“Do I have to wear one,” he whines. “I don’t like the way it feels, and I bet you feel better”.
You panic inside, and hesitate for a moment, because will he leave if you say no? Will he still try to persuade you, until you finally give in just so he’ll shut up and leave you alone? Why is it that we as young people associate safe sex with bad sex? With anti-abortion and anti-contraceptive conversations creeping through the political grapevine, it is now more than ever that young people practice safe sex and use condoms.
First and foremost, condoms prevent not only pregnancy, but also prevent from sexually transmitted diseases. Despite having years of safe sex education in public schools, and safe sex resource centers avaibable on college campuses, young adults still pratice unprotected sex without condoms, both using birth control, or not using it. Why is this? In a qualitative study by Brown and Guthrie, the results suggested young adults feel too “in the moment” and often don’t think about it, with alcohol also playing a factor in these interactions. Many of us find ourselves “hooking up” with someone after the party or the bars, following a few party beers and shots with friends. It feels exciting and risky in the moment, and often asking the other if they want to use a condom feels like it would kill the moment.
Asking the person engaging sexually with you to practice safe sex shouldn’t feel like a buzzkill move. Practicing safe sex can build more trust between each other as sex partners, as well as create more intimacy, as the environment feels safer. More respect can be felt amongst each other, and next day hangover anxiety can be reduced.
It’s also important to emphasize and address the use of consent in sexual activities, and recognizing that consent also extends to engaging in sexual intercourse without or without protection. Amongst many of my female friends, it seems to be a common agreement that it’s hard to resist a guy begging to “hit it raw”. Whether it’s an excuse about the way a condom feels, or the persistence of a boy until a girl finally gives in, sometimes the pressure gets to women. The biggest reminder to ourselves as young people should be that sex should feel safe so you can explore and feel good about yourself in any way possible. If the partner you engage with sexually pressures you to do anything you’re not comfortable with, including practicing in unprotected sex, it is your right and autonomy to disengage from that interaction.
Condoms and other contraceptives can become pricey, and seem like a task to constantly keep up with. Fortunately many colleges provide safe sex centers and resources to use in order to protect themselves while on and around campus. At JMU, there are many resources available for students to learn about and gather resources about safe sex! On the Sexual and Relationship Health JMU webpage, there are links to sexual health programs and workshops, like Party Smart and Sex Jeopardy, as well as a link to other resources, like the University Health Center page, which provides STI information about different tests and procedures. The webpage also includes locations for the Safer Sex Stations, which includes different materials like condoms, dental dams, and lube. Resources like these on campus aid in helping the effort to encourage young people across our communities to explore their sexuality and bodies, in a safe, sexy way.