Welcome back students!
As you organize your hipster-ironic Lisa Frank folders, and passively aggressively stake your dormroom territory, I’ve got just one more checklist for you to check off before you start checking out all your new, hot campusmates.
First lesson of the semester: being good at The Sex involves much more than practicing some Buzzfeed brand of Kama Sutra. College-aged students boast the highest rate of new STI/STD transmissions and are plagued by horrifying statistics when it comes to non-consensual sex and assault. Become a catalyst for change and follow this checklist to becoming an ethical sex partner.
∎ No shame in your game.
No one is a “slut” because she enjoys sex. No one is a loser because he chooses not to have sex. No one deserves your gossip trash because they’ve chosen non-monogamy or have come out with a different sexuality or gender identity than you’re used to. Don’t stir drama. Share about your awesome sexual adventures with the consent of your partners to do so and in a respectful manner.
∎ Get to know your sexual self and set and respect your boundaries. College is also a great place to find books and classes and workshops about sex! Explore what it is you want to explore, what you don’t want to explore, and what you’re curious about via self-education and masturbation. Then clearly set and communicate these boundaries and desires to your partners.
∎ Know and share your STD/STI status. Once you’re sexually active, getting tested once every six months and/or after a risky incident is a good rule of thumb. Most campuses can do this at their health services or Tapestry Health has campus-close locations that offer free or affordable sexual health care and safer-sex supplies.
∎ Know and share ways of managing sexual risks. Feeling real cool about those shiny gold Magnum XLs “casually” curated on your bedside table? Make sure you know how to use that golden ticket to safer sex. Though condom wrappers boast of the product’s 98 percent effectiveness rate at preventing pregnancy, when human error is taken into account, that number drops to 85 percent effectiveness. STIs and STDs are largely protected against with barriers like condoms, dams, and gloves, but there’s lots of variation as far as which sexual acts carry the highest risk and how you can reduce that risk. HRC.org has an inclusive Safer Sex Manual that can give you all the details.
∎ Understand and be clear about your intentions. Don’t ask your crush if they “want to go study” if you really want to go make-out. College is a great time to experiment with different sex acts and relationship styles. That’s great! But be upfront about whether you’d like to keep it casual, have other partners, want to make-out, want to go to dinner, want to take it slow — remember that all parties are more likely to get what they truly want if they ask for what they truly want.
∎ Honor consent and seek it actively. Consent should never be taken for granted or assumed. Consent requires verbal conversation, ongoing check-ins, and all partners knowing and setting their limits and honoring each other’s limits. Yes means yes. No means no. And consent means intentionally creating space for both of these words to be spoken with truth. (Hint: Drugs and alcohol don’t help this effort.) Know where to go and who to talk to on your campus when non-consensual sex and/or violence happens.
∎ Respect the gender and sexuality identities of your partners. College is a wonderfully freeing place to continue one’s ongoing identity journey. The importance and gravity of this freedom can be heavier for some (queer-identified folks, trans-identified folks) than others (cis-gender folks, straight folks). No matter where you fall on the spectrum of gender and sexuality, ask for preferences regarding pronouns, body part terminology, and triggers — especially if you want to bump pretties with this person. Support the ongoing identity journey of your partners, too. It can be confusing when your boyfriend comes out as bi-curious once y’all hit campus, but our sexuality is extra fluid in college so let’s float down that river together instead of trying to pull our partners against their current.•