Valentine’s Day means that love and romance is in the air — which means it’s as good a time as ever to talk about sex.
This week is Sexual Health Week at Dal, when the team at Dal’s Office of Student Health Promotion reaches out to students and encourages them to take some time to think carefully about their sexual health. Unfortunately, it's not something everyone always puts a lot of thought towards.
"A recent National College Health Assessment survey of Dal students indicated that only 49 per cent use a condom or other protective barrier (mostly or always) when engaging in sexual activity,” says Derrick Enslow, program manager of student health promotion. “This is why it’s important to have the Student Health Promotion team talk to their peers about sex — especially at this time of year."
So whether you’re thinking romance this weekend or not, here are some key pieces of advice everyone should remember when it comes to a healthy sex life.
1. Stay protected — always
Gonorrhea, chlamydia and syphilis might not be as common to contract from oral sex as vaginal or anal sex, but there’s no doubt it’s possible. “We’re always telling students to use some form of protection,” says Enslow. “Sometimes that conversation about using protection takes away from the spontaneity, but it’s about being prepared.”
2. Don’t be afraid to ask
It’s good to know your partner’s past sexual history and, if you don’t know, ask. The hooking-up culture might try and tell you otherwise, but casual sex can come with not-so-casual consequences, with STIs that could stay with you for life. Always have a condom handy. Apart from abstinence, it’s the only form of birth control that prevents STIs.
3. Only “yes” means yes
We all know that no means no when engaging in sexual activity, but Enslow thinks a better way to focus on the issue is a yes means yes mentality. “Unless you actually hear yes, you shouldn’t actually engage in any sexual activities,” says Enslow. “And if you’re deciding whether or not to say yes, make sure you haven't had too much to drink. You may regret your decision once you sober up.”
4. Don’t feel pressured
Especially around Valentine’s Day, it can feel alienating to not have someone special in your life. Don’t let that pressure you into something you’re not comfortable with. Make Valentine’s Day like any other day of the year: Enslow encourages students to get involved in other activities such as going out with a group of friends, staying in to watch a movie or read a book, or throwing a dinner party.
5. Enjoy yourself
Once you’re sure you’re protected, try new things that you’re both comfortable with. And you can still have fun even if you don’t have intercourse, whether it's cuddling, kissing or just get to know each other’s bodies in a less sexual way.
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