Safe Sex: The College Student’s Guide

For many students, time spent at a college or university is also dedicated to the exploration of one’s self and sexuality. There’s nothing wrong with this, as long as the exploration doesn’t cause harm to yourself or anyone else. However, not all new students know about the rules for safe sex, and they can end up spreading infections or causing accidental pregnancies. This problem is easy to fix: all it takes is a little time to read up on safe sex practices.

Why Worry About Safe Sex?

Sex should be enjoyable and fun for all parties. Safe sex just means taking certain precautions to make sure that the aftermath of sex is as enjoyable as the act itself. Safe sex may seem like common sense, but even the basic use of a condom drops drastically after freshman year. The only 100% effective method of protection against pregnancy and STIs is abstinence, but since studies report that more than 50% of college students have sex, safe sex is essential to reduce the risk of both.

Basic Guidelines for Safe Sex

The number one rule for safe sex is to always use a condom or other latex barrier. Many universities provide free condoms to students, so before engaging in sex, swing by the campus clinic and grab a handful. Condoms prevent the transmission of STIs and should always be used, even for non-penetrative sex. It’s also a good idea to invest in some kind of birth control. Again, universities typically have programs to help provide birth control to students at a reduced cost.

Get tested, whether you are sexually active or not, for STIs. Some people may carry an STI without ever knowing it, and by knowing your own body, you’ll be able to keep both yourself and your partner safe. Talk with partners about any health concerns you or they may have, and be clear about the expectation to use protection. If a partner isn’t interested in using protection, it may be best to pass on sex until all parties are ready to be responsible.

Sex shouldn’t be engaged in while high or drunk, since both situations impair normal decision-making skills. Take time to evaluate what you’d like to do, and take the time to make sure that all health precautions (such as putting on a condom) are followed. Drunkenly fumbling with zippers is hard enough: Trying to put on a condom correctly can be even trickier, so wait until everyone involved has a clear head and is ready to fully engage in sex.

College Health Services

Most colleges and universities have an on-campus health clinic. In these clinics, students can find counseling, sexual care, and checkups. Some even provide free contraception and protection like condoms and dental dams. At Brown University, there’s even a “Ship n Shag” service that discreetly delivers free safe sex items to a student’s mailbox! Check with your university to see what they offer. If sexual health services aren’t provided, there are plenty of other options.

Government Health Services

National organizations, like Planned Parenthood, have clinics and partner clinics across the country. Most drugstores and pharmacies supply condoms and dental dams, although these may cost more than similar items offered on campus. In the United States, Medicaid is the largest source of government-funded financial support for contraceptives and provides many citizens with free or reduced-cost health care. Most local and state health clinics offer reproductive health care and accept walk-in visits. It should be noted that in some states, like Louisiana, Texas, and Florida, access to abortion services is strictly regulated and may be difficult to obtain. Check with your state’s laws to see what’s available.