Remember the movie “Mean Girls”? The one where there’s that cool mom who brings Regina George and her boyfriend snacks and condoms during a hookup? This article is that cool mom.
College is an exciting time. Without the shackles of living in your parents’ basement, you can finally get down and do all the reckless things you’ve been waiting to do. One of those exciting and thrilling — and a little scary — things, is sex. It doesn’t matter if you’re looking for a casual one-night stand or a long-term lover to fulfill your needs, you need to take care of yourself.
One in two sexually active people will contract a Sexually Transmitted Infection by the time they’re 25, according to the American Sexual Health Administration. That’s a lot, and despite half the country’s STI cases stemming from young people, only about 12% of them are getting tested each year.
And along with the health factors, it’s just as important to make sure you and your new bae are on the same page about doing it in the first place, whether you’ll use protection and what your boundaries are.
Talking about sex isn’t easy, but we’ve gotta do it. So that’s why we’re here, to give you all the actually important information your high school’s abstinence-first, sex-never curriculum never gave you.
CONSENT IS STILL SEXY
It would seem like the simplest part of engaging in sexual activity is asking if your partner is actually okay with being involved in said sexual activity. Yet, time and time again, this becomes one of the most complicated parts of being a person who is having sex. There’s one thing you can’t do it without: consent.
Easy enough, right? Yes means yes, no means no. If you attend the University, you’ve participated in the mandatory bystander training without escape. And as well-versed as we all are on the definition of consent, a refresher never hurts. Consent is an agreement between two individuals to engage in sexual activity, and while this agreement doesn’t necessarily have to be verbal, it often makes things a lot less complicated if it is. You or your partner can also use positive physical cues to let one another know that you’re comfortable with whatever you’re doing, whether it be some light making out and a little over-the-shirt action, or going “all the way.”
The biggest problem with nonverbal consent is that there’s far more room for miscommunication. It’s important to re-member that just because your partner isn’t saying “no,” doesn’t mean they’re saying “yes.” While you could be wholeheartedly enjoying yourself, your partner may not be. It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and assume the person you’re with feels the same way you do because sex is awesome and you’re having fun, so they must be having just much fun as you are, right? Every person comes with their own sexual history, preferences and boundaries, all of which contribute to the way they feel and respond to various types and intensity of sexual activity. So even if you think your partner is enjoying themselves, a simple “Is this okay?” can never hurt.
Another thing to keep in mind for those of you who are in relationships, or even hooking up with the same person regularly, is just because someone consents to one activity does not give consent for increased or reoccurring sexual activity. This includes if you’re in a monogamous, long-term relationship, or even if you’re married (in the state of Montana anyways, but we won’t delve too deeply into that). Consent is necessary for each and every sexual encounter and can be withdrawn by either partner at any time, for any reason. Every individual has ownership of their own body and just because you let someone touch you once does not mean they have any type of dictation over your body in the future.
Now, since we’re already talking about sex, we might as well toss in a bit about drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. Or maybe just the drugs? And replace the rock ‘n’ roll with alcohol? Sex, drugs and alcohol. Consent, though straightforward, seems to get more complicated when drugs and alcohol are involved, so let’s break it down. If someone is giving you verbal consent, but is clearly under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it is not consent. If someone is incapacitated in any way, it is not consent. This includes slurred speech, being passed out, or being unaware of surroundings.
And let’s take a moment to remind ourselves about the importance of getting consent from male partners. Although sexual assault and rape are statistically more common among females, that doesn’t mean getting consent from male partners is any less important than getting it from female partners. Despite the way men and sex are often portrayed together, men have sexual history, preferences and boundaries, just as women do. This needs to be recognized in order for there to be communicative, consensual activity among partners.
There are no blurred lines guys, just put your glasses on.
- DAYLIN SCOTT
HOW TO DORMANCE
The ultimate fantasy: your new boo is giving you the look. Not the “Is that food in your teeth?” look, but the one that says it’s time to do the horizontal tango. The two of you sneak your way back to campus, playfully running around until you arrive at your door.
As hot as it is to get it on within the confines of a 150-square-foot dorm room equipped with a too-small-for-your-regular-sized-body twin bed, there’s no other option.
But there’s one problem. This isn’t just your door. On the other side of that key card entry lock is your roommate.
The most important conversation you can have with your new space-sharer is how you’re going to establish boundaries for a night of romance.
Your Resident Assistant probably already made you fill out a roommate agreement that asks lots of helpful questions, like, “Will we share cooking utensils?” or “Will you move out if I do a little underage drinking?” What it didn’t ask: “What will we do if one of us needs to use the room for sex?”
There are a variety of solutions here. You could decide to be close enough to always shoot a text with a string of not-so-cryptic emojis. Or, put a little band on the door handle, wink wink. Get creative, it’s going to be super weird, but it’s better to have a plan than be interrupted at the exact wrong moment.
Get permission beforehand if you’re planning on following up with a sleepover, and do the common courtesy of lighting a candle (whoops, oil diffuser, can’t go breaking the rules).
No matter whether you think you’ll be bringing someone home to hook up, always be prepared. Ask your roommate what’s okay and what’s not and respect their needs. After all, they probably aren’t too excited to spend two hours in the study lounge knowing you’re doing the nasty in the room you share. Your Netflix password and $5 for ice cream could go a long way.
IT’S NOT ALL STRAIGHTFORWARD
Getting an STI is already a scary experience for anyone. For many LGBTQ patients, the idea of getting an STI is more than just an awkward trip to the doctor’s office; it’s an anxiety-inducing rollercoaster ride of fear and generational trauma that hits at the harmful perception that gay people are a danger.
Due to a variety of issues stemming from systemic problems, LGBTQ people often face barriers when it comes to taking care of their sexual health.
The AIDS epidemic that began in 1981 is one of the most notable events in LGBTQ history in the United States. Caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, the epidemic spread through LGBTQ communities in high urban centers due to a lack of general knowledge surrounding safe sex.
However, officials in the Centers for Disease Control faced apathy from the Reagan administration, resulting in a lack of funding for researching the disease. Famously, Dr. Don Francis, an epidemiologist working at the CDC during the out-break, was told by officials in Washington in 1985 when he presented a plan to lim-it the spread of HIV to “look pretty and do as little as you can,” according to his own commentary in the Journal of Public Health Policy.
The fear the AIDS crisis created and perpetuated was fueled by a lack of understanding from public officials. The epidemic was labeled as the “gay plague” (even though AIDS infected heterosexual people just as much), demonizing the people it affected rather than helping them. For many people during the epidemic, disclosing that you were HIV positive meant losing much more than your health, such as your job and your family. Hiding it was meant being able to continue existing in society, even if it was on borrowed time.
Thanks to the long and hard work of LGBTQ activists and medical providers, the AIDS crisis is not as dire as it was 30 years ago. But it’s not gone yet. According to the Montana Communicable Disease Epidemiology Surveillance Snapshot for HIV in 2018, the number of people with AIDS when diagnosed has decreased by 15% from 2013, with 24 reported cases of HIV in 2018. Generally, these diagnoses are centered around city centers, like Billings and Missoula. Leading risk factors for transmission remain male-to-male sexual contact and drug use, which connects with Montana’s meth crisis as well.
According to David Herrera, the director of the Montana Gay Health Task Force (formerly the Gay Men’s Task Force) who has been involved in HIV prevention for over 34 years, this rate is one of many good signs for the AIDS crisis.
“Here in Montana, we tend to do a really good job of getting people who test positive [for HIV] into care as soon as possible,” Herrera said.
Much of the work that the Gay Health Task Force does is free HIV screenings and then PrEP referrals, which can later be deducted or fully covered by insurance. PrEP, or pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a daily medication one can take that reduces the risk of an HIV infection, if used consistently, by more than 90%. That risk can be reduced even more if used in con-junction with condoms and other prevention methods. However, it doesn’t guard against other STIs, like gonorrhea or chlamydia. Another medication, post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP, can be taken within 72 hours after being exposed to HIV and can be effective in preventing HIV if taken correctly, though not 100%.
More often than not, cost is one of the biggest barriers for LGBTQ people in get-ting care. Without insurance, tests can run into the hundreds of dollars, not even counting treatment, which Herrera believes keeps people, especially young gay people, from getting access to PrEP or regular STI testing.
“I think that there are a lot of people that are deciding, ‘I can’t afford that, so I’m not going to go.’ That’s not always the best thing if we’re talking about potentially spreading STD infections,” Herrera said.
Another factor that keeps LGBTQ people from getting sexual care is medical ignorance and discrimination. For trans and nonbinary people, finding providers that are up-to-date with terminology and health care, such as hormone therapy or sexual health, can be difficult. While many bigger medical outlets, like St. Patrick Hospital, Planned Parenthood or Partnership Health Center, are more inclusive with their intake forms and procedures, homophobia and transphobia still exists in some corners of the medical community, which is often a case of misunderstanding or misinformation. For LGBTQ people, get-ting medical providers to do extensive STI check-ups rather than just a urine test can be a test of self-advocating in an already nervous scenario.
“The most important thing for LGBT community members is to be honest and up-front with their medical providers and to let them know that ‘I’m a gay man and I’m sexually active,’ or, ‘I’m a lesbian,’ or ‘I’m trans.’ That's the only way that things are going to change,” Herrera said.
- CONNOR SIMPSON
CARRY YOURSELF TO CURRY
To quote a certain Mr. Stan Lee, “With great power comes great responsibility.” There are few places this rings truer than the world of sexuality.
We live in the real world, and sometimes things happen. Accidents occur, and even if they don’t, regular testing for STIs is just another facet of a responsible sex life. Luckily for you, dear student, Curry Health Center is an invaluable resource for all things health-related. Yes, that includes what’s going on underneath your denim jeans. The Kaimin knows visits to the doctor the first time can be a little scary, especially regarding something so, ahem, sensitive. We would like to set your minds at ease by outlining the sexual health services available right here on campus. It’s not all clearing up gonorrhea.
Before we begin, it’s important to remember the professionals at Curry are there to help. No matter how embarrassing you might think the topic is, you’ll be taken care of without judgment. We promise.
Let’s start with the obvious: Curry offers screenings for a range of infections for both male-bodied and female-bodied people. The list is exhaustive — chlamydia, gonorrhea, HIV, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, genital warts, herpes and syphilis. Covering such a wide variety of infections is especially important when one considers some of these are asymptomatic, especially in men. Don’t try to self-diagnose using some Google skills; you’ll unleash the hypochondriac within. Let the doc do the hard work. Your classes are stressful enough.
Of course, men and women have their own unique sexual issues requiring attention. Curry Health Center can help there, too. First and foremost, women needing annual checkups don’t have to venture far. Contraceptives are the cornerstone of sexual health for many, and Curry offers practically every kind avail-able. A prescription for birth control immediately comes to mind, but there are plenty of options. Curry’s professionals can insert and remove intrauterine devices, implant subdermal contraceptives — that’s the kind that goes in your arm — and administer progestin shots. If it comes to it, one can eliminate uncertainties with an accurate pregnancy test, too. Remember that asymptomatic comment above? Human papilloma virus is especially tricky, potentially affecting fertility later in life. The HPV vaccine can help prevent such infections.
Men, don’t feel left out here. In addition to STI screenings, Curry offers services you might not expect from a campus-based health center. Performance issues — that is, erectile difficulties — can strike men of any age. Physical issues, stress, mental or emotional causes can impact anyone. The medical team at Curry has seen it all, so there’s no reason to delay a visit. Worried about the sudden appearance of a lump on the tender bits? No problem. Curry has experts in testicular cancer at hand for screenings. Early detection is incredibly important, as we know.
Appointments can be made using your student health portal online. If you are a student at UM, you already pay a health fee. After your visit, you will be billed another fee through your student account that can then be sent to insurance for reimbursement.
We admit it can all be a little overwhelming, even frightening at times. Sexual health is a convoluted topic, which is why Curry’s status as a place to ask questions is arguably its most important feature. Even the sex-savviest of us aren’t born with all the answers. Schedule an appointment with one of Curry’s professionals by calling (406) 243-4330 and bring your toughest questions. We bet you won’t be able to stump them.
- DREW NOVAK
LIKE AUNT KAREN USED TO SAY...
“Don’t be silly, wrap your willy.”
“If you think they’re spunky, cover your monkey.”
“Make sure you wrap if before you tap it.”
We’ve all heard it before from a creepy middle school health teacher, but condoms haven’t gone out of style.
Not only are they 98% effective at preventing pregnancy, but they can act as an important barrier to STIs.
According to the CDC, condoms provide highly effective protection from STIs that are transmitted through bodily fluids, and some protection from those transmit-ted through skin contact. Transmission can occur after just a single sexual encounter, so it’s important to use protection correctly and consistently.
Putting on a condom can be tricky in the heat of the moment. Before every sexual encounter, get a new condom that was stored in a cool, dry place — do not keep them in your wallet or car.
A standard latex condom can stretch over a forearm, so no, you’re not too big. Buy bigger condoms if it’s really an issue. Make sure to use the right lube to avoid breaking.
Students can get free condoms at the Condom Corner in the Curry Wellness lobby on the second floor at the east side of the building. Wellness keeps the Condom Corner well-stocked with latex condoms (lubed, flavored, colored, non-lubed, etc.), female condoms, finger cots, lube, dental dams, and a condom of the week with a unique attribute.
No one will judge you for scooping up an armful of condoms. You pay the student fee, might as well use it and protect yourself all the while. Women are somewhat likely to be allergic to latex condoms, so check with your partner and think about some of the alternatives. Polyurethane condoms are thin plastic — equally effective but less tightly-fit so more likely to slip. They can be used with all types of lubes. Polyisoprene condoms are made of another type of rubber without latex.
The truly natural option is lambskin condoms, made out of lamb intestine. They don’t prevent STDs, but they do help prevent pregnancy.
Male-bodied people aren’t the only ones who can use condoms. Female condoms provide more control, can be placed eight hours beforehand and are good for both latex and lube allergies. These are also called “internal condoms” and have a flexible ring at both ends to hold it in place. Female condoms prevent STDs and require practice to insert properly.
Thinking you might eat out tonight? Consider using a dental dam. These are thin sheets of latex or like material placed between one person’s mouth and another person’s genitals during oral sex. They can be held in place by either partner and are effective at helping prevent STDs. Part of consent is safety. If you agreed to use contraceptives, use them.
- CASSIDY ALEXANDER & SARA DIGGINS
IT’S A LITTLE COMPLICATED
Organizations that provide abortion referrals like Planned Parenthood are deciding what to do about federal funds and restrictions coming out of the Trump administration. This trickles down to availability of STI testing and sexual health services for people with lower incomes.
Knowing what your options are is becoming increasingly important. Research-ing where you are getting tested, what services they offer and comparing their fees and insurance policies will help you navigate the experience.
Planned Parenthood is off-campus, but another common place for college students to get tested. You can make an appointment online and get the specified care you need. Pricing for services varies and some testing and treatment may be covered by your insurance.
The six other off-campus options for STI and HIV testing in Missoula include-the Montana Gay Health Task Force, Missoula City Counsel Health Department, LabCorp, Partnership Health Center, Blue Mountain Clinic, Open Aid Alliance, Missoula Urban Indian Health Center and Montana Migrant Health Program.
Saferstdtesting.com is a website that lays out what your local free and financially sound testing options are and can help you pick the place that is right for you. You have options and there are always online resources available to aid you.