Wednesday, June 19Royal Holloway's offical student publication, est. 1986

‘Secure’ the bag- tips for safe sex and healthy relationships

Safety during sex is paramount for physical and mental health; in the words of Lil Wayne, “Safe sex is great sex, better wear a latex, cause you don’t want that late text, that ‘I think I’m late’ text”. When it comes to sex, university is a battlefield of chlamydia and misinformation, and it can be scary. So, here are some starter tips that might come in handy when approaching sex as a student:

Test the waters

This is meant literally; test yourself. STI tests are free from the NHS and can be the quickest and most stress-free way of determining your sexual health. For ‘same-day’ accessibility, Superdrug sells a variety of test kits from £20. Not only can testing be crucial in catching an STI before it progresses further, but regular check-ups are also essential in keeping sexually healthy and confident. Sexual health clinics offer appointments which can be scheduled habitually, making them a convenient way of keeping up to date with your body.

BYOC (Bring Your Own Condom)

If there is a possibility of having sex, it is up to you to protect yourself from STI’s and/or unwanted pregnancy. All gender identities have a responsibility to care for themselves, and it is strongly advised that you bring some sort of contraception with you to any sexual encounter. We recommend always bringing a condom to a potential link (as long as it’s not the five-year-old wallet johnny), as no matter who you are, offering and providing the option of safe sex is compulsory. Plus, if you both turn up with something, that’s twice the opportunity for activity!

Oh, also, there’s no such thing as “too big” for a condom. It has been proven (and demonstrated) that a normal condom can at least stretch over the size of a human leg. So, unless it’s the size of the hulk’s bicep, you’re fine, it’ll fit.

Talk it out

Aside from physical sexual health, one of the most important safe sex practices should happen way before anyone pulls out the bubble-gum-flavoured lube. Communication and candour are the building blocks on which safe sex thrive, and safe sex is crucial to healthy relationships- both with others and yourself. Setting boundaries and discussing partialities, in and out of the bedroom, will serve as a gauge on which you can base your actions. Whether talking leads you to finding a middle ground, exploring something new together, or discovering you both love reverse cowgirl, it will aid in a healthy interaction, and thus, pleasure. Conversing is just as important a tool in finding out what you don’t like, as it is in finding out what you do like. 

It is also extremely important to remember that tastes, preferences, sexuality, and opinions can, and probably will, change. Thus, it is essential that these discussions do not happen once and then never again. To ensure continued enjoyment, comfort, and safety (mental and physical), you must revisit these conversations to check in with anyone you are involved with, to guarantee a healthy working relationship.

Safety in numbers

There are two ways which safety in numbers can help you practice safer sex:

Firstly, and most obviously, if you are ever in an unknown or ‘new’ situation, or even as a general precaution, it is highly recommended that you are within reasonable travelling distance of friends, family, or someone you trust. In new relationships it can feel daunting and isolating to enter a ‘different’ area with unfamiliar people, so making sure someone is on call, or at least keeping tabs of their phone while you’re out, is a brilliant idea.

Secondly, surrounding yourself with people who view sex in a similar way can aid in the sharing of worries, ideas and insecurities. Common ground provides an even playing field on which safe sexual exploration can be nourished. On the flipside, it is also important to note that sharing experiences or conversations with a diverse range of people with differing experiences can end up enriching your understanding and could teach you something new. Whoever you surround yourself with will act as your ‘home base’, and if they’re healthy communicators, accepting and supportive, it doesn’t really matter what they’re ‘into’.

Ask away…

Let’s talk about sex, baby! But seriously… let’s! University is a goldmine of ‘sex chat’- not just the three-am pillow talk kind, but also the weird, hilarious, beneficial chats that happen at five-am with your besties (or maybe some random legends from the smoking area). Don’t be afraid to ask questions, get intel from veterans or experimentalists, and most importantly, study up on your safe-sex knowledge at the same time. You never know what conversations your questions might lead to… give it a try! Remember you are never alone in your queries, and if all else fails, there are many safe communities and resources on the internet that may help.

Whoever you are, whatever you’re into, it is your responsibility to prioritise safe sex. And, if you’re ever in doubt, this charming little poem may serve as a reminder in a moment of need:

“If you have an erection

and don’t want an infection,

you better use protection

on your genital section.”