Sexual Wellbeing

blue banner that reads: your sexual health matters. don't worry, we've got you covered.

 

GW Health Promotion and Education understands the importance of sexual health in overall wellbeing. We are committed to providing comprehensive sexual health resources to our entire campus community.

What is Sexual Wellbeing?

Sexual wellbeing is about more than just the act of having sex. Emotional, physical, spiritual, cultural, environmental, and social health all play a role in overall sexual wellbeing, and everyone’s sexual wellbeing looks different. No matter where you’re coming from, we are here to support you.

FREE On-Campus STI Testing

Health Promotion & Education and DC Health are collaborating to provide free gonorrhea and chlamydia testing and treatment to all students, regardless of insurance. Testing is first come, first served; no RSVP needed!

Our next STI Testing event will be: 

March 4th, 2024 from 11am to 3pm.

University Student Center

Ground Floor

Add This Event To Your Calendar

Learn More About DC Health

Junk Mail

Want FREE safer sex products and pregnancy tests? Can't make it to the Student Support Center?

Introducing Junk Mail, a collaboration between the GW Office of Health Promotion & Education and GW RAGE. We offer free delivery of safer sex products to students living in on-campus residence halls in discrete packaging. Your name and residential information will not be shared with or visible to anyone outside of the team packing your order.

Junk Mail Order Form

 

Wanna learn more about sexual health? Explore our collection of topics below!

Consent

The resources listed on this page are not emergency services. If you are in need of immediate assistance, call 9-1-1 or GW Emergency Services (202-994-6111) 


Consent is...

  • Freely given - Consenting is a choice you make without pressure or manipulation
  • Reversible - Anyone can change their mind at any time, no matter what
  • Informed - You can only consent to something if you have the full story
  • Enthusiastic - You should only do things you WANT to do, not things you feel you're expected to do
  • Specific - Saying yes to one thing (like going to the bedroom to make out) doesn't mean you've said yes to other things (like having sex)
  • Not possible if someone in inebriated or under the legal age of consent (which is 16 in DC)

*** This definition is adapted from Planned Parenthood's Sexual Consent website.


 

On-Campus Resources

 

STI/HIV

 Getting yourself tested is a normal and healthy part of being sexually active. 

Students can get in-person STI/HIV testing at the Student Health Center. Make an appointment online or call (202) 994-5300 during normal business hours.

Schedule an appointment with SHC

Check out these community resources for free walk-in and at-home STI/HIV testing!

Get Checked DC

Free at-home or walk-in STI/HIV testing available for DC residents.

Whitman-Walker

The GMHW Sexual Health Clinic offers free HIV and STI testing appointments to everyone in the community.

STI treatment is also available here!

TAKEMEHOME

Free at-home HIV, STI, and PrEP panel tests. Kits are mailed to you in 1-3 business days in discrete packaging.

Get Tested - CDC

A search tool to find free, fast, and confidential STI/HIV testing near you.

Who should get tested for STIs/HIV?

If you are sexually active, you should get tested! By age 24, half of all sexually active people will get an STI, and most won't know because they won't have any symptoms. Testing is the only way to know for sure whether or not you have an STI.

If you use it, test it! Almost all STIs that spread through penis-vagina sex can be spread through oral and anal sex. No matter what kind of sex you're having, it's recommended to get tested at least once a year. If you have sex with multiple partners, or don't use condoms/barriers every time you have sex, then you may want to get tested more frequently.

Everyone's specific STI/HIV testing needs are different, so talk to your healthcare provider about the most appropriate testing for you!

I Tested Positive, Now What?

A positive result on an STI test can feel overwhelming. If you need support, GW Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) is a safe, judgment-free and confidential resource. CAPS offers both in-person and virtual walk-in sessions daily between 12pm and 4pm. To connect with a clinician, visit the Student Health Center or call (202) 994-5300

Know that your STI/HIV status does not define you. All STIs, including HIV are treatable, and many are curable! After a positive test, talk with your healthcare provider to discuss a treatment plan that's right for you. 

On-Campus Treatment Options: 

Student Health Center

Located on the Ground Floor of the University Student Center, the SHC provides high quality medical care to all GW students

SHIP FAQ

Click here to learn more about the GW Student Health Insurance Plan

Off-Campus Free/Low-Cost Treatment Options:

Mary's Center

Multiple locations. Book an appointment online or call

(844)-796-2797

Check out these resources to learn more:

What Are STDs And How Are They Transmitted?

Understanding HIV and AIDS

HIV.gov

CDC Fact Sheets - STIs

TheBody.com

Condoms & Safer Sex Products

Free safer sex products are available in the Student Support Center, located on the Ground Floor of the University Student Center next to the Student Health Center, during normal business hours. 

If you are an on-campus organization or department interested in providing safer sex products to your students, click here!


Sexual barriers include external condoms, internal condoms, dental dams, and capes. When used correctly, sexual barriers can protect against STIs/HIV and can prevent pregnancy.

Important Tips:

  • Never use a condom more than once! No barrier method is reusable.

  • Pick ONE -- using more than one condom at once can cause both methods to tear and be ineffective. 

  • Don't store condoms in places with lots of friction or heat (e.g., wallet, car dashboard)

  • Condoms expire! Each condom has an expiration date printed on the package. Condoms past their expiration are more likely to tear during use.

 
assortment of different colored and rolled external condoms

External condoms are placed over an erect penis or sex toy. They typically come in latex or non-latex options like polyurethane or polyisoprene. Natural membrane condoms also exist (e.g., lambskin), but natural membrane condoms do not protect against STIs/HIV.

A note on language: While some brands label their products as "male condoms," we maintain the term "external condoms" because not all folks who use them identify as male.

Not one size fits all! The most effective external condom is the one that fits correctly. Condoms come in many different sizes, so feel free to experiment with different types so you can find the size that works for you!

Did you know? External condoms come in lots of different textures, flavors, and styles that can make sex more pleasurable!

How to Use an External Condom   How to Find Your Condom Size

 
 

Internal condoms are inserted into the vagina or anus.

GW provides free FC2 brand internal condoms, which are latex-free and pre-lubricated with silicone lube on the inside. 

You can insert an internal condom up to 2 hours before use, making them a great option for being prepared an in control of your body!

A note on language: While some brands label their products as "female condoms," we maintain the term "internal condom" because not all folks using internal condoms identify as female. Also, internal condoms are great for anal sex, and everyone has an anus!

How to Use an Internal Condom

FC2 internal condom package

 
Trust brand dental dams in assorted flavors

Dental Dams are latex or polyurethane sheets used between the mouth and vagina or anus during oral sex. They come in a variety of flavors and are safe to use with water-based or silicone-based lubes.

In a pinch, you can make dental dams out of external/internal condoms! Click the button below to learn more.

How to Use a Dental Dam

 


 

Capes are a do-it-yourself barrier that's great for folks who have a t-penis or enlarged clitoris. They're great for protecting against STIs because they keep bodily fluids separate. Feel free to use water-based or silicone based lube with capes!
 
To make a cape:
1. Find a non-powdered latex or nitrile glove and a pair of scissors
2. Cut off the fingers of the glove, leaving the thumb intact
3. Cut down the side opposite of the thumb
4. To use your cape, insert the t-penis into the thumb of the glove and lay the rest flat over the pelvic area
 
This image is from Florida State University's resource guide, "Healthy Bodies Safer Sex: A comprehensive guide to safer sex, relationships, and reproductive health for trans or non-binary people and their partners." To view the full guide, click here.

instructions on how to make a cape
 

Did you know? Lube can make sex safer and more pleasurable? Check out these resources to learn more!

Can I Use Lube to Make Sex Safer?5 Myths About Lube, Busted

ID glide water based lube packet

Water-Based Lubes

  • Always safe to use with condoms and sex toys
  • Wash off people and fabric easily 
  • Can be better for folks with sensitive skin
  • Don't last as long as silicone, but you can always add more!
ID millennium silicone based lube packet

Silicone-Based Lubes

  • Always safe to use with condoms
  • Safe to use with sex toys EXCEPT toys made with silicone 
  • Great for anal sex
  • Less sticky than water-based and last longer
  • Waterproof -- great for shower sex but can be hard to wash off body/fabric

 

 

Birth Control & Emergency Contraception
blue banner that reads "birth control" and has different birth control methods dispersed throughout

Birth control can be a great tool for being in control and setting your own agenda. It allows a person to decide whether they want to become pregnant, and can have several health benefits. 

There are many different types of birth control to choose from. The best type of birth control is the one you can remember to use consistently and correctly. 

For more comprehensive information on birth control methods, check out Bedsider.org's explore page!

Explore Birth Control Options

Birth Control Method Comparison Table

 

Where can I get birth control?

You can get birth control through your primary healthcare provider. The Student Health Center (SHC) offers multiple birth control options, including the pill. While the SHC does not currently provide IUD/Nexplanon insertions on-campus, students interested in these methods can get a referral to one of our clinical partners through SHC. 

Community clinics like Planned Parenthood offer free or low-cost access to birth control, including LARCs and the pill. 

Condoms are available to all students for free in the Student Support Center, located on the ground floor of the University Student Center.

What are LARCs?

LARC stands for Long-Acting Reversible Contraception. They include IUDs and the implant. There are 2 types of IUDs: hormonal (Mirena, Skyla, LILETTA, and Kyleena), and non-hormonal (ParaGard, aka the copper IUD). IUDs are inserted into the uterus by a healthcare provider and can last for a few years. The implant only comes in one form (Nexplanon) and is hormonal. It is about the size of a matchstick and is inserted into the arm by a healthcare provider. The implant can also last a few years before needing to be replaced. All hormonal LARCs are progesterone-only, which can be a great option for folks sensitive to estrogen.

Benefits of LARCs include:

  • They're discrete -- no one can tell you have an IUD/an implant. 
  • Set it and forget it -- once you have your LARC, you are good to go for 3-12 years. No need to remember to take anything everyday like the pill.
  • They're one of the most effective methods available -- because LARCs are "set it and forget it," they're easy to use perfectly. They can be up to 99.9% effective in preventing pregnancy.
  • They're completely reversible -- if you decide later you want to become pregnant, simply have your LARC removed. Using LARCs will not affect your long-term fertility. 
  • Copper IUD can be used as emergency contraception!

What is Emergency Contraception (EC)?

Emergency contraception can help prevent pregnancy if your primary method of birth control fails. Emergency contraception is NOT the same as abortion -- EC stops pregnancy before it starts, whereas abortions stop pregnancies that have already started.

EC is more effective the sooner you take it. EC can be effective within 5 days of unprotected sex, but it most effective within the first 72 hours. The sooner you take it, the better chance it will stop pregnancy before it starts.

There are 2 types of EC: the "morning after" pill and the copper IUD.

  • Over-the-counter EC pills, like the Plan B pill (levonogestrel), are a great option for folks under 155 lbs.
    • You can find Plan B on campus at the vending machines in District House and West Hall, available 24/7 for $15.
    • Foggy Bottom Plan B (@fbplanb) offers free, confidential Plan B delivery by peers. Deliveries are typically completed within 24 hours.
  • For folks weighing more than 155 lbs, healthcare providers can prescribe the Ella (Ulipristal) pill or offer the copper IUD.
    • The Student Health Center offers Plan B and the Ella pill free with SHIP (other health insurance plans may also cover these). Providers are available 24/7.
  • Copper is a natural and highly effective spermicide and work for all folks regardless of bodyweight. If you don't already have a copper IUD, your healthcare provider can give you one within the same time frame as the morning after pill (effective up to 5 days after unprotected sex, but most effective within the first 72 hours). 
Menstrual Health

Menstrual Equity For All, Period!

We are committed to supporting, uplifting, and empowering all those who menstruate to ensure physical, mental, and academic well-being. The purpose of this page is to highlight important resources on and around campus that promote menstrual health and equity, and provide accurate information about menstruation and menstrual products. 

What Is Menstrual Equity?

Menstrual equity is ensuring menstrual products are safe, affordable, and available to all people who menstruate. Many college students have experienced period poverty, which is the limited or inadequate access to menstrual products or menstrual health education as a result of financial constraints or negative sociocultural stigmas associated with menstruation.

Students face a wide range of academic barriers when they lack access to menstrual health resources: 

Knowing Your Body

Try to pay attention to your body, and notice if you are bleeding more or less than usual. If something isn’t normal for you, then it is important to talk to a healthcare provider you trust.

Tracking Your Cycle

Tracking your menstrual cycle can help you to know your body so that you can bring up any concerns to your medical provider. Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, there has been increased concern about period tracking apps sharing user data. Here are some apps that we recommend:

Euki | Data is stored locally on your device rather than in a cloud. PIN protection and data deletion features are available for extra security. In addition to period tracking, Euki offers sexual and reproductive health information and telehealth/abortion support resources.

drip. | Like Euki, drip stores data locally on your device rather than in the cloud. You can track just your period or add fertility tracking using the symptothermal method.

Want to avoid apps altogether? Check out this article about on-paper period tracking: How To Track Your Menstrual Cycle Without An App

If You Use Hormones

Hormones affect different bodies in different ways. Not everyone uses or wants to use hormones, and that's okay! For those that do choose to use hormones, here are some resources that may be helpful.

Testosterone and the menstrual cycle (Clue)
The pill and your period (Clue)
Heavy Periods and Birth Control (University of Colorado)

Want to learn more about birth control? Click on our Birth Control and Emergency Contraception tab!

Gender and Menstruation

Menstruators can be any gender. For many menstruators who are trans and non-binary, monthly bleeding may trigger dysphoria. Remember that your identity, feelings, and experiences are all valid, and you are amazing! Here are some resources that may help you take care of your physical and mental well-being during this time.

  • What its like to get your period when you're trans (Clue) | This article showcases testimonials from transgender and non-binary folks about menstruation. It includes lived experiences and advice on dealing with gender dysphoria and menstruation.
  • Trans@GW | This website provides information and resources to support all transgender members of the GW community.
  • GW Gender Inclusive Bathroom Map | An interactive map of all gender-inclusive bathrooms at GW.

How Can I Practice Good Menstrual Hygiene?

Questions about hygiene are common! We support having open conversations about our bodies and destigmatizing menstrual health and hygiene.

Menstrual hygiene practices can prevent infections, reduce odors, and help you stay comfortable during your period.

  • To help avoid the possibility of infection, try to wash the outer pelvic area daily with unscented soap and water. 
  • Replace any absorbency product at least every 4 hours.
  • Wash your hands before and after changing menstrual products to keep yourself and others healthy.

Not sure which menstrual products are right for you? Check out our product guide below!

Absorbency Method / Product Guide

Free bleeding means menstruating without using tampons, pads, or other menstrual products to absorb or collect your flow. Some folks only free bleed at night during sleep, and some free bleed during the day.
 
Cost: Free!
Flow Level: Any!
Potential Benefits: 
Available and accessible to anyone all the time because it doesn't require any specific products -- just yourself and a willingness to free bleed! Good for overnight.
Things to consider:
Can be messy You may need to wear dark-colored clothing if you want to conceal your bleeding.
 
multiple pairs of period underwear in feminine and masculine styles

Period underwear is washable, reusable underwear that absorbs menstrual flow without additional products. 
 
Cost:
  • $10 - $45/pair
Flow Level:
  • Light to Medium
Potential Benefits:
  • Available in different underwear styles and absorbency levels
  • Reusable and environmentally friendly
  • Can be worn as a back-up with another absorbency product
  • No need to worry about carrying menstrual products
  • Many different brands
  • Some companies offer them as boxer-briefs that may align more with one’s gender
Things to consider:
  • Can be expensive
  • Needs to be washed and dried regularly, often requires multiple pairs per cycle
  • Not commonly available in brick and mortar stores; may have to purchase online
 

Liners are thin, absorbent pads that absorb vaginal discharge or light flow. 
Cost:
  • ~$7/box
Flow Level:
  • Light or spotting
Potential Benefits:
  • Good for when you have spotting or a light flow
  • Can be used with tampons to catch any leaks
  • Thin and often comfortable
Things to consider:
  • Not good for use alone when your flow is medium or heavy

an open liner laying on top of 4 blue-wrapped liners on a patch of grass
 
 
an unwrapped pad laying on top of two wrapped pads and leaves on a concrete step

Disposable pads are single-use absorbency products that lay flat inside underwear and absorb menstrual flow. They typically have adhesive and/or wings to help stay in place. They come in a variety of absorbency levels.
 
Cost:
  • ~$7/box
Flow Level:
  • Variety
Potential Benefits:
  • Good for overnight use
  • No need to insert anything
  • Sold in variety packs or according to your flow level
Things to consider:
  • Does not work well with thongs or boxers
  • Can sometimes leak more than insertive methods
 

Reusable pads are typically made from soft, washable fabrics like cotton or bamboo. They work the same way as disposable pads, except they are washable and reusable. They can be purchased or made at home.
 
Cost:
  • Varies, but generally $10-$20
  • Can be cheaper if you make your own.
Flow Level:
  • Variety
Potential Benefits:
  • Reusable and environmentally friendly
  • Good for overnight use
  • No need to insert anything
Things to consider:
  • Do not work well with thongs or boxers
  • Can sometimes leak more than insertive methods

reusable pads displayed in a row. two are yellow, two are green, and two are gray.
 
 
two unwrapped tampons laying on top of 4 wrapped tampons on a patch of grass

Tampons are inserted into the vagina to absorb menstrual flow. They are made of cotton, rayon, or a blend of the two. Some brands come with a plastic applicator, like the ones pictured here, and some do not have applicators. 
 
Cost:
  • ~$7/box
Flow Level:
  • Variety
Potential Benefits:
  • Can be used while swimming
  • Can use with any kind of underwear
  • Sold in variety packs or single size according to your flow level
Things to consider:
  • Requires comfort with insertion
  • Needs to be changed every 4-6 hours; otherwise may increase risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome 
  • Not recommended for use overnight because you should consider changing every 4 hours
 

Menstrual discs are flexible, shallow discs that are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual flow.
 
Cost:
  • $10-$45
Flow Level:
  • Variety
Potential Benefits:
  • Can be used while swimming
  • Available in disposable or reusable/eco friendly options
  • Can use with any kind of underwear
  • More flexible than menstrual cups
  • Can be worn up to 12 hours, depending on your flow
  • Can be worn during sex
Things to consider:
  • Some are reusable, some are disposable
  • Requires comfort with insertion
  • Typically only sold according to one flow level

photo of a menstrual disc on concrete steps surrounded by orange leaves. menstrual disc packaging in the background;
 
 
clear menstrual cup on peach colored background

Menstrual cups are small, flexible cups that are inserted into the vagina to collect menstrual flow.
Cost:
  • $20 - $40/cup
Flow Level:
  • Variety
Potential Benefits:
  • Can be used while swimming
  • Can use with any kind of underwear
  • Reusable and environmentally friendly
  • With proper care, and depending on the model, cups can last up to 8 years
  • Can be worn for up to 12 hours
  • Can wear overnight
Things to consider:
  • Requires comfort with insertion
  • Have to make sure they are made of medical grade silicone and that you buy from a trusted brand
 

Flow Chart

The Flow Chart can help visualize your flow, so you can figure out what level of absorbency you need!

 

Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS)

Toxic shock syndrome (TSS) is a collection of symptoms that can arise from certain bacterial infections and can affect many different parts of the body. 

How can someone acquire TSS? Since tampons were redesigned in the 1980s, TSS has not been common. Risk factors include using super-absorbent tampons, surgical wounds, local infections, recent childbirth, miscarriage, or abortion, and using insertive menstrual products for prolonged periods of time.
How can someone prevent acquiring TSS? Regularly changing or cleaning your menstrual products and washing your pelvic area are great ways to prevent the onset of TSS.

 

FAQ's

  • Is my menstrual pain normal? Mild to moderate cramps for one or two days during your menstrual cycle are usually normal. However, painful periods that impact your daily functioning aren't normal. If you experience painful and intense menstrual cramps that can feel debilitating and interfere with your everyday activities, you may have treatment options.
  • Will using tampons/menstrual cups make me lose my virginity? The concept of “virginity” is subjective; not everyone uses the same definition! If you don’t think that using tampons or any other menstrual products affects your perception of virginity, then it doesn’t.
  • If I'm on my period, can I get pregnant? Yes, it is possible to get pregnant if you have unprotected sex during your period. It is not very common, but can happen. You are most likely to get pregnant when you have sex right before or during ovulation.
  • Can I have sex on my period? 
    Yes! Orgasms have been known to even relieve menstrual cramps. However, having sex on your period does not protect you from pregnancy or STIs. Be sure to use the same barrier methods / birth control you normally use for sex not on your period!
  • Can I donate blood on my period? Yes you can!  Any form of blood loss can cause hemoglobin and iron levels to drop. When you are on your period, these levels may drop slightly lower. However, as long as your hemoglobin level remains above the recommended 11 gram/deciliter, it is safe to donate blood!
  • Can I use birth control to skip my period? Yes! Your healthcare provider can help you navigate your options and work out a plan that works best for you. 
    • Birth control pills: It's possible to delay or prevent your period with extended or continuous use of a combined estrogen-progestin birth control pill.
    • Intrauterine Device (IUD): Hormonal IUDs can reduce frequency and duration of menstrual bleeding. For some folks, IUDs can stop menstruation entirely. 

 

*** This guide was adapted from the UC Davis Menstrual Health page. Click the link to learn even more about menstrual health!

 

HPV and Cervical Health

What is HPV?

Human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most common STI in the US. It mainly affects people in their late teens and early 20's. HPV is spread by having vaginal, anal, or oral sex with someone who has the virus. You can spread the infection to someone else even if you have no symptoms, and symptoms can develop years after contracting the virus. This makes it hard to know when you first got it. There are multiple different strains of HPV. While most cases of HPV go away on their own within 1-2 years, some strains cause genital warts and others cause certain types of cancers.

HPV is responsible for over 90% of cervical and anal cancers, about 70% of vaginal and vulvar cancers, and 60% of penile cancers. Recent studies show 60-70% of oropharyngeal cancers may be linked to HPV as well. Click here for more information on HPV and cancer.

HPV Prevention

The HPV vaccine, known as Gardasil 9, is a safe and effective way to prevent HPV. Gardasil 9 prevents HPV infections that can progress to cancer or genital warts. Just like any vaccine, Gardasil 9 only prevents infections -- it is not a treatment. If you have already been exposed to a particular strain of HPV, getting the vaccine can't heal the infection. However, it can protect against other strains you have not encountered yet. For people ages 15-26, Gardasil 9 will be delivered as a three dose series. HPV vaccines are typically covered by insurance plans and are available at a doctors office or pharmacy. 

Using barriers during sex, including condoms and dental dams, can also help prevent HPV.

Pap Tests

A pap test (aka "pap smear") is a medical procedure used to find abnormalities in cervical cells that could lead to cervical cancer. Typically, high-grade changes in cervical cells take 3-7 years to become cancer. By getting pap tests regularly, providers can identify abnormalities early on and offer necessary treatment to prevent cancer from developing. Pap tests save lives!

What happens during a pap test? You will be asked to undress from the waist down and lie on your back. A healthcare provider will use a speculum, a small instrument shaped like a duck bill, to separate the walls of the vagina to see the cervix. Then, they will collect a small sample of cells from the cervix using a small swab. The collected cells are then sent to a lab for analysis. The entire procedure only takes a few minutes. While it may be slightly uncomfortable, pap tests should not hurt.

During your appointment, your provider may also perform a bi-manual exam, where they place one or two fingers inside the vagina and the lower hand on the abdomen to feel for any cysts on the ovaries. However, if you don't want a bi-manual exam, then you do not have to get one. You are in control!

Who should get a pap test? Anyone with a cervix. This includes cisgender women, nonbinary folks, and trans men who have not had bottom surgery. Trans women who have had bottom surgery that includes a neo-vagina or neo-cervix may need pap tests as well.  Check out this article to learn more: "As a trans woman, do I need to get screened for cervical cancer?"

How often do I need to get a pap test? You should get your first pap test at age 21 and continue getting them every 3 years. After age 30, your recommendations may be different depending on your body and your medical history.

Where can I get a pap test?

  • If you have SHIP, the Student Health Center will refer you to a gynecology provider for your pap test. Your SHIP plan will cover the full cost of your pap test as long as you use an in-network provider.
  • If you do not have SHIP, your regular primary care provider can refer you to a gynecology provider for a pap test. Alternatively, you can receive a pap test at a community clinic. 

Here are some local clinics we recommend:

Project WISH

Provides free cervical cancer screening and diagnostic follow-up to DC residents who qualify.

Phone: (202) 442-5900

 

How to Advocate for Yourself During Your Appointment

You are in control of your appointment. Your body, your rules! Here are some helpful tips for making your appointment as comfortable as possible:

Be explicit with your provider. It may be helpful to make a note of what you want to tell your provider before your appointment. Here are some examples of things some folks may want to communicate before and during an appointment:

  • I practice weight-neutral health, so I like to focus on my health and not my body size.
  • Actually, my pronouns are ___.
  • Can you please tell me exactly what you are doing during the exam as you do it?
  • Can you please not tell me what you are doing during the exam as you do it?
Communication & Pleasure 

 

Communication is Key!

Talking about sex can be difficult or awkward, but it doesn't have to be. Sexual communication is key to maintaining informed consent, being in control of your body, and prioritizing pleasure. With practice, talking about sex can start to come naturally. It can even help set the mood!

Communicating Your Wants and Needs

Exploring what you like doesn't have to be taboo! Everyone has different sexual needs. Open and honest communication is the foundation of healthy and pleasurable sexual activity. What you might like is something your partner also may like, but if they are not comfortable, that is okay too! It is important to understand each other’s boundaries.
Tip: Try making a list of turn ons and turn offs, then talk about it with your partner(s) and figure out what you are all comfortable with! 

Get the Conversation Going!

Not sure where to start? Try some of these questions and phrases:

Before sex

  • When was your last STI/HIV test?

  • What safer sex methods are you comfortable with?

  • Are you on birth control?

  • Do you have any allergies (ex: latex)?

  • Would you feel comfortable with a safe word?

  • Do you have any triggers?

When you want to explore your sexual desires

  • Do you want to try …?

  • How would you feel if we tried …?

  • I’ve been thinking about trying … would that be okay with you?

  • I’d really like to __, would you be into that?

When you want to check in with your partner(s)

  • Does this feel good?

  • Do you like it when I …?

  • Would you like it if I tried …?

  • How does this feel?

If you aren't feeling it or change your mind

  • Can we take a minute?

  • I’m not sure if that feels good for me, can we try … instead?

  • I thought I might like this, but I’m not feeling comfortable.

  • I’m not feeling this right now. I want to stop.

When you want to validate your partner(s)

  • That really turns me on.

  • I like when you …

  • It feels good when you do that.

 

Communication After Sex

Communication doesn't end when sex is over! Talk to your partner about what kind of aftercare you need.

Aftercare is a broad term for how you and your partner(s) support each other after sex. It can look different for everybody -- here are some examples:

  • Cuddling
  • No touching
  • Getting some water
  • Having a snack
  • Taking a shower
  • Going to sleep

For more information on aftercare, check out this article from Bedsider.org: Do you have a sexual aftercare practice? Here's why you should.

Check out the resources below to learn more!

Your Guide to Bringing Up Sexual Health with Someone New

Healthy Relationships - OAS  

Let's Talk About It! A Guide to Consent and Sexcessful Communication - UC Davis

 

 

 

Masturbation

 

What is Masturbation?

Masturbation is the act of stimulating the genitals or other areas of the body for pleasure. It is a normal part of sexual wellbeing and can have several health benefits!

Whether you've done it before or are just starting out, check out the following information and tips for healthy masturbation.

Masturbating is Normal!

Society puts a lot of shame and stigma on masturbation, but deciding to masturbate is nothing to be ashamed of! People masturbate for all different reasons, and it’s common for people of any age or gender to do it. Masturbating is a personal decision and is a unique experience for everyone. People may masturbate because:
  • It helps them relax
  • They want to release sexual tension
  • They don’t have a partner or their partner is not around
  • It feels good!

Masturbating is Healthy!

When you have an orgasm, your body releases endorphins, which are hormones that block pain and make you feel good. There is no risk of getting pregnant or getting an STD – it’s the safest kind of sex.

Research has shown masturbation can:

  • Release sexual tension
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve sleep quality
  • Improve self-esteem and body image
  • Make it easier to have orgasms 
  • Increase arousal and/or sex drive
  • Relieve menstrual cramps and muscle tension
  • Strengthen muscle tone in your pelvic and anal areas

Masturbation Tips

  • Wash your hands before touching your genitals
  • Masturbate in a safe and comfortable environment that allows you to relax
  • Take your time. It takes everyone a different amount of time to reach an orgasm 
  • Using lubricant can lower friction and make things more pleasurable 
  • Be sure to clean sex toys before and after use
  • Don't use silicone lube with silicone toys  
  • Feel free to explore and experiment! 

Masturbation and Partner Sex

Masturbating is a great way to figure out your sexual preferences, which you can communicate with your partner(s) to make sex with them more pleasurable. This could include:

  • Where you like to be touched
  • How fast or slow you like to be touched
  • How much pressure feels good
Masturbation can help you to become comfortable with sex and can make it easier to reach an orgasm! It also may increase intimacy with your partner. Tip: Masturbating doesn't always have to be a solo thing! Learn more: What is Mutual Masturbation, Anyway?

I’ve Got a Roommate. How Can I Masturbate?!

It can be tricky to find time for privacy when living in a shared space. To ensure everyone's privacy and space are respected, it can be helpful to discuss boundaries with your roommates. Having a tough conversation early on may help lessen awkwardness later.
If you share a room:
  • Try setting up a code word or other communication method for when you or your roommate needs the room
  • Share your schedules! There may be times where your roommate will have class/won't be home when you are. A shared google calendar or adding each other on Find My Friends could help with this!
  • Try masturbating in the shower!

If you have your own room:

  • Try playing music or putting on a movie/show
  • Lock your bedroom door to avoid walk-ins
  • If you don’t feel comfortable setting up a code word, try making up excuses as to why you need alone time
  • Do a sound check! 

For more tips, see this post from Go Ask Alice! -- No Privacy to Masturbate.

Check out the resources below to learn more:

Masturbation

How to Masturbate with a Vagina: 28 Tips and Tricks for Solo Play

How to Masturbate if you have a Penis: 12 Tips and Techniques

Masturbating While Trans: How to Get Off and Stay Gender Euphoric

A Step--by-Step Guide to Mutual Masturbation

 

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Additional Resources:

Sexual + Being  

Sex Is...   

TheBody.com   

Go Ask Alice!   

Bedsider.org   

American Sexual Health Association   

CDC STI Fact Sheets