Everyone knows that college is an era of experimentation. All that freedom and independence can be downright intoxicating, and it’s 1000% normal to want to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way—romance included.
Figuring out your sexual identity, preferences, and pleasures is a deeply personal and lifelong process. There's no "right" way to go about this sexy little exploration (despite what anyone might tell you). But having a deeper understanding of what to expect can help make the journey a hell of a lot smoother.
Remember babe, sex is meant to be enjoyed. You deserve to feel confident, comfortable, and safe every time you hit the sheets. No matter what type of relationship you want or find yourself in, stay positive, set intentions, check-in with yourself regularly, and leave shame behind.
So before you start exploring your options, here are a few things to keep in mind.
Sexual Scenarios You May Find Yourself In
Sex is hardly straightforward. As human beings with complex emotions and easily bruised egos, we often find ourselves in situations that are, well, anything but black and white. And while awkward encounters and vague boundaries are not limited to your time on campus, college can be a clusterfuck of sexual confusion.
Here are a few scenarios you might find yourself in, along with some tips on how to navigate them like a total champ.
Ah, the college classic. While you're probably familiar with the term (and maybe a little burned from the experience), one-night stands can be a lot of fun IF—keyword here—you keep your expectations in check and plan for the occasion.
- Set your own boundaries. Do a little digging and ask yourself what behaviors and expectations will keep you from getting unnecessarily attached, especially if you will be seeing that person on campus or in other social situations after.
- Get tested after. Condoms are not 100% effective. Keep your health a priority and get tested after every new sexual partner.
When your one-night stand starts turning into multiple-night stands, you've entered situationship territory.
Most situationships and friends-with-benefits scenarios happen on the down-low. No one but you and your partner (and maybe your BFFs and a few nosy friends) know that you're seeing each other. And most of the time, both parties are still seeing (and possibly sleeping with) other people.
Here's how to handle this confusing dynamic:
- Set strong boundaries for yourself. What are you comfortable and not comfortable with? Get clarity and express those boundaries directly to your partner.
- Don't settle. If you've expressed your boundaries and your situationship is not respecting them, remove yourself from the situation. Fuckboys are not worth it, queen.
- Be upfront about whether or not you're sleeping with other people. In the name of both your safety and the safety of others, establish this from the get-go. That way, you can determine when and how often you need to get tested.
At its core, monogamy is choosing to see and sleep with just each other. There's less room for confusion and miscommunication. Though it depends on how public you like to be with your love life, this is where some sort of relationship status evolves so that other people are aware of your new partnership.
Being in a healthy relationship requires many things that we'll be unable to fully cover in this piece. But at a basic level:
- Be open about what you want. There's so much fear around rejection that we often keep our desires silent just to keep another person around. Don't do this, babe. It's so much better to know sooner (rather than later) that the person you're with is on the same page.
- Set relationship boundaries. Whether it's how often you want to communicate or how you feel about friends of the opposite gender, make it clear how you want (and expect) to be treated.
- Keep up with your testing. When you're sleeping with the same person (and trust that they're doing the same), your risk obviously goes down. But you should still get tested at least once a year.
More and more people are stretching the space of what being in a committed relationship looks like by practicing what's called ethical non-monogamy. Lots of different variations fall under this umbrella term, but the two most common relationships are:
- Polyamory: Having multiple relationships at the same time, with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
- Open relationships: A relationship where both parties are free to take new partners with the knowledge and consent of everyone involved.
Both polyamory and open relationships require a LOT of upfront communication, vulnerability, and clear boundaries in order for everyone to feel emotionally safe and respected. If you feel a little too confined by the lines of traditional relationships, ethical non-monogamy might be for you.
Things To Look Out For
No matter who or how you choose to love, there are a few added risks you need to be aware of that go beyond getting an STI or becoming pregnant.
Alcohol is deeply ingrained in most campus cultures. It can make even the most confident people feel sexier and more relaxed. But it can also lower inhibitions and lead to risky decision-making. If you do choose to drink, be sure to do so responsibly. That means knowing your limits, pacing yourself, and having a plan in place in case things get out of hand.
Be aware of the signs of date rape drugs, like GHB and Rohypnol, and never accept a drink from someone you don't know or trust.
On that same wavelength, drugs can mess with your ability to make self-prioritizing choices. The same goes for any kind of illegal substance—recreational or otherwise. Be sure you know what you’re taking, how it will affect you, and whether or not it will mix well with alcohol.
Some men will remove a condom before sex without your consent. It's a gross, horrifying practice calledstealthing that puts you and your health at risk. If you notice that the condom is missing after sex, or are worried, get tested as soon as possible.
Sadly, about13% of all students experience rape or sexual assault during their time on campus. While there are resources available to help you heal, it's important to be proactive about your safety in the first place. Be vocal about consent and trust your instincts if something feels off.
The Keys To A Satisfying Sex Life In College
It's not all doom and gloom in the bedroom. In fact, when you prioritize the right things—i.e., the things that put YOU first—a gratifying and fulfilling sex life is well within reach.
This one should go without saying, but unfortunately, it still needs to be said. No matter who you're hooking up with or how well you know them, always make sure everyone involved is on the same page about what's happening and what they're comfortable with. If there's any confusion or hesitation, stop immediately and take a moment to get clarity.
Quick refresher: you can say “no” at any time, and “no” always means NO CONSENT.
Checking in with your partner before and during sex not only helps ensure that everyone is having a damn good time but also fosters a deeper level of trust and communication. Both of which are essential for a fulfilling relationship—sexual or otherwise.
While yes, trusting the person you're with is uber-important, it's SELF-TRUST that we're talkin' about here. If you don't advocate for what you want (and don't want), who will?
Take some time to practice building up that self-trust muscle by sticking to your decisions, being vocal about your desires, and not backing down on your boundaries.
The single most important thing you can do for a satisfying sex life is communicating—with yourself and your partners. If something feels good, say so. If it doesn't, speak up. Because babe, the only way to get what you want in bed is to ask for it.
It sounds like a no-brainer, but so many of us go through life never taking the time to figure out what we like in bed. Experimenting with different partners, positions, and sex toys helps us to paint a clear picture of how we find pleasure.
So don't be shy about prioritizing your pleasure. It's not selfish—it's hot.
There's No Shame In Sex
No matter what kind of intimate sexual adventures you find yourself on this semester, do yourself a favor and keep shame out of your story. It has no place in your quest to find pleasure and have fun.
Remember, babe—wild sex is not a college requirement. You can be as open or closed to new experiences as you like. While this is a great time to experiment and play, you'll eventually discover that sexual exploration is truly a lifelong journey.
About The Author
Emily Blackwood is a freelance journalist committed to answering the plaguing question of what makes us truly happy. Turns out, it's a lot. Her work has been published in SELF, HuffPost, and YourTango. You can learn more here.
Medical Disclaimer: The information provided here is intended for educational and informative purposes only and is not intended to serve as medical or professional advice. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other health-care professional.