When I went to college, I was like a kid in a candy store. Finally away from the watchful eyes of mom and dad, no curfew, no one to tell me what to do, and boys, boys, boys to choose from. And I’m sure I was not alone. This first taste of freedom can be so liberating….but it also can lead to some sticky situations. So, in honor of back to school, I would like to bring you the Top Five Tips for Safe Sex in College to guarantee that you have the most fun (and safe) freshman year possible.
Student Health Services is Your Friend.
Whether it’s Student Health Services, the Health and Wellness Center, or the College Clinic, every University has one. When you first arrive on campus make sure you know where it is located, and stop in for a visit! If you haven’t yet had your first gynecological exam, make one. If you are sexually active, and going to continue to be, get yourself tested. Testing (and treatment) for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on college campuses is usually very reasonable priced, or even free…and you won’t have to worry about your parents finding out. Sexually active men and women should get tested every three months, and Student Health Services is there for you. They should also have lots of helpful information and pamphlets there for the taking, whether you need advice on how to avoid the Freshman 15 or help deciding which birth control method is right for you. And don’t forget to stock up on the free condoms on your way out!
Condoms, Condoms, Condoms.
And about those condoms, always keep some on hand. They are (at most schools) free for the taking at Health Services. Even if you are on another method of birth control, keep in mind that barrier contraception methods (male condoms, female condoms, dental dams etc.) are the only way to protect yourself from STIs. And make sure you know how to use one properly. If you need some advice, don’t be embarrassed to ask one of your new found friends or your new doctor at Health Services, and steal some dining hall bananas to practice on!
No One Loves a Roommate who Sexiles.
It’s only natural to explore your sexuality when you get to college, whether that be with a partner or by yourself. Speaking of masturbation, a recent study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine actually found that boys who masturbate are more likely to use a condom when having sex. Yay masturbation! Know your own body and enjoy your orgasms, but also know your surroundings and be respectful to those you are sharing the very cramped quarters with. If you’re going to have a partner over to your room or just want some alone time, let your roommate know ahead of time or arrange a secret “signal” for one another. A hair thing on the door knob, or a secret code written on the white board can do wonders for your sex life and your roommate relationship….just don’t abuse the power.
Have a Party Plan.
Drinking and sex, especially unsafe sex, seem to go hand-in-hand in college. And binge drinking (hello college frat parties) is universally linked to risky sexual behavior, which can be especially dangerous for women. Before you go to a party, make sure you have a ride home lined up, whether that be the number for a local cab company, a campus service that gives free rides home, or a designated driver. And make a pact with your friends to stick together. This way, you can prevent each other from disappearing into a dark room, walking home alone, or going home with a stranger. Acquaintance rape is a reality, so you have to watch out for yourself, your new friends, and your drinks (never leave one unattended!). If you are going to drink and party in college, drunken hookups may seem inevitable or even ideal; however, you can make thoughtful and careful decisions and still have fun.
Stick to Your Guns, No Means No.
College is going to throw lots of curveballs your way. Lots of new books to read, new friends to meet, and lots of new (and potentially uncomfortable) experiences await you. You may feel pressured to do things you aren’t ready for based on the people you are surrounded by, I know I did. But don’t do anything you aren’t ready for or comfortable with…no matter what your friends say and do, no matter what your partner wants or says he/she “needs.” This may be sexually, or just socially, but either way, stay within your comfort zone, know your own personal limits and expectations, and trust your gut.