Sexual Health


Definition of Sexual Health

The World Health organization defines sexual health as…

  • “A state of physical, mental, and social well-being in relation to sexuality. It requires a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled.”
  • Here at Owls Care, we encourage you to make sexually responsible decisions that are in line with your own beliefs and values.
  • Some students choose to abstain from sexual activity. Some choose to engage in safer sex practices, like condom use, to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.
  • Whatever you choose to do, we’re here to support you. Owls Care provides you with many resources to help you make sexually responsible decisions!

What is Sex?

Everyone has their own definition of sex and sexuality.

  • A person is a sexual being from birth to death. Sexuality is complex and comprises: (+)
    • Our bodies
    • Our sex-designated-at-birth
    • Our gender identity
    • Our gender expression
    • Our sexual orientation
    • Our feelings, attitudes, self-image, ideals, and behaviors
    • Our relationships
    • Our values and beliefs
  • Since everyone has their own definition of sex and what it includes, it is important to talk to your partner so that everyone is on the same page! Definitions of sex can include many behaviors. For example: (+)
    • Kissing
    • Fondling
    • Oral Sex
    • Dry Humping
    • Vaginal Intercourse
    • Anal Intercourse
    • Using hands and fingers for genital stimulation
    • And more!

Sexual Decision Making

The college experience is an opportunity for growth, and students make many important decisions on their own – including decisions about sexual activity.

  • Every person has their own unique set of sexual values. To express one’s sexuality in ways that fit one’s values can be difficult, especially if those values haven’t been clarified yet.
  • Here are some of the things to consider before you make your decision to be sexually active with someone:(+)
    • Am I doing this because I want to, or because I feel like I have to?
    • What feelings do I have when I think about having sex?
    • Am I aware of the risks involved when people have sex?
    • Am I comfortable talking about sex with my partner?
    • Do I know my partner’s sexual history? Do they know mine?
    • Has my partner been tested for STI’s? Should I be tested for STI’s?
    • Am I comfortable with acquiring and using safer sex methods?
  • There is never a circumstance when you owe someone sex or that someone owes you. Your body = your rules, and the same goes for your partner(s).
  • If and when you decide to have sex, it is your right to have sex that is pleasurable, consensual, and safe. You have the right to say “Yes” to sex that you want. You also have the right to say “No” to sex that you do not want.

The Basics

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are passed from one person to another during sexual contact. The most common symptom of an STI is no symptoms.

  • First things first – STIs can affect people of all backgrounds, ages, identities, and cultures. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that there are 20 million new cases of STIs each year. Half of these cases occur among young ages 15 to 24. In Florida, our tri-county area (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach) has some of the highest STI and HIV rates in the state. It is important to arm yourself with this knowledge so you can better protect both you and your partner.
  • You may think that you’d be able to easily spot if you have an STI, but the truth is that many infections have no signs or symptoms. Some have mild symptoms that can be easily overlooked, or mistaken for another type of infection. You cannot tell if someone is infected with an STI just by looking at them.
  • You also might think that your doctor is testing you for these infections already, but that is often not the case. You’ll need to ask your doctor for these tests. If you’re uncomfortable discussing this with your doctor, make sure to check out our Communication tab for some pointers.
  • According to the CDC, there are approximately 25 sexually transmitted infections in existence. Below, you will find the most common STIs in the United States. You can click on a specific STI to learn more:(+)

Getting tested

Should you get tested for STIs? Let’s talk about it!

  • You should get tested for STIs between every sexual partner.
  • You should also be speaking to your doctor regularly about STIs and testing to determine how frequently you should be getting tested. Having an open and honest conversation with your doctor will get you the best care.
  • You should also get tested for STIs if any of the following risk factors apply to you:(+)
    • If you’ve had unprotected sex (oral, anal, or vaginal)
    • You have a new sexual partner or more than one partner
    • A condom breaks
    • Your partner has or has had an STI
    • You are experiencing symptoms of an STI (common symptoms include sores on the genitals, discharge from the penis, vagina, or anus, itching, and burning during urination)
    • You or your partner inject street drugs
    • Your partner has or had sex with another person
    • You had sex while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
  • Student Health Services provides STI testing here on campus. This service is available by appointment, so if you are interested please call 561-297-3512.
  • If you think that these tests are included during your yearly physical or during a Pap smear… chances are that they’re not. Usually, you’ll need to specifically request that these types of tests be run.


Practicing safer sex is a great way to lower your risk for STIs.

  • Here are some strategies for lowering your risk for sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy.
  • Avoid using alcohol and other drugs before and during sexual intercourse
    • Get tested
    • Use Safer Sex Methods
  • Barrier Methods
  • Hormonal Methods (pregnancy prevention ONLY)
  • Learn common STI symptoms
  • Know your own body – what’s normal for you is not normal for someone else. You should be doing self-checks every month.
  • Have regular medical check-ups and annual exams
  • Limit your number of sexual partners
  • Practice mutual monogamy
  • Get vaccinated – both Hepatitis B and HPV have vaccines available
  • Learn how to communicate with your partner about safer sex
  • Stay healthy
  • Know yourself and what you want in a relationship


We want to provide you with access to many of the valuable sexual health resources available to you, whether it is on campus, off campus, or online.

The Basics

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) attacks the immune system and can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS).

  • HIV can be transmitted through blood, pre-seminal fluid, semen, rectal fluids, vaginal secretions, and breast milk. One of the most common routes of HIV transmission is through unprotected sexual intercourse with a partner infected with HIV.
  • More than 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection. About 1 in 4 new HIV infections occur among youth ages 13 to 24. Many of them do not know they are infected, are not getting treated, and can unknowingly transmit the virus to others.
  • Here in Florida, HIV rates are very high. Miami-Dade and Broward county are ranked as 1st and 2nd in the state for HIV infection.
  • Using a condom drastically reduces the risk of transmission of HIV. If you choose to be sexually active it is important to practice safer sex behaviors, such as using external (commonly referred to as male) condoms, internal (commonly referred to as female) condoms, and dental dams. These items are available free of charge at Owls Care Health Promotion. It is also crucial to get tested for HIV and STIs annually or in between partners.
    • If you are allergic to latex, use a condom made of polyisoprene, polyurethane, or synthetic nitrile. Lamb skin condoms, while effective for pregnancy prevention, do not prevent the spread of HIV.

Getting tested

Speaking to your doctor and getting tested regularly is vital to your health.

  • You should be speaking to your doctor about both HIV and STI testing between every sexual partner or annually. These conversations are important – your healthcare provider doesn’t do these tests automatically, and your doctor can best advise you on what tests you need.
  • If you think that you may have been exposed to HIV, going out to get tested the next day will not yield accurate results. This is because most HIV tests are looking for antibodies, not the virus itself, and your body needs time to make antibodies. In fact, it needs at least two weeks – and can take up to three months. The CDC recommends getting tested at 2 weeks, 3 months, and then again at 6 months so that there is not a false negative.
  • There are a few options for HIV testing. A rapid results tests yields results in about 20 minutes. The test requires either a swab from the cheek or a prick of the finger. A full blood draw can also test for HIV, but it will take several days to receive your results. Both of these tests are available on campus.
  • HIV Testing is available at Owls Care Health Promotion on most Tuesdays from 9 am to 2 pm. The testing is provided by Genesis Community Health, and there is no need to make an appointment. Genesis provides the rapid results test, done via a finger prick. HIV testing is also available year-round by appointment through Student Health Services.
  • You should get tested for HIV if any of the following risk factors apply to you:(+)
    • If you’ve had unprotected sex (oral, anal, or vaginal)
    • You have a new sexual partner or more than one partner
    • A condom breaks
    • Your partner has HIV
    • You are experiencing symptoms of HIV (those who are newly-infected can experience “the worst flu they’ve ever had”)
    • You or your partner inject street drugs
    • Your partner has or had sex with another person
    • You have sex while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol
Free HIV Testing

Provided by Genesis Community Health, testing is available every Tuesday in the Fall and Spring semesters from 9 am to 2 pm. There is no need for an appointment, and you get your results in 20 minutes! For more information call 561-297-1048 or click the button below to learn more. We also provide HIV testing during the summer months, but only on select Tuesdays. Give us a call ahead of time to see if we are doing testing that day.

PrEP and PEP

PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis. PEP stands for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis.

  • PrEP(+)
    • According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, PrEP is used when people who are at very high risk for HIV infection take HIV medication daily to lower their chances of getting infected. PrEP is not a vaccine – it is a pill taken daily. The most common version of PrEP is known as Truvada. Truvada is approved for daily use to help prevent an HIV-negative person from getting HIV from an HIV+ partner (whether sexual or injection-drug-using).
    • PrEP has been shown to be highly effective for preventing HIV if taken as directed (consistently, not intermittently).
    • PrEP is available in south Florida, at Care Resource. Visit their website for more information.
  • PEP(+)
    • Post-exposure prophylaxis, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, means taking antiretroviral medicines (ART) after a potential exposure to HIV to prevent becoming infected.
    • PEP should be used in emergency situations only. For example, you may have heard of medical professionals taking it after they have been exposed. To be effective, it must be started within 72 hours after possible exposure.
    • PEP is only available through your healthcare provider. In south Florida, Care Resource provides PEP. For more information, visit their website.


There are many resources both online and in our south Florida community to receive information, testing, and treatment for HIV.

What does it mean?

When we talk about “safer sex”, it means protecting yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV, and unplanned pregnancy.

  • There are numerous ways to make sex safer. Some more common strategies include abstinence, using barrier methods, communication, and finding other means of sexual expression. You can explore the rest of the Safer Sex section to find more information on lowering your risk, using barrier methods, and more.
  • College can be a time of self-exploration in many dimensions, including sexuality. When it comes to sex, there are many misconceptions. For example, there is a big difference between how much sex people think everyone else is having versus what students are actually reporting.
  • FAU Sexual Behavior Statistics:
    • According to the National College Health Assessment, distributed to FAU students in the Spring of 2015:
      • Approximately 26% of students reported having no sexual partners in the last 12 months
      • 53% of students reported having only 1 sexual partner within the last 12 months.
    • Of those that were sexually active:
      • 50% reported engaging in oral sex within the last 30 days
      • 58% reported engaging in vaginal sex within the last 30 days
      • 7% reported engaging in anal sex within the last 30 days

Barrier methods

How do I lower my risk of STIs and unplanned pregnancy?

  • Avoid using alcohol and other drugs before and during sexual intercourse
  • Get tested
  • Use Safer Sex Methods
    • Barrier Methods
    • Hormonal Methods (Pregnancy prevention ONLY)
  • Learn the common STD/STI symptoms
  • Know your own body – what’s normal for you is not normal for someone else. You should be doing self-checks every month.
  • Have regular medical check-ups and annual exams
  • Limit your number of sexual partners
  • Practice mutual monogamy
  • Learn how to communicate with your partner about safer sex
  • Stay healthy
  • Know yourself and what you want in a relationship

Barrier methods

Barrier methods prevent the exchange of bodily fluids, reducing the risk of both STIs and unplanned pregnancy.

  • There are two main barrier methods: external and internal condoms. We will also discuss the barrier methods to use during oral sex. Let’s take a look at each of them individually.
  • External Condoms(+)
    • External condoms (you may know them as male condoms) are made of latex, polyurethane, or polyisoprene. There are some external condoms made from lamb skin, but it is important to note that lamb skin condoms DO NOT protect against HIV.
    • External condoms are worn on the penis, sex toy, or other phallus, and can be used for vaginal, anal, and oral sex. They can be used with a hormonal method of birth control to further reduce the risk of pregnancy (for example, using an external condom and oral contraceptives).
    • Here are some easy to follow steps for use:
      • Get consent from your partner (Consent = an ongoing, mutual, enthusiastic, informed, freely-given, sober YES)
      • Check package and expiration date
        • Look for holes in the package
        • Check to make sure condom has not expired
      • Open package carefully with your hands
        • No scissors or teeth!
      • Check for the right side
        • If it looks like a party hat, then it’s party time!
        • If it’s not the right side, it’ll look like the top of a baby’s bottle.
      • Pinch the tip, and keep it pinched, as you roll it down the phallus
      • Make sure there is no air inside
        • Burp it! Run your fingers along the side.
      • Party time!
      • When removing phallus from partner, hold condom at the base so it doesn’t fall off. When removing the condom, hold away from your partner and remove it, being careful to keep all fluids INSIDE of the condom.
      • Throw away in the GARBAGE CAN. Do not flush!
      • As an FAU student, you can get condoms for free from several locations on campus. Visit our Condoms on Campus tab to find out more.
  • Internal Condoms(+)
    • An internal condom (also known as the female condom) is a synthetic nitrile pouch that fits inside a vagina or an anus and is used to prevent pregnancy and STIs. A lot of people are intimidated by the internal condom because it must be inserted properly, but actually, if you are able to use a tampon, you should be able to use this type of condom. And remember – practice makes perfect!
    • The internal condom has an inner and outer ring. The inner ring is made of flexible plastic (and looks similar to the Nuva-Ring). This end is inserted into the body. The outer ring will rest on the vulva after insertion, covering the skin. This coverage is actually a great perk of using this condom – it can offer a little more protection against HPV, Syphilis, and Herpes than the external condom.
    • Here are some easy to follow steps for using an internal condom:
      • Get consent!
      • Check package and expiration date (hidden in the side crevice)
      • Open carefully with your hands
      • Hold condom with open-end down, and pinch the inner ring into a figure-8.
        • You’ll want to find a comfortable position for insertion such as standing with one foot on a chair, sitting on the edge of a chair, lying down, or squatting.
      • Insert into the vagina like a tampon.
      • Use your other hand (or wash your hands) to go on the inside of the condom and push the inner ring into the vagina as far as it can go (until it reaches the cervix)
        • Pull out your finger and let the outer ring hang about an inch outside of the vagina
      • Party time!
      • To remove, twist it closed so that no fluid leaks out, and then pull it gently out of the vagina.
      • Throw away in the TRASH CAN.
    • Remember, this condom can also be used for anal sex. It can be inserted into the anus using the instructions above, or can be placed over a penis/sex toy/phallus that one is using. If you use the internal condom for anal sex, it is important to remember to REMOVE THE INNER RING. This is because your anus is a vacuum, and using the inner ring increases the risk of having the condom become trapped in the anus.
  • Staying safe during Oral Sex(+)
    • There are a few ways to stay safe when engaging in oral sex.
    • For oral sex on a penis, you can use a flavored external condom. Unfortunately, these condoms are only available in latex. If you have a latex allergy, you can purchase flavored lubricant for use with a non-latex condom.
      • The steps for using a flavored external condom are the same as in the external condom section. You should never use a flavored condom for vaginal intercourse, as flavored condoms contain sugar, and introducing sugar to the vagina is not a good idea (hello, yeast infection!).
    • For oral sex on the vulva or anus, you can use a dental dam. Dental dams are sheets of latex or polyurethane that you can use as a barrier to protect yourself and your partner from transmitting STIs when engaging in oral sex. Here are the steps to using a dental dam:
      • Get consent!
      • Check package and expiration date
      • Open package with hands
      • Remove dental dam from package and unfold
      • Stretch lightly and place over the area you would like to engage with (adding a drop of lube to the skin may help it stick, as you need to hold it in place during use)
      • Party time!
      • When finished, remove from partner and throw in the trash can.
    • If you are fresh out of dental dams, you can always use an internal or external condom by cutting the end or tip off, and then cutting up one of the sides (it’ll unroll to a square of material). You can also use name brand Saran Wrap. But IT MUST BE SARAN BRAND. This is the only brand of plastic wrap that does not contain pores big enough to allow STIs through.
    • If your dental dam falls off during use, throw it away, and get a new one.
    • Dental dams and flavored condoms are available free of charge to FAU students in Owls Care Health Promotion.

Hormonal methods

Hormonal methods of birth control include the birth control pill, the patch, the ring, the shot, the implant, and the intrauterine device (IUD).

  • First, as a reminder, please note that hormonal methods of birth control DO NOT protect against the transmission of STIs.
  • Prescriptions for the pill, the ring, the shot, and the IUD are available on campus through Student Health Services. Let’s take a closer look at each of these methods.
  • The Birth Control Pill (+)
    • The birth control pill is an effective and convenient way to prevent pregnancy. It involves taking a pill each day to prevent pregnancy, and it is easy to get with a prescription.
    • There are two types of pills – combination pills and mini pills. Combination pills contain the hormones estrogen and progestin. The mini pills contain only progestin. The hormones in these pills work by keeping eggs from leaving the ovaries. They also help to make cervical mucus thicker, which keeps sperm from getting to an egg.
    • For more information on the birth control pill, click here.
  • The Birth Control Vaginal Ring (commonly known as NuvaRing)(+)
    • The birth control vaginal ring is a small, flexible ring that you put in your vagina once a month for three weeks to prevent pregnancy. Like the pill, it is effective and convenient, and it is easy to get with a prescription.
    • NuvaRing releases the same hormones as the birth control pill – estrogen and progestin. These hormones keep eggs from leaving the ovaries and help to make cervical mucus thicker.
    • For more information on the birth control vaginal ring, click here.
  • The Birth Control Shot (Depo-Provera)(+)
    • The birth control shot is an injection (in the arm) of a hormone that prevents pregnancy. Each shot prevents pregnancy for three months. Like other hormonal methods, it is effective and convenient, and is relatively easy to get with a prescription.
    • The shot must be administered by a healthcare professional, and to be effective, this must be done every three months. The injection releases the hormone progestin into the body. Progestin works by keeping eggs from leaving the ovaries, and making cervical mucus thicker.
    • For more information on the birth control shot, click here.
  • The Birth Control Implant (Implanon and Nexplanon)(+)
    • The implant is a matchstick-sized, flexible plastic rod that is inserted in the upper arm to prevent pregnancy. This method can last up to three years and must be inserted by a healthcare provider. This method may cost more money up front (can be up to $800), but will last a long while.
    • The implant releases the hormone progestin, which keeps eggs from leaving the ovaries and makes cervical mucus thicker.
    • For more information on the birth control implant, click here.
  • The Intrauterine Device (IUD)(+)
    • The IUD is a small, “T-shaped” device that is inserted into the uterus by a healthcare provider. It can prevent pregnancy for up to 12 years (depending on the type). There are two types of IUD available in the United States – copper (ParaGard) and hormonal (Mirena or Skyla). The copper IUD is effective for up to 12 years, while the hormonal IUD is effective between three and five years.
    • The hormonal IUD releases a small amount of progestin. This may prevent an egg from leaving an ovary and by thickening the cervical mucus. But both the copper and hormonal IUDs work mainly by affecting the way sperm move so they cannot join with an egg.
    • For more information on the IUD, click here.
  • The bottom line: While hormonal methods are used often to prevent pregnancy, there are many users who take these forms for other purposes. Birth control can help with endometriosis, cramping, PCOS, skin problems such as acne, and is used for hormone therapy for transwomen. To learn about all of the perks and risks associated with hormonal birth control, make sure to speak with your healthcare provider.
  • Emergency Contraception(+)
    • Emergency Contraception, or Plan B, is birth control you can use to prevent pregnancy up to three days (72 hours) after unprotected sex or birth control failure. The sooner it’s taken, the better it works. It should NOT be used as regular birth control as it is not as effective as a consistent birth control method. It does not protect you against HIV/AIDS or other sexually transmitted diseases.
    • Emergency Contraception will not work if you are already pregnant, and will not harm an existing pregnancy.
    • Plan B is available at the FAU Pharmacy. To learn more about Plan B and other Emergency Contraception methods,click here.


Abstinence can be 100% effective in preventing sexually transmitted infections and unplanned pregnancy. It’s a healthy choice for many people. But what IS it?

  • Abstinence can mean different things to different people, so it’s important to ask your partner what it means to them and explain what it means to you if you choose to be abstinent.
  • Abstinence can mean:(+)
    • Deciding not to engage in sexual activity
    • Waiting for the right time, place, or person
    • Discovering other ways to be intimate with your partner without the exchange of bodily fluids
  • Abstinence can last for years, or it can last for just an evening. Being continuously abstinent is the only way to be absolutely sure that you are preventing pregnancy and STIs.
  • Why choose abstinence? (+)
    • People abstain from sex for many reasons – even if they have been sexually active in the past. The reasons that someone may choose abstinence may change throughout their life. Here are some of the reasons someone may choose abstinence:
    • To prevent pregnancy
    • To prevent STIs
    • To wait until they’re ready for a sexual relationship
    • To wait to find the right partner
    • To support personal, moral, or religious beliefs and values
    • To get over a breakup
    • To follow medical advice during an illness or infection
    • To have fun with romantic partners without sexual involvement
    • To focus on school, career, or extracurricular activities
  • Whatever the reason for someone’s choice, it’s important to remember that it’s THEIR choice. Do not pressure someone into a sexual relationship that they’re not ready for even if you are.
  • How can I stay abstinent?(+)
    • It’s true that abstinence can be difficult for some people, so it is vital to remember the reasons why you are choosing abstinence. If you are tempted to engage in sex play with your partner, it helps to remember why you made the decision to be abstinent in the first place. It may help to think about the answers to these questions:(+)
      • Am I clear about why I want to be abstinent?
      • Am I prepared to handle situations where my decision to stay abstinent will be challenged? Can I avoid these situations?
      • Am I aware of how alcohol and other drugs can affect my judgment and decision-making ability?
      • Are there people in my life that I can talk to about my decision to stay abstinent? Are they supportive?
    • Many people choose to stop being abstinent at some point in their lives. When you decide to not be abstinent, ask yourself:(+)
      • Do I know how to protect myself from STIs?
      • Do I have information and access to other methods of birth control? (if pregnancy is a risk for the activity you will engage in)
      • Am I comfortable talking to my partner about safer sex methods?
      • Am I comfortable using safer sex methods?
      • Do I know where to get safer sex methods?
    • If and when you make the decision to become sexually active, make sure to check out the rest of our Safer Sex section for more information on how to stay safe.

Condoms on Campus

In need of safer sex supplies? We’ve got you covered. Condoms are available for free at multiple locations on campus.

  • Free condoms (internal and external), dental dams, and lubricant are available in Owls Care Health Promotion, located above the breezeway food court (Building 8, Room 222).
  • External condoms are also available for free in the waiting room of Student Health Services (above Starbucks, on the second floor of the breezeway).
  • Safer sex kits are also available at the front desk of the following residence halls:(+)
    • Indian River Towers
    • Glades Park Towers
    • Heritage Park Towers
    • Parliament Hall
    • University Village Apartments
    • Innovation Village North
    • Innovation Village South
    • These safer sex kits contain 6 condoms (with one exclusive “Owls Always Get Consent” condom), one package of water-based lubricant, and one instruction pamphlet. Latex-free safer sex kits are also available at each front desk. To obtain either kit, all you need to do is ask!

Spectrum of Risk

There are different levels of risk involved with any sexual activity.

  • LOW RISK:(+)
    • Kissing/Making out
    • Masturbation or mutual masturbation
    • Touching or massage
    • Fondling or body rubbing (includes dry humping or anything over-the-clothes)
    • Using clean sex toys and/or using a condom on sex toys
    • Phone sex, cyber-sex, dirty talk, or fantasy
    • Manual stimulation of one another (i.e. using fingers and hands)
    • Vaginal intercourse with an external (male) condom or internal (female) condom
    • Anal intercourse with an external or internal condom
    • Oral sex on a penis with a condom
    • Oral sex on a vulva or anus with a dental dam or Saran wrap
  • HIGH RISK:(+)
    • Vaginal intercourse without a condom
    • Anal intercourse without a condom
    • Oral sex without a condom, dental dam, or Saran wrap
    • This list is not all inclusive – there are many behaviors that you may engage with your partner that are not included here. Just know that all sexual activity comes with some level of risk. We want to arm you with the knowledge to assess the risk and lessen it, if possible.

Talking to your Partner

We know that talking to your partner about anything related to sex can be difficult, so here are some helpful tips.

  • It’s important to talk to one’s sexual partner before engaging in any kind of sexual activity. For a safer sexual experience, Owls Care Health Promotion encourages students to communicate openly and honestly with their sexual partners about their personal definition of sex, their sexual history, testing status, and preferred method of protection.
  • Many people feel shy or embarrassed when they talk about sex, whether it’s talking about what we want sexually or discussing our thoughts and feelings. There are many reasons for this. A few might include:(+)
    • Growing up with the messages of sex as “dirty” or it being impolite to talk about sex.
    • Worried about hurting their partner’s feelings.
    • Concern over how their partner will react.
    • Don’t want to seem sexually promiscuous.
    • Been with their partner for years and don’t know how to bring it up.
  • It’s normal to feel nervous when you’re talking about your sexual feelings and wants. It’s important to acknowledge this fear, and start the conversation anyway, even if it’s risky. Being vulnerable is hard, but it builds trust and intimacy in a relationship. And when you share your thoughts and feelings, you’re also giving your partner permission to share theirs. But make sure to plan when you have the conversation – don’t do it in bed!
  • Speaking openly and honestly with your partner is only half the battle. Listening is the other half! Simple things such as making eye contact, nodding your head, asking questions, and listening without interrupting can help to build trust. This also lets your partner know that what they say is important to you.
  • Communication can also make your sexual experience even sexier! It’s the best way for everyone to get what they want from the sexual relationship. You can talk about what you like and what you don’t like – and so can your partner!
  • Respect your partner and respect yourself. Sex is also about boundaries, so adhere to your partner’s the way you want them to adhere to yours.
  • If you think that talking about sex beforehand will ruin the mood, you’re in for a surprise. It can be a turn on for many! And besides, what’s sexier than being safe?
  • Don’t be afraid to laugh! When we talk about sex, it can be a serious topic, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t laugh and have fun with. Laughing can help break the ice.
  • Practice makes perfect! Everything gets better with practice. The more you talk, the easier it gets.

Condom Talk

It’s important to acknowledge that all sexual activity comes with risk and that it’s always safer to use a method of protection. But how do we bring that up with our partner?

  • Negotiating safer sex with your partner can seem like a daunting task. The following are some helpful suggestions to make things a little easier:
    • Make sure you’re talking about safer sex BEFORE you engage in any kind of physical activity. Stopping in the middle of something is difficult and you might lack the willpower to do so. You’ll want to listen to your partner – ideally, they’ve been thinking about safer sex too, but don’t count on it. Listen to your partner in a respectful way and give them time to think.
    • It’s time to LEARN. You want to learn as much as you can about safer sex so that you can make the most informed decision for you and your partner.
    • Rehearse what you want to say and keep talking about it. If you’re prepared for the conversation, you’ll be more confident and at ease. But talking about it once is not enough. Continual communication as your relationship evolves is needed.
    • Having these conversations while sober is critical. Alcohol and other drugs can impair your judgment and people often take chances that they otherwise wouldn’t have.
    • Carry a condom. And by this, we mean EVERYONE. Do not assume that it’s only your partner’s responsibility to provide one. And if you’ve got a condom on hand, then there’s no excuse not to have safer sex.(+)
      • Make sure your condoms are stored in a cool, dry place. They should NOT be carried in a wallet, left in the car, or be anywhere near sharp objects. Owls Care carries condom cases that help keep condoms safe.
      • Carrying a condom can also carry stigma. Let’s set the record straight. If you’ve got a condom, that means that you respect your body, your health, AND your partner. It is nothing to be ashamed of.

Talking to your Doctor

Having open and honest conversations with your doctor about your sex life can be intimidating and scary. Let’s think about strategies that might make things easier.

  • Talking about sexuality with your doctor is essential to appropriate care. Before you visit your doctor, here are some things you can do to prepare. (+)
    • See if there’s anything you need to do in advance. There might be some restrictions that you should be aware of (such as fasting, being able to give a urine sample, etc.) before your appointment.
    • If you’re experiencing any symptoms, write them down to bring with you. Even if it’s not related to your appointment, they are still pertinent for your doctor to know.
    • Create a list of all of your medications, vitamins, and supplements you’re taking (including over-the-counter).
    • Jot down any questions that you may have.
    • Have your updated, printed medical history (including family history) ready to give to your doctor. This gives them a clearer picture of your current state of health. They can keep this with your chart for future visits.
  • At the beginning of your appointment, the doctor may spend some time asking you questions about your sexual health. You’ll need to give them a complete report of any symptoms (if any) and your sexual history. This will help your doctor determine the appropriate care. Each doctor is different, so be prepared for these questions to be asked in a manner of ways. Questions can include: (+)
    • Who are you sexually active with?
    • What types of sexual activities do you engage in?
    • How many sex partners have you had in the past year? Currently?
    • How do you protect yourself from STIs and/or prevent pregnancy?
    • Have you been diagnosed with STI before?
    • When was your last sexual encounter?
  • Some doctors won’t bring up these questions. If your doctor doesn’t, then IT’S UP TO YOU. Practice bringing up the issue with your doctor before your appointment so you’re ready when the time comes.(+)
    • Based on what I’ve told you about my sexual history, should I get tested for STIs? Which ones?
    • I want to get tested before I have sex. Where should I go? How do I talk to my partner about it?
    • How can I best protect myself from STIs? What protection methods should I be using? Where can I get them?
    • Can you give me some advice on how to talk to my partner about STIs?
    • Are there any vaccines that I could get to help prevent STIs?
    • What screenings are recommended for someone my age?
  • At the doctor’s appointment, here’s a sample list of questions to ask if you’re diagnosed with an STI:(+)
    • How is it transmitted?
    • Is it possible to catch this again?
    • How long have I had this infection?
    • I just had sex with this person once. Could I have caught it then?
    • Can I give this infection to someone if I only had sex with them once?
    • Should I abstain from sex while being treated?
    • Should my partner come in to the doctor?
    • How do I tell my partner that I have an STI?

STI Talk

Let’s spend some time debunking myths and discussing health disparities surrounding STIs within the LGBTQ+ community.

  • Myths(+)
    • The first myth is that HIV is only a problem for gay men. While it’s true that gay men are disproportionately affected by HIV, it is not a “gay disease”. What is real is that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS among youth is growing. What’s alarming is that many do not know that they are infected with the virus. The good news is that HIV is extremely preventable with consistent and correct condom use. Click on the Safer Sex tab to get more info.
      • According to the CDC, men who have sex with men (MSM) have higher rates of STIs such as syphilis and HIV. Click here to learn more information.
    • Another myth is that lesbians cannot get STIs. While it IS true that women who sleep with other women are at lower risk for some infections, they can and do contract STIs. This is because any form of unprotected genital contact carries some risk. It is possible for a genital infection to spread to the throat (for example, chlamydia). This is why safer sex practices are so important, regardless of your sexual orientation.
      • At the heart of this myth is the idea that LGBTQ+ youth only need to worry about HIV, which isn’t true. Any genital contact that occurs without a protective barrier carries risk.
    • There are other factors that can put youth at risk for contracting STIs, and these factors often disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ youth. We’ll examine those in the next section.
    • A third myth perpetuates the idea that STIs are only a concern for people who have multiple sexual partners. Any sexual activity involves risk, especially if it is unprotected. You could have 1 partner or 20 partners; if it’s unprotected, the risk for STIs is present.
  • Health disparities(+)
    • Access to sex education
      • Comprehensive sex education in public schools is a unicorn – extremely rare and precious. When schools do have sex education, the focus can largely be on abstinence-until-marriage, with the entire LGBTQ+ community left unacknowledged. In this way, we are not preparing our youth, and particularly our LGBTQ+ youth, to make safer sex decisions.
    • Family support
      • Familial support and healthy communication between teens and parents are factors that can help prevent sexual risk-taking behaviors. If a youth is rejected by their family, they face an increased risk of exposure to STIs because they are more likely to engage in sexually risky activities.
    • Substance Abuse
      • Due to the effects of minority stress, substance abuse is higher in LGBTQ+ youth. In conjunction with familial rejection, the rates of use are even higher and use of substances has also been associated with risky sexual behaviors.
    • Poverty and Homelessness
      • LGBTQ+ youth experience high rates of homelessness (between 20% and 40% of homeless youth identify as LGBT). These youths face a high risk of assault and are more likely to engage in sex work in order to survive. These factors mean an increased potential for exposure to STIs. If a youth lives in poverty, they will often have limited access to health care, education, and other prevention resources. This puts them at a distinct disadvantage for protecting themselves when they decide to become sexually active.
    • Mental Health issues
      • LGBTQ+ youth are at an increased risk for depression, anxiety, and suicidality. Emotional distress, low self-esteem, and depression have all been linked to risky sexual behaviors, including sex at an early age, engaging in unprotected sex, and having multiple sex partners, which increases their risk of exposure to STIs. Because LGBTQ+ youth are at an increased risk for mental health issues, it also puts them more at risk for STI exposure.
  • At FAU, students of all identities are valued and respected. If and when you decide to have sex, it is your right to engage in sexual activity that is pleasurable, consensual, and safe.

Safer Sex

Practicing safer sex reduces your risk of contracting a sexually transmitted infection. Let’s talk more about how to stay safe!

  • Every BODY is different, and it’s important to acknowledge and embrace these differences, specifically when talking about how to stay safe during sexual activity.
  • We want to note that while everyone has their own names for their bodily organs, we will refer to body parts in the following sections by their anatomical names.
  • External and Internal condoms(+)
    • External condoms can be used on a penis or sex toy for penetrative intercourse. Flavored external condoms are used for oral sex on a penis. You can read more about how to properly use an external condom by clicking here.
    • Make sure to use a new condom for each new sex act. This prevents fluid contact and other health issues that may arise.
    • Internal condoms can be used to line the vaginal walls or the anus for penetrative intercourse. If the internal condom is used for anal sex, remove the inner ring. You can read more about how to properly use an internal condom by clicking here.
    • For anal intercourse, you can either insert the condom with your fingers, or place it over a penis or other phallus (including sex toys) before insertion.
  • Dental Dams(+)
    • Dental dams can be used for oral sex on an anus or a vulva/vagina. They are made of latex (and are usually flavored) and are very simple to use. You can read more about how to properly use a dental dam by clicking here.
    • You can make your own dental dam using a condom. Or you can use Saran wrap (but only the name brand).
  • Gloves(+)
    • Disposable gloves (such as latex or synthetic nitrile) can be used for digital penetration (fingers) and/or can be used to make a smaller barrier/condom to cover a t-penis or elongated clitoris.
    • For a “How-To” on making these safer sex materials, please visit here to download the booklet “Healthy Bodies Safer Sex” by Anna Benbrook and Beth Thompson.

Sexual Health Peer Education

Interested in educating others about STIs and safer sex practices? Then enroll in PET 4930: Sexual Health Peer Education through the Department of Exercise Science and Health Promotion. Earn 3 credits while developing your public speaking and presentation skills. Contact 561-297-1048 for more information.

 Last Modified 10/4/16