Unprotected Sex: Are Students Still Not Being Safe?

Sex. Mostly everybody’s doing it, but is anyone really talking about it? No, I don’t mean post-sex details in the locker room or gossiping in class. I’m talking about having that necessary conversation before sex takes place. 

While students should confirm that sex is mutually consensual first and foremost, “safe sex” is another pressing matter to be addressed. Assuring beforehand that sex will be protected seems to be a taboo conversation for college students, yet they are still jumping into bed together. 

A spring 2014 survey conducted by the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment (ACHA-NCHA) questioned 66, 9887 undergraduates from 140 colleges and universities in the United States. The findings include: 

1) 17.3 percent of students have had at least three or more partners in the past 12 months. 

2) 17.9 percent of students cited that they “never or rarely” used a condom in the past 30 days.

3) 44.2 percent of students answered “no” to whether or not they used a method to prevent pregnancy last time they had vaginal intercourse. 

4) 35.6 percent of female students are not on birth control.

The data proves that students are having sex and not always being smart about it, but why?

Brad Rubin, a senior criminal justice student, believes guys simply don’t like to wear condoms. “They take away a lot of the feeling and are just annoying overall. I have some friends that don’t wear condoms a lot of the time and they have had pregnancy and/or STD scares. I’ve told them this could have been prevented,” he said.

Rubin said males often don’t expect to wear condoms especially if their sexual partner is on the pill. They resort to the pull out method and assume that is safe enough.

Director of Health Services, Kathy Maloney, attributed serial monogamy to this college sex culture. “This practice involves a person with a single partner at any given time. However, the sexual partner may only last a few months and then the person moves on to the next partner.” Maloney said. 

Perhaps this is why some students feel comfortable with no protection. An anonymous senior communication major said, “Unprotected sex has become a common theme in the college atmosphere. As a guy, I know that I prefer sex with no condom. I place complete trust in the girl that I’m with.” 

However, the obvious risks of unprotected sex are still apparent even if you believe it’s just a two way street with you and your partner. 

“Sexual practices that involve multiple partners even with a serial monogamy scenario versus concomitant partners, still increase exposure to sexually transmitted diseases,” Maloney continued.

Maloney pointed out that condoms protect against sexually transmitted diseases (STD’s) transmitted through body fluids like Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and HIV. On the other hand, they do not provide full protection for STD’s transmitted by the skin, like herpes, HPV and molluscum.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, each year half of the new 20 million STD’s that are diagnosed are of people from 15 to 24-years-old. Stanford University’s Sexual Health Peer Resource Center, estimates that one in four college students has an STD or sexually transmitted infection (STI).

For students in relationships or who have a casual sex “buddy,”  there might be an agreement to not use protection. But for those who experience one-night stands or encounter a new partner, bringing up the use of protection can simply be forgotten in the heat of the moment. Many of us have been educated on pregnancy and STD’s since high school sex education, so why are students still engaging in this risky behavior? “Both adolescents and young adults have a sense of invincibility and that ‘it won’t happen to them,’” Maloney said.

Alcohol can be a major factor in this as well. According to The Independent, a study linked each increase in blood alcohol level of 0.1 mg/ml to a 5 percent increase in the intention to participate in unprotected sex. Alcohol impairs your decision-making skills, so it’s a no brainer that there could be a chance for more risky sexual behavior.

Whatever the reason that tempts students into having unprotected sex, they should be wary of the consequences. Nikita Novy, a senior health studies major, had a baby at 21 because of her decision to not use birth control. 

“A lot of things changed once my son was born. I have a lot more responsibility now than an average college student. I went from living with my mom and having all expenses paid to moving into an apartment with my boyfriend (my son’s father) and taking on the role of parents,” Novy said.

Novy encourages people to use protection. Although she loves her son with all of her heart, Novy believes it would’ve been beneficial to wait a few years before having him. Unlike most young mothers, however, she feels mature for her age and is advantaged as she will be graduating with a bachelor’s degree in December.

“Right now life is hard, juggling school, work and my relationship all at such a young age. I am giving my son the best life he could have but I do think if I was a bit older and more well off, I could provide him with even more,” she said.

Students can avoid these situations by always being prepared for safe sex. Erica Bonavitacola, a senior communication major said, “I suggest both girls and guys carry condoms. Some guys don’t want to use them, so they purposely don’t carry them.” 

Condoms are available for free in the Health Center.

Rubin thinks society has constructed the notion that the guy must fill the role of responsibility being that his sperm is needed for a pregnancy, thus it is up to him to prevent conception. However, Rubin said,  “A girl can equally give the guy or her sexual partner an STD just as easily as he can. The guy should ensure that he has protection.  But that doesn’t mean that the girl shouldn’t do her part and take birth control or make an effort to ensure that her sexual partner has a condom.”

Novy has a reminder for young people who are engaging in this risky behavior. “College students see sex as a less serious matter than it is. It’s so easy to just do it and not think about the consequences, until something happens. It’s one of those things that you feel will never happen to you, until it does.”  

Sex is inevitable in college. Unplanned pregnancies and STD’s don’t have to be. Students should think before they act when it comes to safe sex.