Q: Last year, I enrolled my 16-year-old daughter in an abstinence “ring ceremony” at church, but I recently discovered a condom in her room. She denies that it’s hers, but I don’t believe her. What should I do?

A: A ring ceremony, where someone pledging abstinence wears a ring to signify that pledge, can’t substitute for an ongoing dialogue with you. Explain how you found the condom. Then, without accusing, ask where it came from, what its purpose was and, if it is not hers, whose it is. If you don’t want her to have sex before she is emotionally, physically and financially ready to accept the consequences, say so. She may get upset, but if you’re willing to listen, your honesty should not run her off. She may even open up to you. Remember: If your daughter is sexually active, using a condom beats not protecting herself at all. Most people these days have premarital sex, including close to 90% of ring-ceremony graduates. The most responsible approach teaches teens abstinence, yet educates them about condoms and contraceptives, so that they’re knowledgeable when the time comes.

Q: I’ve been hearing more stories about black couples engaging in anal sex with a penis or dildo.  Some find it pleasurable, and others use it to avoid pregnancy or preserve virginity. What are the risks?  

A: If you’re not careful about starting off gently and with lubrication, anal penetration can cause small tears in the tissue that body fluid—including blood and semen from the penetrating partner— can infiltrate. With that comes the risk of STDs and HIV. So first, make sure both partners want to participate, and agree that if one wants to stop, you’ll stop. Second, use condoms (be sure to switch to a fresh one before entering the vagina, as anal bacteria can cause vaginal infections). Water-based lubricant eases penetration without damaging the condom. And you can consult sex books for positions that make anal penetration most comfortable.