For most of you, university will be the first time you’ve ever lived away from home. This is both exciting and terrifying for so many reasons. Sure, you’ve ditched nagging parents, nosy teachers and unfair curfews. But you’ve also gained a lot of independence, which really means responsibility.
In your time at university and beyond, you owe it to yourself and others to make choices that are responsible, respectful and always consensual. This means informing yourself on how to practice safe sex. Even if you don’t see yourself engaging in sexual activity while you’re at Western University, this information will be useful: you never know when a floor mate or lab partner will need your knowledge and support.
What is consent and how do you get it?
Consent is the agreement between two or more people to engage in sexual activity. It is absolutely necessary to have consent given every single time you’re sexually intimate with someone and every single time you change the degree of your intimacy.
The most effective way to communicate consent is to ask for it! Make it a comfortable conversation and find out whether you’re on the same page as your partner. You’re not a mind reader, and while you may think you can interpret body language, you probably can’t. A smile doesn’t translate to someone agreeing to have sex with you. You wouldn't walk into an ice cream shop and serve yourself, would you? Always ask first.
When can’t you give consent?
This one is especially important. It’s no secret that drugs and alcohol are present in the university scene. But did you know that if someone is impaired they are legally unable to give consent? If you question whether or not someone is able to give consent, it’s safe to say that they can’t.
Can you change your mind?
Absolutely. The choice to engage in sexual activity of any kind is entirely up to you and can change at any point in time. Don’t be afraid to communicate this to your partner, and definitely don’t be afraid of being judged for it. If someone doesn’t respect your boundaries, walk away.
How do you practice safe sex?
It’s totally normal to engage in casual and consensual sex as you get older. Just be smart about it. Be upfront with your partner and clarify whether or not you’ve been tested for sexually transmitted infections. Once you’re in the clear, be sure to use contraception. Birth control is easily accessible at Western in the University Community Centre basement. All you need to do is schedule an appointment at the health clinic and grab your prescription from the pharmacy. While you’re there, get some condoms from the pharmacy. And if you're short on funds, the health clinic provides free condoms. There's really no excuse.
Where can I get checked for STIs?
More than 1 million STIs are acquired every day worldwide. Sound scary? The good news is that you have the opportunity to be proactive. Grab a couple of friends and check out the Middlesex-London Health Unit. Every year, Western hosts an STI clinic so that students can get tested right on campus. If you miss the clinic, it’s a five-minute bus ride to chat with a trained professional and get tested for free!