than not, they are being forced into prostitution. The sad part is that half of the victims of human sex trafficking are children with an average age of 11 to 14 when they are first forced into sex trafficking. Many of them are runaways or looking to escape abusive and neglectful homes.

And while the face of a sex trafficking victim in the United States is usually a young White girl, young Black girls make up 40% of sex trafficking victims.

Many sex trafficking victims are looking for love, attention or even just food and shelter when they are targeted. He or she may pose as a caring figure and seduce the young girl (or rarely boy) and then turn on them using lies, manipulation, drugs, threats and violence to force the person into prostitution.

Before the victim realizes it they are sleeping with multiple people a day with all of the money going towards their sex trafficker/pimp who may give them what they need as far as bare essentials or drugs like heroin to keep them addicted.

Often they threaten to abandon them, hurt them, and kill them or their family if they leave or don’t do what they tell them to. Some even often to embarrass them by telling their family. They will use whatever they think it takes to control the person.

On the Netflix Documentary Tricked, one girl explains how she ran away with a guy she met on the internet expecting to have a great getaway only to be seduced for two days and then on day three she was told through the threat of violence that she was now his whore, was going to call her family and let them know she was somewhere safe and happy and that her life now depended on him. She went on to be forced to have sex with men for money that went directly to her sex trafficker.

One young girl I worked with was 12 when she met her sex trafficker. She was from a very bad home and ran away. She met an older man who became her boyfriend and introduced her to drugs and alcohol. He started having her have sex with his friends to support his drug habit and then he started having her have sex with strangers and even taking her to different cities and counties across the state before she got arrested and rescued.

When I met with her she was 14, had already contracted HIV and was so emotionally broken that she appeared more like a thirty something year old woman than a teenager. Still, she didn’t see herself as being victimized other than when she contracted HIV which says came from her being raped. She still didn’t see her sex trafficker as the bad guy.

Sadly, too many people see their sex trafficker/pimp that way and society doesn’t help. Often times we don’t see pimps as criminals as much as we demonize and criminalize the women who work for them. Often times the sex trafficker is never arrested while the victim is arrested multiple times.

Even their customers or “Johns” are often given a pass while the law and society comes down hard on these young women who are often just trying to do what they feel like they have to do in order to survive another day.

Many victims of sex trafficking are physically and psychologically abused, on a regular basis. One girl in the documentary Tricked was forced to douche with bleach when her pimp found out she was pregnant. When that didn’t work he beat her until she had a miscarriage. She ended up having to have a full hysterectomy.

They are used until they are broken and then they are discarded. That’s if they are not killed by their sex trafficker or a customer first.

Only recently as sex trafficking has exploded, especially online, are the victims starting to be seen as victims and being offered the appropriate help and support.

Sex traffickers present a major danger to vulnerable and unsuspecting young people. Sex trafficking is a crime against humanity. It is modern day slavery where slaves are being sold for on average $90.

So as this is Sex Trafficking Awareness month, let’s remember that anyone that is being exploited to have sex is a victim first, not a criminal. They deserve to be offered help and support and not just thrown into the legal system or treated like they’re nothing. After all, like sex trafficking, most victims have been treated as if they were invisible for far too long.

Setting An Intention To Pay Attention: A Crucial Step Of Mindfulness

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Earlier today I was sitting in a meeting, but instead of paying attention I found my mind drifting away, thinking about other things I needed to do that day at work, what I wanted to do when I got off work, a co-worker who was in a bad mood this morning and somehow I had allowed her to get me off center.

And then suddenly I came back to the present, back to the sound of our CEO’s voice realizing I didn’t hear anything she had said over the last five minutes. Not a good thing. It was then I realized that I had to set an intention to pay attention.

It’s so easy to get distracted by all the noise in our heads, our phones buzzing with messages or even a co-worker in a sour mood. This can be helpful of course when you are doing something like pumping gas and need to notice the suspicious looking person approaching, but it is not very helpful when we are trying to engage with another person or pay attention in an important meeting.

Mindfulness doesn’t just happen, you actually have to make the decision to pay attention. This can be part of an intentional practice such as paying attention to our breathing during meditation or paying attention to a loved one and ignoring our phone or any other internal or external distractions.

This is even helpful sometimes in the middle of the day when we realize our minds are all over the place, especially when it’s in the future or the past and not in the present. That’s when we need to bring focus back to our loved one that is talking, or our child that wants our attention or like this morning, our CEO who is lecturing. And sometimes we just need to bring our attention back to us, what we are doing in that moment, even if it’s just walking or breathing.

This may sound very small, but it is actually often difficult to do because we aren’t always aware of when our thoughts and attention have gone away from where they need to be.

The other day I was sitting with my future wife watching a movie, but I realized my mind was somewhere else and instead of enjoying that moment with her I was creating anxiety for myself about a situation that I had no control over. When I realize this I brought my mind back to the present, back to that moment and the anxiety I was feeling dissipated.

It’s a powerful thing, that moment when you realized you aren’t focused on the present and then bring your mind and attention back and choose to live in that moment instead of just letting that moment pass you by.

Choosing to pay attention is such an easy thing to do, but at the same time it’s easy to forget and harder to do consistently without practice.

Parents Call Police When Discovering Their Teen Was Sexting

465702557When the parents of a 13-year-old 8th grader in Virginia discovered that their daughter was sending and receiving nude images of other teens on her tablet, they did what many other parents would do, they questioned their daughter and investigated farther. What they found concerned them enough that they did what many parents would not do, they contacted their local law enforcement agency.

What the parents found were sexual pictures of other teenagers (none of their daughter) and conversations going back and forth with other boys that they found were inappropriate for their daughters age.

“Everybody wanted to be her friend, because according to these people, she was cool now,” the teens mother said.

What also upset them were that older teens who they believe were 17 to 18 were requesting to have sex with their daughter. The parents contacted law enforcement to protect their daughter even if that meant she would also get in legal trouble for sexting.

“We did this now to protect her. For now and in the future, because this could get worse, she could be taken,” the teens mother said.

The teens involved in the sexting can face charges as severe as felonies for possessing child pornography.

While the mom acknowledges that many parents wouldn’t do what she did, she feels like she did what she had to do to protect her daughter from possible sexual abuse now and in the future.

A Couple of Quick facts about sexting

  • 40 percent of teenage girls do it as a joke, 34 percent do it to feel sexy, and 12 percent feel pressured to do it according to research.
  • Sending or receiving a sexually suggestive text or image to someone under the age of 18 is considered child pornography and can result in criminal charges.
  • Sexting is defined by the U.S. court system as “an act of sending sexually explicit materials through mobile phones.” The messages may be text, photo, or video.10. In the U.S., 8 states have enacted bills to protect minors from sexting, and an additional 14 states have proposed bills to legislation.

Someways parents can help prevent sexting is by having conversations with their teens, monitoring their electronic devices and using parent controls.

What would you do if you discovered your teen has been sexting? Would you be willing to contact the local authorities as this mother did?

Study Links Shows Like 16 And Pregnant To A Drop in Teenage Pregnancy

Unhappy Baby and MotherThere have been times I’ve been critical of shows like 16 and Pregnant because I thought that they glamorize teenage pregnancy by exploiting the teenage girls on the show and even making celebrities out of some of them.

Having worked in a high school in the past with a fairly high rate of teenage pregnancy, I knew that teenage pregnancy wasn’t glamorise at all. All of the girls I worked with in the high school who became pregnant eventually dropped out. Some dropped out only to have another kid a year later.

In my article Young, Poor and Pregnant I discuss some of the downsides of programming like 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom, but a new study called “Media Influences on Social Outcomes: The Impact of MTV’s 16 and Pregnant on Teen Childbearing” which was written by Melissa S. Kearny of the University of Maryland and Phillip B. Levine from Wellesley College, found that 18 months after the shows introduction, teen birth rates actually dropped 5.7 percent in 2010. According the New York Times, that 5.7 drop is an estimated 20,000 teenage births prevented.

The study also showed that using Neilson ratings, in areas where the show was highly popular, the rates of teenage pregnancies declined the fastest.

During their study, the authors found that search engine searches and tweets about  birth control and abortion grew significantly after the show was introduced. While I have written about some of the negatives of the show, I was surprised and happy to see that it had benefits that show that teenage girls aren’t as brainwashed and reality TV obsessed as some of us adults like to think. In fact, the study shows that many teenage girls can look at shows like this and not glamorize it, but recognize that they don’t want their lives to be as complicated, crazy or hard as most of the teenage moms on the shows.

One of the benefits of shows about teenage mothers is that they discuss an issue that is often shied away from and more accurately show the true effects of being a teenage mom, better than any sex education class or most lectures could. No one is totally crediting shows about teenage moms as the sole reason for the decline in teenage pregnancy. The rate of teenage pregnancy has been on the decline over the last 20 years and things such as the recession also bring the birth rate down.

However, what the show does do is make it more real so that teens can see that real teenage motherhood may not be the fairytale that they may imagine it will be (“now he will stay with me”, “I’ll feel more loved and supported”, etc.).  These shows alone aren’t enough to continue to prevent teenage pregnancy. There still needs to be good sex education and parental guidance. One potential negative of the show is that in the study there was a trend for teenage girls who watched the show heavily to perceive the teenage mothers as having easier lives and still have time to be a kid, which usually isn’t the reality. For the most part,  the one thing we can take away from this study is that teenage girls are more capable of learning from other teenagers mistakes than we may have given them credit for in the face of so much reality TV where the bad girls are celebrated and consequences seem few and far between.

Parents: Have The “Sex Talk” With Your Teens Or I Will

istock_000016267513small-dad-and-daughter-talking-400wI don’t really like talking to other peoples kids about sex although as a counselor in a high school it’s something that inevitably happens.

I wrote earlier about talking to preteens about sex, but I’m finding that many teens have never  had the “sex talk” with their parents beyond their parents threatening to kick them out or disown them if they ever got pregnant (although I’ve never known a parent to actually follow through with either  threat).

However, because many teens don’t feel like they can talk to their parents about sex, they are getting their information from some very unreliable sources which usually leaves them unprepared mentally and emotionally for the complexities of sexual activity and vulnerable to sexually transmitted diseases, pregnancy and even abuse.

Last Monday I was counseling a young teenage girl who had just turned 15. She admitted to me nearly a year ago that she not only was having sex, but had been with several partners, most of them not even her boyfriends but guys she was friends with or guys she just liked.

Well now she has a new boyfriend who is a virgin, and although they have been together for a several weeks (which is forever for teenagers), they are thinking about having sex.

Let’s call her Trisha and her boyfriend Zac.

Because Zac is a virgin and apparently has a better relationship with his parents, he told them about him and Trisha’s plans to have sex. Zac’s mom was a little upset, but realistic and instead of scorning her son, she talked to him about sex and protection, a very good call. What she did next however, I’m not so sure how I feel about, but I understand it.

After talking with her son about sex, she then talked to Trisha about sex, assuming that she too was a virgin. She even went as far as to say she would get Trisha birth control, which made Trisha very uncomfortable.

Parents, do you really want someone else talking to your teen about sex and birth control, especially a parent that you do not know?

Well if you don’t talk to your teen about sex, someone else will and they may not have the best information and probably won’t have the same opinions, views or values as you do.

I was concerned because I felt like this was something Trisha should be talking about with her parents, not Zac’s, yet Trisha feels like she can’t talk to her parents about sex because they hold both her and her older sisters to such high standards and even threatened to kick them out if they ever found out they were having sex. By the way, according to Trisha, they are all already having sex.

Because of this fear of not only disappointing her parents, but also of getting kicked out, Trisha doesn’t feel safe talking to her parents about sex at all and has just been getting her information about sex from her friends and sisters, who are all also high school teenagers.

I encouraged Trisha to sit down and talk to her parents, at least her mom about sex.

She wants to get on birth control, but doesn’t think she can talk to her parents about that and definitely doesn’t want to get birth control from Zac’s mom. I even offered to have a family session with her and her mom and/or dad to help facilitate “the talk”, but she’s too scared to even discuss sex with her parents and let them know that she is thinking about sex, let alone already having it.

I know from past experience, because of this fear of talking to her parents about sex, she leaves herself vulnerable.

She’s more likely not to use any protection consistently or properly and to hide everything from her parents, including if she ever feels violated, if she ever thinks she may have a sexually transmitted disease, if she ever gets raped or if she even gets pregnant.

One girl I knew hid her pregnancy from her parents all the way up until she went into labor and had a child at 15. Her parents had never had the “sex talk” with her and it was only then did her parents find out that their daughter was no longer a virgin.

I definitely don’t want that to happen to Trisha and so if she is afraid to have the sex talk with her parents, I feel like it is my responsibility to at least give her valid information about sex, protection and to point her in the right direction for other information and questions she may have.

We talked about condoms, the importance of putting them on correctly and using them each and every time from the beginning to the end. We also talked about birth control for her, but I strongly encouraged her to have the conversation with her parents. I also had the school nurse talk to her and gave her several pamphlets for her and her boyfriend about sex.

She had lots of questions and lots of the information she had was so invalid that she was sure to end up pregnant before graduating from high school, such as standing up right after having sex is a foolproof way to avoid getting pregnant because gravity will prevent the sperm from swimming up.

Another thing I did was encourage her to wait. I talked to her about how sex can change relationships, sometimes for the worst and how there are other things they can do besides having sex, such as holding hands, kissing, hugging,  talking, going for walks, out on dates, etc.

All the while I also kept encouraging her, trying to give her the strength to have this conversation with at least one of her parents. I don’t think a 15 year old should be engaging in intercourse, but she’s already been doing it since she was 14 so we have to be realistic.

Many parents feel like having the “sex talk” will encourage their teens to have sex, but teens are going to be curious about sex and may engage in sex regardless. It’s just a matter of how informed or ill-informed they will be.

Lot’s of parents feel betrayed and hurt when they find out their teenager is having sex, almost as if they just found out their teen was using drugs.

Remember that consensual sex between teenagers is not a crime and your teen is more likely to get pregnant or worse if they feel like they can’t talk to you because you will get mad or upset. It’s important that parents put their emotions aside and consider their teens’ choices and emotions.

I encourage parents to talk to their teens about sex, about being safe and healthy. They can also allow their teen to talk to their doctor about being sexually active and the physical responsibilities that come along with that, if they don’t feel comfortable or knowledgable enough to do it.

It’s important that your teen feels like they can trust you and that you guys have an open relationship where they can talk to you about everything, just remember that even with that, your teen probably won’t tell you every single thing.

The teen years are about trying to discover their own independence and breaking away from their parents some, so accept that there may still be things your teen won’t tell you, but make sure that they know that you will be there for them if they need you.

While I definitely prefer not to be the one having the sex talk with your teen, I’d much rather do that now than to be talking to them about how to get a pregnancy test, being good parents while trying to stay in school or about visiting a free clinic to get tested for a STD,  three conversations I actually have way more often.

The Preschool Oral Sex Scandal

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Some things we just shouldn’t have to talk about, and this is definitely one of those things. Apparently during last June and last September, a five year old preschool girl initiated sexual contact with approximately six other preschool boys at the First Lutheran Church of Carson School, in California. And by sexual contact I am talking about oral sex.

These disturbing sexual behaviors apparently went unnoticed until last October when another preschool girl was caught with her mouth on the genitals of a four year old boy at the school. That incident was then dealt with internally.

The school is now closing after these disturbing allegations and legal complaints have been filed on the behalf of the six parents of the children for negligence and “intentional infliction of emotional stress.” California’s social-services department cited the school for supervision “deficiencies” during their evaluation of the school last Thursday.

The community of course is outraged and want answers, from where were the teachers during these times, to how did this five year old girl who initiated the “oral sex scandal” become so sexualized.

While I understand these parents outrage and the need to blame someone, I also know that it is important that they handle this in a way that doesn’t dramatize the event and traumatize their children.

Chances are, if they don’t make it a huge deal, these children are likely to move on from this situation as normal, well-adjusted kids, but if the parents make this a traumatic event, these kids are likely to develop psychological and sexual issues that may follow them throughout their life.

As far as the little girl who initiated the behavior goes, the county of Los Angeles Department of Child and Family Services interviewed her family and the family of each child involved and found no evidence of abuse. This in my opinion doesn’t mean that somehow, this young girl wasn’t exposed to adult sexual activity somehow, someway, even if unintentional.

Any parent or person who spends time with preschool kids can tell you that sometimes they do things such as play with their genitals, exposed themselves, dry hump the arm chair of a sofa, a favorite teddy bear or even masturbate.

These are all natural and innocent behaviors that aren’t sexualized at all, until we as adults make it so. Children can’t comprehend what they are doing at this age, all they know is that they are playing with parts of themselves they were told to keep private.

These type of behavior can be discouraged by simply letting the child know that this isn’t something you do in public. If you traumatize the event or make the kid feel bad about it, they can develop a complex about themselves and sex that they take into adulthood.

However, mouth to genital contact certainly is not a natural act for any child, which to me says she was exposed to this adult behavior somewhere, somehow.

Perhaps someone in her house keeps adult magazines or movies around, thinking, she’s only five, she has no idea what this is. Perhaps she’s seen adults engaged in this behavior or worst case scenario, maybe she has been sexually molested by an adult or older child and she is just modeling this behavior.

In the book The Boy Who Was Raised as a Dog, child psychologist Bruce Perry talks about a seven year old patient named “Tina” who, during their first session, attempted to touch his penis. This girl had been sexually abused for two years, from the ages of four to six by a sixteen-year-old boy, her babysitter’s son. Despite the improvements she made in therapy, at the age of ten she was caught performing fellatio on an older boy at school.

The girl in the book had been traumatized and was responding to her trauma in the way she had been traumatized, which is very possibly the same thing the five year old preschooler is doing.

While I think all the children involved will benefit better if the situation is not over dramatized and if distressful signs, behaviors and situations are addressed appropriately if they come up. I do think this young girl needs some professional help to figure out the source of her sexualized behavior or she is likely to grow up into another “Tina” who doesn’t learn how to control her impulses and deal with her trauma (if there is any) in a healthy way.

I think the take away from all of this is that we need to protect our children. As they say, “hurt people, hurt people”, the same goes for traumatized adults and children. If they are not helped, they go on to traumatize other adults and children.