Let’s not beat around the bush: Sex is everywhere on college campuses. This is true whether you’re indulging liberally or abstaining altogetherand, to be clear, there’s nothing wrong with either. No matter what, you’re going to confront situations where a working knowledge of the ins and outs of sex will be useful. This article won’t cover everything, but it will hopefully be a start.
First things first: Being sexually active is a choice, and everyone should respect the choice you make.
If you are sexually active, the first priority is safety. Unfortunately, college isn’t known for fostering a safe and supportive environment, especially for women. In 2015, the AAU Climate Survey on Sexual Assault and Sexual Misconduct found that 23 percent of undergraduate women experienced sexual assault at some point during their college career. That’s not meant to scare you, but it is a reality. So before engaging in any sort of sexual activity, it’s a good idea to make sure you and your partner are aware of your boundaries and establish consent. Consent is an enthusiastic and freely given agreement to sexual activitynot “no means no,” but “yes means yes.”
After that, make sure that you’re protecting yourself. Birth control, obviously, doesn’t prevent disease. Condoms are the best way to guard against STDs, regardless of what gender your sexual partner isfemale condoms and dental dams exist to keep women safe.
But safe sex isn’t just about your decisions; it’s the responsibility of the entire community. Learning the signs of sexual assault, along with effective and safe ways to intervene, can make a difference in someone else’s life. Be aware of your friends and the people around you, especially in situations where people might be drinking. Have they had too much? Are they being led away from the crowd? Do they look uncomfortable?
If you decide to intervene, make sure that you’re keeping yourself safe as well. Direct confrontation can often lead to more problems. Instead of approaching a potential assaulter, address the potential victim. Offer a way out: “Hey! Do you wanna come dance with us?” Bring a couple of friends with you.
While safety is priority one, good sex is clearly about more than that. It’s also about pleasure, so make sure you’re talking with your partner about what you like and what you’d like to try. In the wise words of I Saw This On The Internet, life is too short for bad sex.
Many colleges offer bystander intervention programs with comprehensive training on sexual assault prevention. See PACT training at Duke (contact Krystal George for more information: firstname.lastname@example.org) and OneAct training at UNC (contact email@example.com). At N.C. State (919-515-2012) and N.C. Central (919-530-6811), contact the Women’s Center for more information about sexual assault prevention initiatives on campus.