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A Student’s Survival Guide: Safe sex is great sex

Everything from STIs to your mental health

When I came to Dalhousie in 2019, I was ready to learn a lot, have a great time and have my life change. My first year fulfilled all these expectations, but when it came to my sex life, I didn’t know what I was in for. I didn’t exactly have the best sex education at my Catholic elementary and high schools.

My sexuality was something that I sort of discarded and ignored until I came to university. When I chose to have sex, I discovered a part of myself I’d never known. I’ve found this is the case for a lot of students who leave their hometowns for the first time and come to university, but it’s not talked about enough.

I didn’t know enough about safe sex when I first became sexually active. Sure, I’d been told to always use a condom and that consent is key, but what about everything else? Sex is complicated and more than what it appears to be on the surface. 

It starts with talking

By having a clear open line of communication between you and your sexual partner, you can discuss your limits, desires and boundaries. 

Is it just a one-night hookup? Talk to them. Someone you’ve been dating for years? Ask first. Ensure you have clear, sober and enthusiastic consent for whatever it is you might want to do.

Communication is the secret to great sex. Maybe you are both into something and have been secretly dying to try it, but never actually asked. 

The Spicier app is one way to learn about what sexual interests you have in common with someone you are having consistent sex with. The app helps you and your partner match your sexual interests and see exactly what you’re both into. 

Before you have any sexual encounter, always be open about the last time you got tested for STIs. Discussing this with your partner keeps both of you safe. 

Let’s Talk STIs

STIs are surrounded by stigma and people are often uncomfortable discussing them. Having an STI is more common than you may think and nothing to be embarrassed about; contracting an STI can happen to anyone and doesn’t make you a slut, it just makes you a human. 

According to Action Canada, 75 per cent of adults will have at least one type of HPV in their life. More than 100,000 cases of chlamydia are reported each year just in Canada, and one in seven Canadians may be infected with HSV2, the virus that causes genital herpes.

No matter who you are having a sexual encounter with, use some form of physical protection and get tested. Protection will also save you from a pregnancy scare, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.

If you are looking to get tested on campus, check out upcoming clinic dates on the Student Health and Wellness website. The next clinic will be on Feb. 27, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Wilson Common Room at the University of King’s College. 

These clinics will test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. If you believe you have a different STI, make an appointment at the Student Health and Wellness Centre to get it checked out.

The centre also has HIV self-test kits available so you can test at home with a partner or friend.

Sex and your mental health

Though sex is known to decrease stress and anxiety and increase happiness, it’s important to maintain a healthy relationship with sex. Having sex just as a form of stress relief can lead to unhealthy patterns and can have negative impacts on your mental health. It is important to understand that while sex can be enjoyable, it should not be your only method of coping with negative emotions.

Consider seeking professional help if you find that your sexual habits are negatively impacting your daily life. Consider speaking to a same-day counsellor at Dal or call the Good2Talk free counselling line for post-secondary students at 1-833-292-3698.

Balancing school and your sex life

Balancing school, life and sex can be difficult. It can be tempting to prioritize your sexual partner ahead of school work and class, but if you’re missing classes or not finishing assignments because of someone, or because of sex alone, you may want to seek professional help. 

When I have to prioritize relationships, I prioritize the relationships of the people who care about my success too. Whether it’s a platonic friend or a sexual partner, surround yourself with people who care for you. 

Campus Resources

If you have experienced sexualized violence reach out to Lyndsay Anderson, Dal’s sexualized violence advisor at lyndsay.anderson@dal.ca. Anderson offers confidential support and crisis intervention and is able to liaise with medical, legal and police services if you need them. 

Jordan Roberts is the sexual health and safety officer at King’s, and she can be reached at  jordan.roberts@ukings.ca or 902-229-6123. She provides confidential, trauma-informed active listening and can help you make informed decisions about how to proceed with your case. 

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