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Safety is sexy — a guide to safer sex on campus

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DTH Photo Illustration. UNC provides free supplies at a variety of locations around campus to help students engage in safer sex, including condoms.

College students have a lot of sex, statistically. 

However, college students are using contraceptives and condoms less and less each year. A 2018 study of college students across the country published in the Journal of Sex Research found that males not in a serious relationship and females in a serious relationship indicated the largest decreases in condom usage.

Sexual health is as important as ever. Contraceptives and condoms, especially, help promote safer sex, as they are effective against unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted infections such as HIV, gonorrhea, chlamydia, and trichomoniasis. 

The term “safer sex” refers to anything that lowers the risk of sexually transmitted infections. While some call it “safe sex,” no type of sex with a partner can be guaranteed to be 100 percent safe. 

Caress Roach, the health promotion and well-being programs coordinator at UNC Student Wellness, emphasized the importance of sexual education and the importance of violence prevention coordinators in helping students get the access to resources they need. For example, the SAFE at UNC program allows anyone to file a report to law enforcement and/or the university, with an option to report it anonymously. 

The Gender Violence Services Coordinators (GVSC) also provides resources for all students and employees who have been impacted by sexual violence. 

“Part of your well-being and your wellness, whether you are someone who identifies as wanting to have sex or not, if you’re practicing or not, I feel like just making sure that all students are getting the proper knowledge and information that is accurate and relevant for them,” Roach said.

Safer sex supplies are available at no cost at several campus locations. Condoms are available in the Student Union bathrooms near Alpine Bagel, and other safer sex supplies can be found at the Student Stores Pharmacy and Campus Health. 

Students may also request safer sex supplies from Resident Advisors (RAs) and Community Directors (CDs).

UNC organizations such as the Healthy Heels Ambassadors (hha!) and the Pleasure Activists plan to provide services surrounding health and wellness during the upcoming semester.

“At hha!, our mission is to inspire change towards better wellness for all through education," said Brooke Lester, co-president of the Healthy Heels Ambassadors. "Facilitating open discussions about health and wellness is a large component of that.” 

The group regularly hosts workshops about facilitating discussion about important characteristics of healthy relationships, such as communication strategies and defining individual wants, needs and boundaries. 

The workshops actively benefit students by allowing a safe space for them to comfortably discuss and ask questions about topics related to all dimensions of wellness, Lester said. 

Naima Cooper, a UNC alumnus and one of the founders of the Pleasure Activists, said discussing safe sex is imperative — not only in the UNC community but worldwide.

“If someone has a desire to have sex, they are worthy and deserving of having a pleasurable experience,” Cooper said. “However, without the proper education or resources, sex can very easily become physically and emotionally damaging.”

Cooper said many college students receive very little or inaccurate sex education from schools, family members, peers and media due to sex being seen as taboo. In addition, Cooper said many students are taught that relationships look a certain way. 

“This is why we must take an active role in destigmatizing these conversations, unlearning false and oppressive notions around sex and pleasure and equipping ourselves with the necessary information around how to practice safe sex,” Cooper added. 

The Pleasure Activists plan to host several events during the fall semester, such as workshops about healthy relationships, body confidence, sexual health, boundaries, sexual literature and pole dancing. 

For students who want to learn more about sexual health awareness at UNC, Student Wellness provides Sexual Health and Relationship Education (S.H.A.R.E.), which guides students through existing health and sexual health resources and creates non-judgmental spaces for discussions. Students can schedule a meeting on the organization's website.

Free and confidential STI testing is also available to students at Campus Health, the Orange County Health Department and Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC).

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