Sex is bound to happen, and many people do it in college.

Just ask any RA in the dorms. It’s no surprise schools make an effort to provide their students with protection for their intimate activities. “Just three days after we moved into our dorm, the condoms that were hung in our hallway were gone,” a college student tells me. It happens — and you should be well-informed — whether you’re looking to “take the next step” with your significant other or just curious about exploring your sexual side.

While a majority of people engage in the activity, most are not informed equally about safe ways to practice it or where to begin.

(Disclaimer: It is also completely normal not to engage in sexual activity as well. This is just an anecdotal safety guide.)

What is sex?

It is a broad term to encompass any act that involves contact with erogenous areas with the mutual purpose of sexual pleasure. It may or may not end in an orgasm.

It should always, always, always involve consent between both parties — meaning an uncoerced and excited “yes.”

Why should you use protection during sex?

In this process, many things are exchanged other than the obvious physical contact. One of the primary vehicles of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections (STIs) is bodily fluids. This can range from the exchange of saliva, mucal matter, respiratory bacteria, or ejaculation. Despite the assertions created during the AIDS epidemic, STDs and STIs do not care about who you do the deed with. In fact, as of 2022, they are more prominent in heterosexual couples, yet the negative connotation is attributed to LGBT+ community members.

Also, suppose you do not wish to have children right now or at any other time. In that case, protection will avoid you a costly following eighteen years and a pregnancy without having access to resources or preparation mentally and physically for the process.

What are some ways colleges help in the process?

Unfortunately, the soaring capitalist institutions in America mean healthcare is not free once you are outside of your parent's insurance plan and in the real world without an enclosed community. Many colleges make sure to provide free STD/STI testing, and if you go to your in-house health services department, you’ll find more than enough condoms to supply you for a lifetime. (Once, in a my state of fatigue, I once confused them for a bowl of free M&Ms. Trick or treat!)

At my former college (Junior here!), I remember seeing the colorful posters to make STD testing more friendly for the average college student because, let’s be honest, who wants to face stigma when talking about their health? Regular testing allows us to be empowered by knowing our sexual status. The CDC recommends a once-a-year check for syphilis, chlamydia, and gonorrhea. For those with multiple or anonymous sexual partners, testing should be more frequent (e.g., every 3–6 months). HIV testing should be done at least once a year, but again, those with multiple partners would benefit from more frequent testing.

What are some forms of protection?

A few ways of protection are easily identifiable in popular culture and the education system: condoms, birth control, and abstinence. These three are universal amongst all sexualities and genders.

Condoms are the most accesible answer to having safe sex — as they can prevent the transmission of STDs, STIs, and pregnancy. You can use condoms with toys/straps as well. With mouth-to-vagina contact, dental dams (imagine a wide, flat condom) are a way to add a layer of protection.

Also, consider PreP (you may know it by the brand name Truvada) — a once-a-day pill that helps prevent HIV transmission. You don’t even need to go in person to a doctor’s to get it. You can have it prescribed online through services like Folx Health.

For more long-term (but invasive) options for pregnancy prevention, there is birth control, which uses hormones to prevent pregnancy. They can come in the form of pills, IUDs, implants, or shots. (Birth control does not prevent transmission of STDs or STIs.)

In emergency situations where you think you might be pregnant, didn’t wear protection during the act, if a condom ripped, or even if you forgot to take your scheduled birth control pill, Plan B is an option available at many drugstores. However, be aware that it must only be taken twice a year as a maximum, and it's less effective for people who weigh over 165 lbs, and it will not work on those who are heavier than 175 lbs.

How to ensure you and your partner are on the same page about using protection?

Remember the word “consent”? It is key in the communications process involved prior to the act of sex and during it. Make sure to communicate with your partner you want to protect yourself and what methods of protection you want to use. If this is your first time hooking up with that person, make sure to get tested.

Hope all of this guide is helpful to you, and may you have a healthy approach to the beginning of your sex life!


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