By: Connor Davies ’14, Public and Community Health, CRS Communications Assistant
TerpLife is a new blog series featuring YOUR voices on various health and wellness topics. Feel free to chime in by leaving a comment or suggesting a topic for future TerpLife posts.
The term “safe sex” can mean many things to many different people. In fact, each Terp I talked to this week had a little something different to say when I asked them what “safe sex” means to them.
Allie R. a Public and Community Health Senior described safe sex as including not only physical health but emotional health as well:
“I would define safe sex as not only about maintaining one’s physical health, but also taking care of your emotional health as well- I think that’s easy to overlook when we’re talking about sexual health.”
Laura I. a Public and Community Health Major on the other hand identified safe sex from a biological perspective:
“I define safe sex as sexual intercourse in which an infection cannot be passed.”
Shelby L., a Junior English Major brought safe sex to the individual level:
“I think safe sex depends on your individual needs- you may want to prevent pregnancy, protect against disease, or even avoid flashbacks. For me safe sex is sex where I feel comfortable with my partner and don’t have to worry about getting sick or pregnant or getting hurt by them.”
Safe sex, like all aspects of health, is multidimensional and individualistic.
Safe sex includes biological, emotional and social dimensions of well-being. There are so many different ways to practice safe sex – including not having sex at all. And that’s OK.
Allie R. put it this way:
“I like to say that as long as what you’re doing makes you (and involved parties) satisfied, and doesn’t hurt you (and involved parties) in any way, there’s nothing wrong with what you’re doing. This includes people who choose not to have sex. Sometimes we’re pressured by our peers and society into thinking what we like/don’t like is wrong, but my goal is to empower people to fight that. And for those who are having sex, it’s probably more enjoyable when you don’t have to worry about things like STIs or unwanted pregnancy either.”
Although sexual health can be a difficult, uncomfortable and at times controversial topic, the Terps I talked to made a strong point for including safer sex education on the University of Maryland campus.
“It [safe sex] is important here because, at this time, we [students] really learn to come into our own in many ways – including sexually, so this is the optimal time to learn what safe sex can mean.”
“I think safe sex campaigns are crucial to any community, especially colleges with huge populations of young people. The earlier we learn to take care of ourselves the better. It’s up to an individual to decide what aspects of safe sex, if any, they do and don’t want to embrace (though I think consent is always mandatory), but we all deserve to have the tools and knowledge to make those decisions. That’s what safe sex campaigns aim to provide us with, so they absolutely have a place in an institution of learning.”
Fortunately, there are numerous sexual health resources available to students right here on campus. In fact, the students I talked to summed up UMD’s services faster than I could write…
“There are a lot of great sexual health resources at UMD that each focus on important aspects of sex. SHARE aims to give students an up to date, non-judgmental sex ed crash course, and CARE recently launched a pilot program to teach incoming freshmen about rape, rape culture, and rape prevention tips that are aimed at potential rapists, not their victims. Bedsider.org has an informal group “in the wild” on campus to promote their website which is an impressively thorough guide to pretty much every available birth control. The health center also provides free condoms and will provide free vaginal condoms (also known as female condoms) if you just ask! There are so many more groups, large and small, that will teach you all you need to know about pretty much any aspect of sex from any point of view, but those are the big contenders.”
“Free condoms, dental dams, lube, and STI testing once a month. Wahooo!”
Even with so many resources, Allie R. raises a valid point about the challenge of outreach to such a large population of students,
“I think the UHC [University Health Center] has plenty of resources that can help students learn what safer sex is, but it’s challenging to reach (a little less than) 40,000 students.”
In the end, I think Shelby sums it up perfectly:
“I think we all practice safe sex to some degree, even if it seems like we’re not. I’d tell someone who is against safe sex practices – in general or specific ones – that it’s their business and it’s up to them how they have sex. But sex isn’t a stagnant thing. The things we like and the things we want from sex are always changing and evolving, and so should our knowledge of what’s safe and healthy for ourselves in the bedroom.”
It’s true. As college students, we are constantly changing and learning. There is rarely a cut and dry “right” or “wrong”. We do the best with what we have but should always strive to learn more about how to take care of ourselves – and that includes learning how to have safe sex. If you would like to learn more, check out some of the sexual health services and resources here on campus.
UMD Sexual Health Resources:
- University Health Center sexual health resources
- Women’s clinical health services
- Men’s clinical health services
- LGBTQ Health & Sexuality Resources
- Sexual Transmitted Infection (STI) education
- STI and HIV Testing
- Birth control options
Contact: Jenna Beckwith, Coordinator of Sexual Health Education Programs, University Health Center | Jbeckwith@health.umd.edu
Share with us! What does safe sex mean to you?