Sexplain, an organisation committed to ensuring that every young person in the UK should have access to a complete, inclusive and comprehensive sex education, have spoken to RAZZ about how to approach the sexual and romantic milestones of life. If you want to read more advice from the sexperts then make sure to pick up a copy of RAZZ’s most recent print issue on campus.
Illustration by Jess White
Uni is usually the time for sexual exploration – whether it be finding out what turns you on or discovering queer attraction. What advice did Sexplain have for approaching sexual exploration safely and positively?
Figure out for yourself what you physically like now that you have some freedom – some of the ways to do this are through masturbation, porn and discussions with friends. Use your time at University to explore your preferences with others too, but aim to: use contraception; make the most of your university health services; ensure your friends know where you are and what your plans are; try to avoid experiences where drugs and/or alcohol make you unsafe.
Communication is also key! Sexual exploration is fun and exciting but only if all participants know what’s happening and are enthusiastically on board. It is so important for us to try to move beyond the idea that talking about what we want or asking others about their desires is awkward or unsexy – it can really be the opposite if everyone involved is engaged in the conversation! On a slightly more clinical note, contraception and regular STI checks are a must!
This is the first time that young people are exploring the world of contraception – where should they go for expertise and what are the different options available?
You can go to your GP or local sexual health clinic (who often have walk in services – you can check online). You can also search specifically for what you want on https://www.nhs.uk/Service-Search/Sexual-health-information-and-support/LocationSearch/734 or https://www.fpa.org.uk/find-a-clinic to find out what services are near to you. You can take a friend or family member with you who has some experience and can support you in what questions to ask. These professionals are knowledgeable, kind and non-judgemental so they will be able to talk you through options in a clear, concise way.
There are so many options available and can be broken down into two areas, STI and pregnancy protection (if this is the type of sex you are having). There are some types of contraception which can be great at protecting against pregnancy, such as implants, coils, IUS and IUD but do nothing to protect against STIs. Others can be good at protecting against STIs such as condoms (and dental dams) but they aren’t the best at protecting against pregnancy. More information is available on the NHS website – https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/contraception/which-method-suits-me/
Communicating with sexual partners is also so important as it means letting anyone you’re having (any type!) of sex with know whether or not you have any STIs which could be passed onto them; when you last got tested; and what precautions you are going to take together (i.e. who needs to bring condoms etc.). This prevents against STIs as people can modify their sexual activity according to this information. A large number of STIs are asymptomatic – i.e. you have the infection but you have no symptoms.
So, it’s VERY important to get tested for STIs if you’ve had unprotected sex, and get tested regularly if you’re sexually active even if you’ve had protected sex, even if you have no signs of a change in your health. Getting tested for STIs can involve a quick swab, giving a small sample of urine or a blood test. You must also have an oral, anal swab too if you’ve had this type of sex. You can even get home-testing kits which are super quick and easy!
If you’ve had unprotected sex, that is, sex without using contraception, or think your contraception might have failed, you can use emergency contraception. There is the emergency contraceptive pill which can be taken up to five days after unprotected sex; but the earlier you take it the better. Another option is to get an emergency coil fitted, which can then be left in the body as a permanent form of contraception.