Sex & Healthy Relationships
Sex & Healthy Relationships

Prologue: Hooking Up with Your Audience; A Guide for Sexual Awareness Programming

For the past 16 years I have been presenting programs on sexual health at campuses across the country. No topic arouses more attention and controversy than sex! I have been accused of everything from "slut shaming," (new to me this year) to being way over the top. Many have showered me with standing ovations while others have walked out in the middle of the program. From working with the most liberal campuses to more conservative faith-based, I have been able to let it rip, while at others, I am walking on eggshells and have to watch every word I say.

What has this taught me? I have to leave my Jersey girl behind!

When organizing a program that addresses sex it is important to learn the culture of your campus. How liberal or how conservative is your campus and the general student population? What is the comfort level of the administration? It can vary from geographic region, as well as campus to campus. What are the needs of your students? What are your goals? Do you want to shake things up a little and have fun, or do you want to provide a teachable moment on a topic that many are not comfortable with, in a respectful and tasteful way?

When hiring a sex speaker it is important to discuss the format of the program as well as the type of language, videos and "props" they might use. They should be willing to tailor the content for your comfort level. If not, look for another speaker. Remember, you will not be able to please everyone. Often the one person who is not happy will be the most vocal after the program. Don't be discouraged by it. Develop a tough hide and remember that the majority of the students who remained silent loved the program. You provided an incredible service by organizing this program and educating others on a topic that is not often discussed with openness and honesty.

Sex, we love it! It feels wonderful, and provides physical and emotional benefits as well. Sex improves our sense of well-being. For women it increases estrogen, making the hair shinier and the skin healthier. Sex eases pain and tension. It reduces headaches, congestion and provides better sleep. It strengthens our immune system. A romp is comparable to a modest workout on a treadmill; great for cardio! Most importantly sex creates emotional bonding between partners.

We live in a society where we are bombarded with sexual images?sex sells! Yet there is a Puritanical attitude where education is absent of sex-positive messages. We want to have fun, have a positive, pleasurable experience, and remain safe. Sex is one of the most powerful human behaviors; it can give life, dramatically alter your life and potentially take away your life.

Let's talk about healthy relationships.

What is the most important sexual organ? It is not between your legs, it's the brain! Sex is a very intimate act, and it is most gratifying when you have an emotional connection with your partner. Talk about sex first. How fast do you want things to go, what type of protection should you use, what if things do go wrong, how will you handle that as a couple? Remember, if you can't talk about sex with a person, you are not ready to share yourself with them physically! It is important to communicate and respect each other's needs and comfort levels.

We often think about the physical and ignore the emotional component of sex.

How is this affecting the other person, what is going on in their head? Are both people walking away from the experience feeling good about themselves or is one feeling emotionally hollow and spent? While making love it's good to check in with your partner; ask if he or she is comfortable. Also guide your partner, share what feels good and does not feel good. Open and honest verbal communication, and mutual respect leads to an incredibly satisfying sexual experience.

Fewer partners decrease the chances of contracting a sexually transmitted infection (STIs).

You do have sexual options. The safest is to not engage in intercourse or oral sex where there is an exchange of bodily fluids. I have met many students who are choosing to postpone sex while waiting for a more meaningful relationship. You can be intimate by using creativity. Kissing for a long time, massage, and caressing are intimate and feel good.

The Centers for Disease Control stated that one of the most under-recognized health problems in the U.S. is the spread of sexually transmitted infections. We tend to gauge our sexual success by whether we get pregnant and don't think about the impact of STIs on our health and intimate relationships. Twenty five percent of all people under the age of 21, and fifty percent under the age of 25 are infected with an STI. Remember, a night of unprotected sex can be life-altering to your health.

Students often mix alcohol with sex, which feeds into the hookup culture. Many believe that alcohol will loosen them up and improve sex. Alcohol in moderation can relax you, enhancing the sexual experience. Higher quantities of alcohol can lead to the loss of an erection as it dilates the arteries and it creates vaginal dryness. This is not a recipe for good sex! Many get wasted to the point where they are not thinking clearly and put themselves at risk. Annually 400,000 college students engage in unprotected sex as a result of consuming too much alcohol.

Many get caught up in the moment of pleasure and don't practice safe sex. Others lack the confidence to communicate and negotiate it with their partner. "Hey buddy, no glove no love!" If you engage in intercourse, a condom should be used every time regardless of what form of birth control is being used. Gauge your sexual success by whether you contract a sexually transmitted infection or not! It is important to read the directions on the box. Pinch one half of an inch of the tip of the condom between your index fingers and thumb to create a reservoir for collection of semen. Hold that tip until the condom is completely in place. This prevents the condom from breaking. In my 16 years of providing condom demonstrations I have found that most people put them on the incorrect way.

Sexually transmitted infections can have long terms effects on your health.

Chlamydia is the most common bacterial STI seen in college health centers today. It is easily treated with antibiotics but only 25% of the females and 50% of the males show any symptoms. In the absence of symptoms people do not seek treatment. The bacteria travel through the reproductive organs, causing pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to sterility. The sterility rates in this country are increasing. Gonorrhea has the same effect. There is now a strain of Gonorrhea that is resistant to most antibiotics.

Then there's herpes, the gift that keeps on giving! Herpes is a virus. It permanently settles in the central nervous system. Stress causes recurring outbreaks consisting of clusters of blisters that take 10 to 14 days to heal. The virus lives in the blisters. If you come in contact with them you will most likely become infected. This challenges future relationships where one has to worry about infecting their partner. I've met students who struggled to tell a new partner that they had herpes, only to have that person back out of the relationship. One in four women and one in six men are infected with genital herpes.

Never kiss anyone who has a cold sore on their lips.

This is herpes 1. I spoke at a campus where a guy passed herpes on to many female students. He did not know that engaging in oral sex while experiencing an outbreak on the lip could infect his partners' genitals.

Speaking of oral sex?it is sex!

Unprotected oral sex leads to STIs of the throat. One can contract Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Herpes, Syphilis, HIV, and HPV. HPV has several strains. Some cause genital warts and others cervical cancer. HPV Strain 16, the same that causes cervical cancer, is responsible for twenty five percent of all cases of throat cancer, which is mostly occurring in men. For protection, a latex dental dam or plastic wrap should be placed on a female and a condom on a male.

For the most comprehensive and reliable information on STIs, go to the CDC website at

We put ourselves at risk for love because we don't love ourselves enough. Many find their affirmation through the sexual attention of others. Find your affirmation from within, feel good about yourself. Then find the person who respects you for who you are and desires to bring you emotional and physical pleasure. Sex is fun; make the most of it through mutual communication, respect, creativity and being safe!

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