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If you are having sex or are thinking about having sex, it’s important that you are aware of your options when it comes to having safer sex. It is also important that you have a positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships.

Having healthy relationships and a fulfilling sex life ultimately comes down to communication. Openly and honestly sharing your wants, needs, and boundaries with your partner is the best way to ensure everyone is comfortable and happy.

Communication becomes particularly important when giving and asking for consent. The following are some basics on consent:

  • Enthusiastic consent is required for any kind of sex. It is given freely, with phrases like, “Yes!” or “I want you!” or “More!”.
  • Non-consent can take many forms. It can be given verbally, by saying “no,” “that hurts,” or “stop”. It can also be given nonverbally, by avoiding touch, staying silent, or shaking your head.
  • The lack of a “no” does not means “yes.”
  • Consent to one act does not imply consent to other acts or to sex again in the future.
  • Consent can be revoked at any point during sex.
  • Being in a relationship does not imply consent.
  • Clothing or flirting do not imply consent.
  • Alcohol and drug use can make consent tricky. As a rule of thumb, if someone is too intoxicated to drive, they’re too intoxicated to have sex.
  • Someone who is passed out or unconscious cannot give consent.

If you encounter any signs of non-consent or want to be sure that your partner’s active participation is enthusiastic consent, stop and check in. You can ask your partner, “Does this feel good?” or “How are you doing?”.

Checking in doesn’t have to be reserved for sex. Good communication with your partner about your sex life is the best way to ensure that everyone is enjoying themselves. Talking about sex and sexual preferences can be awkward, but chances are you and your partner will be glad you started the conversation.

For additional information, Planned Parenthood breaks down the basics of consent, and this video covers how to talk to your partner about having safer sex.

There are a variety of methods to prevent unintended pregnancy and/or STI transmission. They break down into a few major categories, each with their pros and cons. For additional information on various birth control methods, visit Planned Parenthood’s website, or schedule a contraception consultation at UChicago Student Wellness.

Emergency contraception, or EC, is a birth control method that is used after unprotected sex or birth control failure. There are a variety of options, but with all of them, it’s important to take action soon after unprotected sex to ensure they work properly. To learn more, visit the Planned Parenthood website. Some same-day appointments are available for emergency contraception prescriptions at UChicago Student Wellness.

  • Gynecological exams are recommended for anyone age 21 and older. Whether you identify as straight, lesbian, bisexual, trans, questioning, etc., good gynecological care is an important part of overall health. Exams are also an opportunity to talk to a clinician about any sexual health or reproductive concerns and to discuss general women's health care. Read more on scheduling a gynecological exam at UChicago Student Wellness.
  • STI screenings are also important to a healthy sex life. You should have open communication with your partner about STI status. In addition to this, though you can use barrier methods to protect from STIs, it is recommended that you and your partner be screened. UChicago Student Wellness offers confidential STI testing for all students. You will receive your results within 3 days. For more information about STIs, please visit the American Sexual Health Association.

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