Sexual wellness is often a glossed-over topic, even as students mature during their college years. The lack of discussion about safe sex and healthy sex can leave students to participate in risky behaviors or make decisions that they would have otherwise avoided with more education. According to University of Georgia, over 65% of college students are sexually active, which means this is an important topic to cover on campus!
There are two main aspects of sexual wellness: sexual expression, the more emotive side of sexual wellness, and sexual safety, which is both physical and emotional safety in a sexual setting.
Sexual safety is more often talked about than sexual expression in an academic setting, such as in a health class in high school. There are two components of sexual safety: physical and emotional. Physical safety means avoiding sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and not sustaining unwanted pain or harm during kissing, make-outs or sexual encounters. Preventing the transmission of diseases is done in two ways, by getting tested for STDs or through physical means such as condoms. If a person is in a monogamous relationship, a test is typically enough to ensure their safety from STDs. Condoms are a very effective way to prevent STDs and pregnancy simultaneously. If a student ever finds themselves short a condom, especially a male condom, the Wellness Center at UVU has several jars full of different kinds. The UVU Student Health Services also provides STD testing for all students of UVU and free condoms. Feel free to stop by and grab a couple; even if there is no immediate need, it is always best to be prepared with protection.
People should always feel physically and emotionally safe during any kind of intimate touch with another person. Part of this safety is gained through consent, and the ability to revoke consent at any given time. Consent cannot happen if a person is being pushed. Consider instituting a “safe word,” especially when participating in intense sex. Consent should occur at every sexual encounter, and unless a person is in a long-long-term committed relationship with a discussion about blanket consent, verbal consent every time is the best way to guarantee communication.
The National Sexual Violence Resource Center recommends talking about boundaries regarding intimate moments while not having an physically intimate moment. Discuss expectations and boundaries before actively trying to have a sexual encounter. This is important even if spending one night with this person.
Preventing unplanned pregnancy is also part of sexual wellness and safety. Individuals should be conscientious of their partner’s prevention methods and their own. This can be part of the conversation about communicating boundaries. This is especially important for college students who may not have the means to support a child.
Sexual expression is choosing how to express any sexual desires and needs. Some students may not participate in a lot of sexual expression, and that is healthy, too! It is important to remember that only the individual can determine the right amount and kind of expression for themselves. The University of Georgia reminds us that “Sexual expression is grounded in one’s personal values, beliefs, and experiences.” It may take some time to discover the sexual expression to suit a current lifestyle and personal values.
Sexuality and gender identity may also be part of sexual expression, as it can affect attraction to people. College is an important time to learn about personal sexual identity. According to Pew Research, “One-in-five (of the respondents) say they knew for sure they were lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender when they were in their twenties.” Taking time to research individual sexuality and what sexualities there are can be a great first step in affirming sexual needs.
It is important to remember that not all sexual expression has to be done with a partner. Depending on a person’s values and desires, some experimentation alone may be a great option. It may be important to communicate expectations and boundaries regarding solo expression with a long-term partner.
When it comes to college students and their sexual wellness, college is a time for discovery within the bounds of personal comfort and excitement. People should remember to listen to their bodies and their needs, and communicate with any long-term partners about desires and boundaries.