Physical Health Reproductive and Sexual Health

Talking About Sex

I’ve always been shy. As a little girl, I was shy around adults and other kids; I was shy even around my extended family. Fortunately, I grew into myself as I got older, but I still consider myself a bit of an introvert. I love meeting new people, but you can say I’m a little guarded. Now that I’m at Berkeley, I find it to be a great place not only because it’s a world of academia but also because as Cal students, we get to enjoy football games, big parties, and—oh my goodness!—actual interaction with members of the opposite sex.

I’m not sure about you, but my sex ed background attending a public school in a relatively conservative, homogeneous town was pretty much limited to looking at horrifying pictures of STIs. Of course, I knew that birth control pills alone can’t protect us from herpes, gonorrhea, chlamydia, hepatitis, HPV, HIV, and so on, but that was a pretty scarring experience for a fourteen-year-old girl like me.

I don’t think readers need someone else to preach the importance of using condoms; instead, I want to focus on talking about sex with your partner, whether it’s an acquaintance you met at a frat party or your current, exclusive significant other. Talking about sex is important for at least two main reasons: first, safety in avoiding both pregnancy and STIs; and second, for pleasure.

There are many different forms of contraception available. To name a few, there are birth control pills, NuvaRing, Implanon, IUDs, condoms, diaphragms, the patch, the shot, or the most effective option, abstinence. Of course, it’s ideal to use more than one method, and that’s why talking about it together is important. Your partner is not a mindreader, so you have to convey what you are and are not comfortable with. I heard a story from a friend about a guy she had met out one night and taken back to her place. When she insisted he either wear a condom or leave, he actually left. Her view was that it was better to spend the night alone than wake up with a disease that may or may not be curable. She was always a smart girl.

Finding the appropriate type of birth control for you may involve experimentation. I know some girls are afraid to go on the pill because of the rumor that it will cause weight gain. In actuality, the link between the pill and gaining weight is minimal at best, and with many brands, there’s no association at all. Also, if you are opposed to using contraception, abstinence is the only way to avoid pregnancy 100% of the time. Withdrawal is not effective. If you’re like me and hopelessly shy, talking about birth control with your partner can be awkward, but I’d rather suck it up than get stuck with unwanted consequences of unsafe sex. Seeing two lines on a First Response pee stick—no, thank you.

On another note, talking about what you do or do not like to do or have done can be even more uncomfortable at first, but sex is supposed to be pleasurable for both partners, and the best way to ensure (or enhance) pleasure is to discover what you like, with your partner or on your own. Again, I remind you that your partner is not psychic, and chances are he or she will appreciate you being honest and directing them in the right direction. Remember that giving pleasure can be pleasurable in itself—so really, you’re doing them a favor. What do you have to lose?

Having safe, pleasurable sex is part of lots of students’ lives. I’ll end this blog by encouraging everyone to get an annual STI test, whether it’s at the Tang center, at Kaiser Permanente, at your physician’s office, or at Berkeley Free Clinic. If you have contracted an STI, it is important to catch it early and to start treatment.

Article by Esther Slaman

Feature Image Source: National Sleep Foundation