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Sexual Activity: Making it safe and satisfying
Deciding to be sexual active with a partner is a personal decision, one that many students make while in college. In fact, statistics reveal that 70% of college students have engaged in sexual activity so it is important that we educate students on how to best protect their sexual health.
We all know that sex involves communication. This can be a difficult aspect of sexual interactions for many people. Communication involves talking about what types of sexual behaviors we are comfortable with and listening to what our partner likes and doesn’t like. It includes obtaining clear, on-going consent for all sexual activity. It can also involve discussing any accommodations that may make sexual interaction easier or more pleasurable. While this may be uncomfortable for people (regardless of ability status), it can go a long way to increasing fulfillment and reducing stigma about discussing things like pregnancy and STD prevention. Communicating about sex helps people talk about any concerns they might have, too. It can be helpful to have these conversations before sexual activity begins and to also re-visit these topics frequently. The more we practice open communication with a partner, the easier it becomes!
We may also be aware that safe sex is important, too. It’s important because there are risks like sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy. And everyone who is sexually active-regardless of ability status-has the potential to contract an STD or experience a pregnancy. Part of safer sex is to become as educated as possible (hopefully, reading this blog helps) and to recognize that pregnancy and STDs can happen. It is helpful to learn about safer sex options and to consider, if needed, how a disability might affect these options. Once we recognize our risk and any challenges we might face, we can then take steps to implement risk reduction strategies that will work best for us and our partners.
When considering and discussing safer sex options, it can be helpful to talk about the ways you want to reduce risk. Do you and your partner agree to use condoms? Are other forms of birth control needed? Are there any challenges or barriers you and your partners foresee with implementing each option? Are condoms, lube and latex barriers accessible? Is there a latex allergy? Are you comfortable and able to put a condom on? Condoms come with instruction sheets so you can learn about proper use and practice ahead of time, too!
If using any sexual aids, remember that safety measures are also important. Learn proper cleaning techniques and remember that it is best not to share sexual aids with others. If a sexual aid is used on one person and then another, the risk of transmission of STDs may be similar to that of skin to skin contact or sexual activity.
And finally, another important aspect of sexual safety is to access routine healthcare. Talk to your doctor about sexual activity and get any recommended tests, vaccinations or treatments needed. Health care providers can also help provide answers to questions you might have. The university health center also has a sexual health educator who is available for one-on-one appointments to answer questions about sexuality. To make an appointment with her, call 217-333-2714. For over the counter supplies (condoms, lube, latex barriers, etc.) that are free for students who have paid their health service fee, visit a Health Resource Center on campus. They are located in the lobby of McKinley Health Center, in the basement of the Illini Union and at various cultural houses (limited hours).