Burning Questions About Sex in College
For the first time in several years, many colleges are returning to in-person learning without restrictions. This makes it the perfect time for a sex Q&A focusing on queries from parents and students. Check out some of the most burning questions and answers below!
Q: My twins (18) are off to college. I’ve already had the sex talk (many of them over the years), but I also want to talk to them about partying and drinking and how it can lead to/affect sexual experiences. Where do I begin?
A: Begin with curiosity.
I find that one of the best ways to start conversations with teens is to engage with the popular culture material they’re consuming. Talk about characters or scenarios from television shows. Discuss issues that are in the headlines to learn more about how they feel. The overturning of Roe vs. Wade can lead to meaningful conversations, for example. Ask about what interests and worries them – personally and politically.
They likely have as much to say as you do, so make space for them to share first.
When it comes to discussing issues like drugs and alcohol, continue to ask questions without judgment. Ask them what they’ve learned, experienced, or witnessed. Sometimes sharing stories about friends and acquaintances (without naming names) can help to gain insight into their values and areas where they might need support.
Let them know that planning can be very helpful when it comes to safety – especially if they know they’ll be partying. If they know what they do or don’t want to do in advance, it can help them to make better decisions in the heat of the moment. It can also be helpful to share a plan with a friend (e.g., I just want to have 2 drinks tonight. Or I want to hook up tonight). If you know what you’re hoping for, you can plan accordingly when it comes to safer sex (e.g., bringing condoms and setting boundaries).
Q: I’m a freshman, and I’ve never had sex. I feel like the only one, so I’m wondering if I should just get it over with or if I should wait until I find someone I connect with.
A: You’re not the only one!
I know it seems like everyone is doing it, but the data suggests that more people are now opting to delay sexual activity, so don’t feel pressure to opt in. Take your time and explore all types of pleasure and connection. You can have as much or as little sex as you want when the time is right for you.
In the meantime, feel free to explore your body on your own (only if you want to – no pressure here either). Solo sex is a great way to learn about your desires, boundaries, and needs.
Q: How do you know whether monogamy or non-monogamy is right for you?
A: I’m so glad you’re considering this in college rather than later in life!
I suggest you begin by asking yourself what appeals to you and why.
When you picture monogamy, what are the benefits you perceive? What are the costs, or what concerns do you have? What do you find appealing or unappealing? Are you open to other perspectives?
Ask yourself the same questions about non-monogamy. What appeals to you about it? What potential concerns arise for you?
What messages have you received about monogamy and non-monogamy? How do you feel about these messages, and do you want to reconsider any of them to align with your values?
It can be difficult to look at monogamy and non-monogamy through a neutral lens since our culture is tilted so heavily in favor of the former, so as you weigh your options, consider learning more about the range of options you can explore.
You can listen to a discussion of these topics on my podcast, Sex With Dr. Jess, here.
Q: I can’t have intercourse because it always hurts. I used to be able to put a tampon in (though it was always uncomfortable), but now I can’t even get the tip in. It’s like I tense up any time I go near the entrance. It honestly feels like I’m hitting a brick wall. What can I do about it? Do I have to suck it up and get used to it?
A: You don’t have to suck it up or get used to it.
You can get support and treatment to address what may be a pelvic floor issue (e.g., vaginismus). I highly recommend you see a pelvic floor physiotherapist who can assess, diagnose, and treat your condition.
You can use this online tool to find someone near you. You should also consider listening to this podcast: Painful Sex Is Not In Your Head.
Q: What do I need to know about Monkeypox in terms of attending parties and hooking up with new partners?
A: TL; DR: You may be eligible for a vaccine.
Go to MPOXVaxMap.org and enter your postal code to find the nearest site.
Researchers are still studying transmission modes of Monkeypox, but the latest information suggests that the vast majority of cases have been sexually transmitted (i.e., transmission risk in a crowd at a party is low as of the date of publication).
The CDC offers the following information on sexual transmission.
“Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
- Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox.
- Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
- Contact with respiratory secretions.
This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:
- Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.
- Hugging, massage, and kissing.
- Prolonged face-to-face contact.
- Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.
A person with monkeypox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2–4 weeks.”
To reduce the risk of transmission, the CDC suggests:
- Avoid skin-to-skin contact with those who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
- Avoid contact with bedding, clothing, and towels used by the person with monkeypox.
- Wash your hands often.