Safer Sex and Sexual Wellbeing

photo of several condoms in packages

Sexual Desire, Pleasure, and Well-being

According to the World Health Organization (2011), “[s]exual health….requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence.” Sexuality is a healthy and life-affirming aspect of the human experience and its continued development is part a lifelong adventure. Whether having sex with yourself, choosing not to have sex, or having sex with a partner, it’s important to consider the physical, emotional, and social dimensions to sexual well-being. While it is easy to assume that everyone in college having sex, according to the American College Health Association, actually about one third of college students had not engaged in any sexual activity with a partner during the previous year (2018).

Safer Sex Basics

Safer Sex Supplies

Looking for safer sex supplies? Student Wellness and Health Promotion, Student Health Services, Planned Parenthood and Walgreens are all within walking distance to campus and provide a variety of safer sex supplies.

  • At Student Wellness, you can receive 5 free condoms per day as well as lube. Condom varieties include: multiple sizes, internal condoms and latex-free condoms. Dental dams are also available.
  • At Student Health Services, you can purchase 10 condom for $1.00

Remember: store condoms in cool, dry places no colder than 32 degrees Fahrenheit and no warmer than 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Always keep condoms away from direct sunlight.

Sexually Transmitted Infections (aka STDs)

Need a confidential place to get tested for STI’s? You can go to Student Health Services or Planned Parenthood. They cannot tell your parents or guardians if you went their for testing. 

  • According to the CDC, 25% of college students will be infected by an STI.
  • Chlamydia is the most commonly contracted STI among college students. If symptoms appear at all in chlamydia infections, they typically manifest 1-3 weeks after exposure. This bacterial infection can be contracted via oral, vaginal or anal sex. Symptoms of a chlamydia infection may include vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, painful urination and stomach pain. Men typically do not experience symptoms
  • There are a variety of measures to reduce the risk of involved when having sex with a partner infected with HIV/AIDS such as: getting tested regularly for HIV, using barriers, taking PreP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) daily, using clear communication

Birth Control

Barrier methods of contraception include: External condoms, Internal/Female Condoms, Cervical caps, and Diaphragms.
Cervical caps and diaphragms are small silicone caps placed in the vagina and cover the cervix.

  • Cervical caps are smaller and can be left in longer than diaphragms.

Hormonal methods of contraception include: IUD’s, Implants, and Subdermal Methods.

  • IUD’s are small, T-shaped devices that are put into your uterus to prevent pregnancy.
  • Implants and Subdermal methods are thin, matchstick-sized plastic rods inserted under the skin of your upper arm.

Remember: Oral birth control pills become less effective as a result of: irregularity in consumption, certain antibiotics, vomiting, and diarrhea can reduce the effectiveness of oral birth control

Steps to Put On A Condom

There are 4 essential steps to using an external condom for safer sex, and they are easy to remember with the acronym OPUC: Open, Prepare, Use and Clean-up.

The first set of steps relate to OPENING the condom

  1. Talk to your partner about sex: give and receive an “enthusiastic YES!” for consent
  2. Inspect condom wrapper
    1. Check condom package for air bubble by gently squeezing. If there is no air pocket, then the condom may be damaged, discard and get a new condom
    2. Never reuse a condom, including alternating between different types of sex
    3. Remember: condoms should be stored in a cool, dry place to prevent damage (never store a condom where you wouldn’t store a Hershey’s kiss ie. in a hot car chocolate can melt and condoms can breakdown)
    4. Check expiration date: don’t use an expired condom
  3. Erection
    1. Remember loss of erection can happen at anytime or at any age. Ttalk to your doctor if you feel it is happening too frequently.
    2. If you’re using sex toys: READ the instructions: make sure you can use a condom with the toy and be sure to follow before and after care cleaning instructions
  4. Open condom package carefully: no scissors, teeth, knives, etc

The next steps relate to PREPARING the condom

  1. Make sure the condom is the correction direction: the rim edge of the condom should be facing out, and the condom tip should be pointed out
    1. if condom is the wrong direction, then start over with a NEW condom
  2. Place a dot of water based lube inside the condom
  3. Pinch entire reservoir tip of condom
    1. even if you’re using a sex toy, and not worried about leaving space for semen, this space reduces the risk of breakage

These steps relate to USING the condom

  1. Roll condom down to base of penis or sex toy
  2. Smooth out air bubbles:
    1. Condoms should fit snugly, if too tight or too loose try a different size
    2. Some sex toys are porous, which is why you may need to use a condom on them
  3. Add some water based lube to the outside of the condom
    1. lube reduces friction and too much friction can cause the condom to break
  4. Penetration (ie. have sex)
    1. This can be oral, vaginal or anal and does not define a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity
  5. Orgasm: orgasms may not always occur, that is normal and sometimes talking with your partner can help

The final steps relate to CLEANING UP after using a condom

  1. Hold onto rim of condom at base of penis or sex toy
  2. Withdraw penis or sex toy from partner (ideally while still erect)
  3. Remove condom away from partner and dispose of safely: tie condom in knot, wrap in tissue, place in trash and wash your hands

Reasons People Have Sex

For those who are having sex, the reasons for doing so are many (and can be a combination of several reasons):

  1. Some people are looking for intimacy and to connect with another person emotionally
  2. Others are trying to gain experience or the skills to be a good lover
  3. Some people are seeking pleasure
  4. Some people are trying to define themselves
  5. Others are trying to impress others
  6. Some folks are expressing caring or love
  7. Others are planning to bring new life into the world
  8. Some are wishing to have fun or relax

Sexual Citizenship

How can someone increase their and their partner’s likelihood of having a positive and pleasurable sexual experience? One strategy guaranteed to help, is by working on their sexual citizenship. One way is by becoming well versed in how to maximize your own and others’ sexual agency through acknowledging everyone’s right to “sexual citizenship” (Hirsch & Khan, 2020), which is the idea that every person has a right to “sexual self-determination,” and the responsibility to honor that same right not only for yourself, but also for all others.

Some of the hallmarks of sexual citizenship include (Note: This is not an exhaustive list): 

  • Being able to talk about sex (whatever “sex” may include), desire, and pleasure with others, especially partners and potential partners. People confident in their sexuality, are able to communicate their boundaries and expectations for safe, consensual, and respectful, sexual encounters, which leads to more pleasurable experiences (deFur, 2012). 
  • Appreciating that desire is an integral part of sex, for all involved. 
  • Making an informed choice about whether to be sexually active or not.
  • Knowing what is pleasurable to your own body and caring about your partner’s pleasure.
  • Having knowledge about sexual anatomy
  • Advocating for your own sexual pleasure, safety and needs, while respecting the same for your partner(s), before, during, and after sexual activity
  • Being safe, comfortable, and confident to say “no” and knowing that will be respected. Conversely, respecting your partner’s right to say “no” at any time and stopping immediately
  • Practicing assertive refusal skills and paying attention to and respecting your partner(s) refusal signals. Being attentive to your partner’s sexual desire shows respect for their sexual citizenship.
  • Recognizing “no” (an indication of an absence of desire): verbal (does not mean try harder), crying, turning their head away, pushing a hand away, not moving at all, being unconscious or asleep, etc.
  • Being aware that anyone: under the age of 18, incapacitated due to substance or alcohol use, or with a cognitive disability is unable to consent
  • Understanding how differences in power can influence or inhibit a partner’s freedom to choose. E.g. An upperclass student has the advantage of social position over a first year student; a wealthy, white student with access to resources acting out of sexual entitlement has a social, racial, and financial advantage; being in someone else’s space (e.g. fraternity, apartment, house, or bedroom) can be a disadvantage over being in your own space
  • Recognizing that all sexual relationships and encounters have an emotional, physical, and values-based aspect to them
  • Taking responsibility for your own and your partner’s sexual and reproductive health. Find out how to apply a condom here: https://sexetc.org/fun/condom-game/
  • Building confidence in your skills and knowledge related to sexuality beyond anatomy, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy prevention, and the intricacies of pleasure. (Resources: sexetc.org, 
  • Understanding that sober sex is far more pleasurable than drunk sex

Arousal Nonconcordance

Arousal Non-concordance is when the behavior of your genitals (being lubricated or not or having an erection or not) does not match a mental experience (feeling aroused or not). This is a very commonly reported experience among people despite being normal and healthy (such as erectile dysfunction or a random boner). Arousal non-concordance is often cited as being experienced by victims of sexual assault. This is why affirmative consent is extremely important because we cannot assume consent due to body language or physiological response. Watch Sex Educator, Emily Nagoski Ph.D discuss arousal non-concordance in her Ted Talk.

DIY Dental Dam .pdf Handout

Use this handout to convert an external condom into a dental dam for safer oral sex with a female-bodied partner. Click the title or image to view or download this .pdf handout.

How to Use a Condom .pdf Handout

This handout reviews the steps to properly use a condom for safer sex by remembering the OPUC acronym: open, prepare, use and clean-up. Click the title or image to view or download this .pdf handout.

Choosing Well at UD

Click on the images or titles below to explore the "Choosing Well at UD" series which includes information about topics such as substance use, safer sex, healthy relationships, stress management, and more.