Intro to sex: Cheat sheet for the new semester

Mariana D

College. It’s a whole different playing field with all new bases (and I’m not talking about baseball). It doesn’t matter whether you arrive an expert in the field or a never-been-kissed rookie. The next four years are a time when, simply put, anything goes.

In the first weeks of college you’ll be getting to know so many new people: hall mates, classmates, club members, fellow freshmen through orientation events — and of course, let’s not forget the random strangers you’ll meet at parties. With all of these new interactions, you’re bound to run into someone you might develop a sense of attraction toward. It doesn’t need to be an active pursuit, but instead someone who, if the opportunity presented itself, you wouldn’t mind hooking up with.

Hookups range from mutual drunk booty-calls, friends with benefits, once and never again, or that next step toward a real romantic relationship. Whatever scenario you find yourself in, allow me to dispense some general advice.

For starters, let’s make it very clear that there is a difference between attraction and infatuation. Just because you hook up with someone does not instantly label him or her your significant other. If you choose to pursue a sense of attraction toward another person, there is no reason you should feel forced to commit yourself into an unwanted relationship or give meaning to a mere one night stand. Make sure you’re always communicating clearly with the other person involved. There’s nothing more unfair or frustrating than being dragged along with false expectations that will ultimately leave your heart hardened.

A hookup will not always be planned in advance and, in fact, hardly ever is. It will most often be one of those spur-of-the-moment experiences. So, while you’ll rarely ever be able to predict the exact time and day (or night) a hookup will take place, it’s important that when the moment comes, you’re prepared. Before anything goes anywhere, there should be clear communication between both persons involved in which they both give clear consent. Know what you’re comfortable with, and respect your personal limitations and restrictions. If for whatever reason you do not feel comfortable, say so. There is absolutely no shame in saying no. Really, no one will judge you for not following through on a hookup.

With the controversial (but not really) topic of hookups, I realize readers will react on either side of the spectrum: They might accept this piece as a valid source of informative advice on what to expect in college, or they could dismiss my words as an attempt to encourage promiscuous sexual activity. To those of the latter, I can assure you that is not the case. While I cannot forcibly change anyone’s opinion, I ask that you at least keep an open mind. Whether it’s an unfortunate mistake or a rewarding experience, hookups are commonplace in a college setting. That’s not to say that every single student finds himself or herself waking up in someone else’s bed on the weekends, but, as you’ll soon find out, there is really no need for name-calling or uninvited judgment.

To sum it all up, if you choose to have hookups, understand what you want out of it and what you don’t. If you choose otherwise, that’s absolutely fine as well. Enjoy these next four years and appreciate the crazy, exciting and sometimes difficult learning experiences that come your way.

Mariana D  is a Behind Closed Doors columnist and is available for advice on not striking out. 

Kalyn H

For many incoming freshmen, college is the first taste of freedom. The sudden independence is thrilling, sometimes terrifying, and everything that was once familiar can feel vastly different under this new horizon. You can eat what you want, when you want, even if it’s just soft-serve ice cream for every meal. No one — other than potentially grumpy roommates — is going to scold you for staying up until 3 a.m. every night. And, best of all, you’re finally free to have sex without your parents beating down the door.

However, before your initial realization of newfound independence drowns out all other sense, keep these two cents in mind:

Unwanted pregnancy is not fun. STIs are not fun. Both are very serious consequences of unprotected sex and can easily ruin someone’s life. Yet there’s a silver lining: They are avoidable, if the right precautions are taken.

Abstinence, of course, is the only absolute preventative measure against pregnancy and STIs. However, in a population composed primarily of young adults, it’s not always the most satisfactory option.

Condoms are the next best method. They are 98 percent effective in preventing pregnancy and also significantly lower the risk of contracting STIs. They come in all shapes and sizes, so even those with latex allergies can find an alternative brand. However, condoms can be expensive, especially for the average, penniless college student. Fortunately, condoms are easily obtained on campus. Vox, the Voices for Planned Parenthood club, hands out condoms every Friday in the Sadler Center, and the Student Health Center also distributes free condoms. Health Outreach Peer Educators offers a program for the shy or lazy, where condoms are delivered directly to a college mailbox.

For the ladies, there are a variety of birth control methods. However, keep in mind that while these can prevent unwanted pregnancy, they do not protect against STIs. The basic birth control pill is the easiest contraceptive for most college-aged females to obtain. The birth control pill is 99 percent effective against pregnancy, but in the event that a pill is missed, its preventative properties are voided. There are also IUDs, implants, injections and patches that are just as effective, if not more so, than the oral pill — although they can have more serious side effects.

Finally, let’s give a little attention to dental dams, the least loved of contraceptives. Dental dams serve as a barrier between one’s mouth and the other party’s vulva during oral sex and help prevent the spread of STIs. Cut-open condoms can also serve the same purpose, although you stay away from plastic wrap and other MacGyvered solutions. STIs can be transmitted through oral sex, from both men and women, so take all necessary precautions if you’re with an untested or infected partner.

Despite the slew of contraceptives available, accidents happen. Condoms break, birth control pills are missed, or precautions are entirely thrown to the wind. Emergency contraceptives exist as a fire exit from these unfortunate circumstances. Also known as the Morning-After Pill or Plan B, emergency contraceptives are purchasable from the common pharmacy. However, they usually run around $65, which is significantly more expensive than your average contraceptive. Emergency contraceptives work by stopping the woman’s ovaries from releasing an egg, thus preventing conception. Emergency contraceptives are not abortion pills and should not be taken more than five days after unprotected sex.

Recall my profound observations from earlier: Unwanted pregnancy and STIs are not fun. However, sex is fun, and with proper precautions and use of contraceptives, it can remain relatively risk-free. Even in the event that proper precautions are not followed, there are a number of resources available on campus to set people on the right path, including Vox, HOPE and the Student Health Center.

Kalyn H is a Behind Closed Doors columnist and recommends against eating ice cream for every  meal. 

Joseph S

To the freshmen, welcome to the College of William and Mary; to the upperclassmen, welcome back. I hope you are all as excited as I am about the upcoming year.

As one of the new Behind Closed Doors columnists, I am going to give you the “talk” over the course of the year. Fortunately, we won’t have to worry about awkward eye contact or picturing your mother and I being intimate. But it is still going to be a wild ride, so buckle up, kiddos.

Sex is a big deal. For many people, sexual experiences are their best or their worst memories. In this column, I am going to try and give you advice about enjoying sex, relationships and life. Each of these things are so closely bound that we need to think about them together.

My first piece of advice is to make your own decisions. We are all pressured by people and pop culture, whether we realize it or not. In fact, right now, I am telling you that you should consider undertaking some actions and avoid others. What we need to do as rational beings is to separate the good advice from the bad.Sometimes, this is very challenging. We might desire something in the moment, only to regret it later. We might think it is a great idea to call our ex and profess our undying love. It isn’t. So, we must practice critical thinking (and I bet you thought critical thinking skills were a joke). Fortunately, everyone at the College can excel at these sorts of decisions. All it requires is a little bit of effort and foresight. And when we inevitably do something dumber than we thought possible, we learn from that mistake.

Through my years at the College, I have made a few mistakes and learned a few lessons from them that I would like to share with you now.

Decide sober. This is the best way to avoid regretting anything. Being inebriated means that your decision-making skills are inhibited. No matter what you plan for the night, choosing it in a clear frame of mind will set you up to have a more pleasant morning.

Avoid dorm-cest. It may seem convenient to date or to hook up with someone in your residence hall. But be warned, if things don’t go the way you have planned, it will set you up for large quantities of awkward encounters in the lobby and division among your hall mates.

Don’t spend all your time with your significant other. College gives us greater opportunities to wrap our lives around our boyfriend or girlfriend. No one is forcing you to live in different houses. You can spend 24 hours together, every day of the week for at least a semester before your final grades get sent home. This can be a problem in long distance relationships too, if the nightly routine consists of five hours of Skype. It may seem like fun. It may even be fun. But it is hard to sustain. I can tell you from personal experience that couples that were obsessively focused on each other, to the point where they excluded their friends and family and other obligations, didn’t last very long and had ugly breakups. We are at a liberal arts college to become well-rounded people. Spending all your time with one person doesn’t help.

The College rocks. I firmly believe that anyone will love their experience here if they are willing to make friends, be a little nerdy, and try new things. Welcome, and have a good time.

Joseph S is a Behind Closed Doors columnist and has never had an awkward lobby encounter due to dorm-cest. 


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