I’ve just entered into a sexual relationship, and I don’t want to get pregnant. What are some birth control options I can try?

AA: Thanks so much for writing in to ask this question. This is a very common question as there are many birth control options out there to choose from and it can be hard to navigate which is which. What works for one person may not be the best option for another; different types of contraceptives may have different risks and/or levels of efficacy when interacting with different bodies.  It is important to understand yourself, your body, and the different options available to you, and to consult a medical professional.  

LM: We’ll talk about several options for birth control here, starting off with some of the more widely-known ones. One of the most popular forms of birth control is the external (or male) condom. In addition to preventing pregnancy, external condoms can also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), because they provide a physical barrier. There is also the internal (or female) condom, which is inserted into the vagina before sex. Both types of condoms are available for free at many places around Harvard’s campus. This map shows all the locations with external condoms, and internal condoms are available from the Health Promotion Office, the Women’s Center, and at SHARC office hours!

AA: Another method you may have heard of is the pill. This is a hormonal birth control method that is taken orally at the same time every day. It is important to remember that if you miss one pill you should use a backup birth control method like condoms for one week after the missed dose. The pill requires a prescription from a doctor. You can schedule an appointment with one of the doctors at HUHS through your patient portal.

LM: If the idea of having to remember to take a pill every day isn’t appealing to you, there are also various other hormonal contraceptive methods. One is the patch, which is like a Band-Aid. You have to change your patch every week. Another option is the NuvaRing, a small, flexible ring that is inserted into the vagina and left there for three weeks. Each of these methods allow you to have a period during an “off-week.”

AA: A longer term hormonal option is the Depo-Provera shot which you receive at your doctor’s office every 12 weeks. This is a good option if you are wanting a very private form of birth control, although studies do show that long-term usage of Depo-Provera may lead to bone mineral density loss. Another great option that can give you up to four years of pregnancy prevention is the implant, which is inserted under the skin of your upper arm and secretes hormones. It is effective for up to four years and the insertion is a quick procedure.

LM: The last birth control method we want to talk about is the IUD (intrauterine device), which has been getting more and more popular. An IUD is a small T-shaped device that is inserted into the uterus, and they last for several years. There are several different types of IUD; many are hormonal and last between 3-6 years, and one is made of copper (ParaGard). ParaGard can last up to 12 years, and is a great option if you’re looking for a non-hormonal contraceptive option, but it can also make periods heavier.

AA: If you’re interested in an IUD, you can talk to a clinician about the different options. The procedure to get an IUD is outpatient and can cause minor cramping. Your doctor will go over all the details with you when you are deciding if an IUD is the best option for you.

LM: To wrap things up: If you want a non-hormonal method go with condoms (either external/male or internal/female) or the ParaGard IUD. If you’re okay with taking a pill every day try out one of the many different kinds of birth control pills. If you’re interested in a hormonal method that you don’t need to remember every day, consider the patch, the ring, the shot, or the implant. It’s also important to remember that condoms are the only one of these methods which prevent STIs, so you can also use condoms in tandem with any of these other methods for an extra layer of protection.  

AA: Most of the options we’ve discussed here are covered by most insurance providers. Make sure to check out Bedsider to get a much more in depth description and to help you understand which method might be best for you.

Amanda Ayers, Health Educator

LM, Student

 

What are some situations in which a person can get pregnant? For example, I’ve heard you can get pregnant from pre-cum, is that really true?

AA: Thanks so much for asking about different situations in which pregnancy can occur. Speaking really broadly, pregnancy can occur entirely accidentally or through a more intentional process.

LM: At its most basic, pregnancy happens when a sperm fertilizes an egg and the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. There is a window of a few days during the menstrual cycle when an egg is receptive to fertilization, so if a sperm reaches the egg in this timeframe, pregnancy is likely to occur. However, sperm can also hang around in the uterus and fallopian tubes for up to 6 days, so there is a fairly broad window in which fertilization can physically occur.

AA: Regarding the example that you mentioned in your question, generally pre-cum does not contain sperm but there have been some rarer cases of pre-cum containing some sperm. Because of this, if you are trying to avoid pregnancy, the withdrawal method should not be used as a form of contraception. There are many more effective strategies, which we will go into detail about next week.

LM: For those who are trying to get pregnant, the process may range from tracking ovulation to looking for a sperm or egg donor to using in-vitro fertilization. Surrogacy is also an option, although there have been a number of conversations in the public discourse about the ways in which this process, when not done carefully, can offload labor and potential physical complications onto already marginalized or at-risk female-bodied people.

AA: While historically our understandings of pregnancy through the medical model have characterized the egg as passive and the sperm as active, there is new research that indicates that the egg may play a much more active role in the process of fertilization and implantation.

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be discussing a series of questions surrounding various facets of pregnancy, so stay tuned!

Amanda Ayers, Health Educator

LM, Student

I feel like I should get STI tested but I’m really nervous about the process and about my parents finding out. How does it work and how do I keep my parents from finding out?

AA: Thank you so much for sending in your question. Wanting to keep anonymity is a really common concern when people think about getting STI (Sexually Transmitted Infections) tested at HUHS. There are many ways to ensure that no one finds out that you’ve received STI testing at school.

AG: Yes definitely! STI testing is safe, easy and important and the CDC generally recommends that if you are engaging in sexual activity (especially with new partners) that you get tested between every three months and a year depending on your sexual practices. The most common symptom of STIs is actually no symptoms at all (I know, yikes) so it’s definitely worth getting testing even if you don’t think anything is abnormal. So good on you for thinking about it and trying to learn more about getting tested here at Harvard!

AA: I want to make sure that all Harvard students know that they can receive free STI testing at HUHS. As AG mentioned getting STI testing at HUHS is very easy. You can schedule a STI test online via the HUHS patient portal, you don’t even need to call. First head the HUHS website and log into your patient portal. Once you are logged in fully, click on “appointments” and then “schedule an appointment”. When the next choices appear you’ll need to select Primary Care and choose the location option that corresponds to your PCP's name and then type in STI testing and complete the rest of the form. Appointment time options will pop up and you will be able to choose the time that is best for you.

AG: When you go in, you’ll meet with a clinician and they may ask you about your specific concerns and sexual practices. This is just so they can get a sense of what to test you for so try to be honest. Then, based on this, they’ll take either a blood or urine sample and do an exam of the possibly affected area. Also, it’s worth mentioning here that tests are often unable to detect STIs directly after a sexual encounter. If there’s one specific sexual experience you think might have exposed you to an STI then you should wait two weeks before getting tested so that the test is actually accurate.

AA: If the clinician orders a test that requires a blood sample they will most likely send you to Quest Diagnostics which is in the basement of HUHS. Since Quest is a separate company, who does their own billing, it is important for you to remind them to bill HUHS for this blood sample. HUHS pays for all student STI testing, including the any tests done through a blood draw. Sometimes, but rarely, there is a small margin of error as billing is done by humans. If a bill is sent to your insurance it will generally just say “lab test” and not the specific type of test. If this is still of concern to you we recommend that students call their insurance company's (most phone numbers can be found on the back of your insurance card) and ask that their Explanation of Benefits (EOBs) get sent to their address on campus.

AG: The tests may take up to a week to be completed and then you will get the result over your HUHS secure messages. If you test positive for an STI then they will follow-up with you for next steps about treatment options. I just want to end by affirming that there are outside providers that may be more accessible for some individuals. Some outside options are:

Fenway Community Health Center

  • (617) 267-0900

  • Located at 1340 Boylston Street Boston, MA 02215

Mount Auburn Hospital, Center for Women

  • Located at 330 Mount Auburn Street Cambridge, MA 02138

  • (617) 499-5151

AA: We know that STI testing can seem daunting but it’s a really great thing to practice regularly. If have further questions don’t hesitate to contact us or HUHS.

Amanda Ayers MPH

Office of Health Promotion and Education

AG

Student

 

Sexual assault and IPV in the queer community: the community’s response to harm

SDS: This is the final week of our three-part guest post on sexual assault and intimate partner violence in the queer community. And one last time, we’re going to light our candle as we hold this topic with the care and compassion it deserves. So far in this series, we’ve talked about various experiences of harm within the context of queer community, as well as factors that can impact a person’s access to resources. But today we want to talk about the role of the community in responding to harm, sexual assault or intimate partner violence. We’ll offer some steps that we as community members can take both to prevent harm and to make our community safer for those who have experienced harm.

BJG: Community itself is such a precious resource. Community takes on many forms and can provide so much to an individual: affinity, support, connection, fellowship, and even the possibility of discovering companionship. As we mentioned in our first post, for a small community, it’s quite possible that you would come to know many other members by face at least, if not also by name. A small community is “where everybody knows your name.” This is true not just for the BGLTQ community, but many others on campus, such as religious groups, cultural affinity groups, and shared-interest groups.

SDS: Cheers for that great description, BJG. Experiences of harm can jeopardize access to community, as we’ve touched on before. Think of all of the places where the queer community gathers on campus. It can be harder to avoid a person if they’re at the same dances, community mixers, in the same student groups, or attending the same kinds of courses (take ‘Women, Gender, and Sexuality’ classes, for example). “Will the person who harmed me be at the next party?” “Will I have to see them at club meetings?”

BJG: Other members of the community may be drawn into this experience as well. For example, hearing about another person’s experience of harm can bring up painful memories for someone who has had a similar experience in the past. Likewise, someone who has experienced harm, or someone who has caused harm, may reach out to a friend to process that, and to figure out what to do next.

SDS: That raises another issue. When everybody knows your name, it can feel like everybody knows your business, too. Unfortunately, when harm occurs between members of the same community, that information can travel quickly. The community can begin to feel quite small, and privacy can be hard to come by. It can be really difficult when community members take sides; whether or not they were there, and whether or not they were privy to what took place, people can form opinions.

BJG: Speaking of opinions, there may also be concern about how this all affects perceptions of the queer community. There is a sad history of homophobia and transphobia that has led our community to be portrayed in a negative light. Addressing sexual assault and intimate partner violence as a problem could feel like pathologizing the community, feeding into the narrative there is some particular vice or sickness at the heart of the community. Even for the two of us, naming all of these very real issues that people experience within the queer community feels a bit like airing our dirty laundry, or unearthing something that is better buried. But there’s a pernicious way that this harm gets perpetuated, and normalized, when we don’t encourage ourselves and our communities to reflect and talk frankly about what we can and should be doing better as a community. In many ways, silence hasn’t helped us.

SDS: Sometimes, the only way to root out these problems is to address them directly, as difficult or uncomfortable as that may be. We as a community should be thinking about these issues all the time. And that goes for members of any community, big or small. Before anyone names harm, we should already have created space to support them. It shouldn’t feel like someone naming harm is “rupturing” the community, because there should already be an open and consistent dialogue on harm. This is something that every community should aspire to.

BJG: Community also has a role to play in healing and prevention. This can take the form of willingness to intercede when you notice controlling or predatory behavior, or indications of harm. It can mean checking in on friends and others around you in social settings, particularly when alcohol is involved. It can mean respecting people’s privacy, and not spreading information or rumors as gossip. And because you never know if, or when, someone will reach out to you for help, it can mean being familiar with the resources that exist on campus to support those who have experienced sexual assault, intimate partner violence, and other forms of harm. These are all expectations that community members can set for one another.

SDS: Ultimately, that requires people to reflect seriously on the question, How do we want to treat people in our community? And how does that reflect our history and our values? We think about this a lot in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life, and we’re so glad for the opportunity to share these reflections on queer community, resources, and access over the past three weeks. We hope it’s encouraged you to think about your role in helping to minimize the barriers to accessing resources, and creating communities where people feel safe and take responsibility for one another. Finally, we invite you to hold onto this flame, and be a light for someone around you. Come stop by our office at 7 Linden St, or visit us at our new location in Grays Hall starting in January. See you around campus!

Sheehan Scarborough, Director of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

BJG, Undergraduate Intern ("Quintern") in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

Sexual assault and IPV in the queer community: finding support and affirmation after a harmful experience

SDS: Thanks for joining us for week 2 of 3 in our (the BGLTQ Office’s) guest post series. Just as we did last week, we’re lighting a candle to both acknowledge and center those who have experienced harm.

BJG: So, last week we talked about the context of queer communities and relationships and how that plays a role in how harm is experienced. As part of that, we explored some of the factors that might impact how individuals within the queer community access resources - factors such as outness or the size of the community. This week, why don’t we dig a little deeper into that and think more about how this affects someone within the queer community after they’ve experienced harm.

SDS: I think it’s so important to recognize that sexual assault can be an incredibly isolating experience. As we mentioned last week, shame, fear of retaliation, one’s degree of outness, and concerns about whether you can trust people to believe your story can all lead a person not to share what they’ve experienced. I’m reminded of the many people in the television and movie industry who’ve recently spoken out about their own experiences of assault, some going back as far as decades. That’s a long time to hold on to that pain. As difficult as it has been to hear these stories of sexual assault, it’s encouraging to see that people are using this opportunity to call for systemic change. Part of changing the culture around sexual assault and harassment means working to destigmatize the experience of harm.

BJG: It’s important for queer people to receive affirmation and acknowledgement of their experiences of harm. This goes hand-in-hand with the affirmation of the people and relationships that reflect a wide variety affections, intimacies, identities, and orientations. In short, to affirm and acknowledge harm, we must also affirm and acknowledge the people experiencing that harm.

SDS: That’s really well said, BJG. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of systems, such as homophobia and transphobia, that lead queer people to not feel accepted or affirmed. Can you speak to some of that, in your experience as a student?

BJG: Sure. The lack of education about gender diversity, the struggle to find all-gender bathrooms, the required gendering of first-year housing, assumptions that people will make about a person’s sexuality, and the ways gender and sexuality are included and not included in curriculums can all make queer students feel excluded and powerless on campus. To solve these structural problems, it’s not enough for individuals to just not be openly homophobic or transphobic. The default on campus and in society in general is homophobia and transphobia, so those outside of the queer community must put in extra effort to oppose those defaults and create an inclusive space. In addition, queer students’ experiences within the Harvard queer community may not always be the most affirming. Is the queer community accepting and diverse? What intersections of identities are represented at queer events? How can we avoid forming exclusive cliques within the community?

SDS: You’re so right. While we as a Harvard community strive to be inclusive and affirming of all genders and sexualities, there are reminders that we still have a long way to go. Part of our work in the BGLTQ Office is to educate the campus (staff, students, and faculty) about gender and sexual diversity, and to create space for building community across the various identities that we hold as queer people. But this is only part of the work. It’s also important to have people who are easily accessible and available when students want to speak with someone who they feel will understand their specific experience as a queer person. In regard to sexual assault, all of the staff and interns in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life are trained to be able to serve as a confidential resource. And every house and yard has its own BGLTQ Tutor or Proctor to serve as a local resource for queer students. While BGLTQ Tutors and Proctors don’t have confidentiality training, they are a great source of support and advice, and can help connect students with other resources on campus.

BJG: I’m actually on staff for Contact Peer Counseling, and we’re confidential undergraduates trained to listen to and understand the experiences of queer students on campus and provide information on additional resources. Queer Harvard students who have experienced harm are welcome to visit Contact or call us during our drop-in hours. Some students may also want to turn to their queer peers, such as friends or classmates, for support. For students who don’t want to access official campus resources, queer peers can be their first point of contact for getting support.

SDS: And let’s not forget that there are other great resources that aren’t queer-specific, but which are definitely queer-friendly and queer knowledgeable, such as our friends and colleagues at OSAPR; Emily Miller, the College’s Title IX Coordinator; the Bureau of Study Counsel; and Response Peer Counseling. This isn’t an exhaustive list! You can learn about these and other resources in the links we’ve provided below.

BJG: We hope that this has been a helpful start to a conversation about the aftermath of harm and how queer students who’ve experienced harm can access resources on campus for support in the aftermath of a sexual assault. We hope you’ll join us again next week when we’ll explore the ripple effect that sexual assault has on members of a small community.

Sheehan Scarborough, Director of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

BJG, Undergraduate Intern ("Quintern") in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

Additional Resources

Sexual assault and intimate partner violence in the queer community

SDS: Many thanks to the folks behind the Sexual Literacy project for inviting us as guest columnists today! We’re glad to have the space to speak to some of the concerns that have come up for the queer community in regard to sexual assault and intimate partner violence, or “rape culture” generally speaking. I want to “light a candle”, so to speak, to be mindful of those who have experienced this harm. We’ll try to hold this flame with care and respect as we move forward. But to start off, perhaps we should clarify who/what are we referring to when we talk about the “queer community”?

BJG: Sure! The queer community is made up of people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or any other identity that is not straight or cisgender. It’s important to note that not everyone within the community identifies as queer, and people can hold multiple LGBTQ+ identities, such as being transgender and pansexual. Even amongst LGBTQ+ people, there is sometimes doubt as to whether it’s a “community” in the traditional sense, as there are a variety of identities and experiences that fall under this umbrella, and everyone doesn’t experience the same sense of connection to others in the group.

SDS: That’s right. It may be more accurate to talk about queer communities, plural. No two communities look the same, or have the same needs, or even advocate for the same rights and resources. But in general, there are some features that are consistent across communities: for example, they tend to be small, “where everybody knows your name”. Access to community isn’t always guaranteed, and this can depend on where a person lives and how open they are about their queer identity.

That said, when we talk about sexual assault or intimate partner violence in the queer community, we’re not talking about a new or heretofore unseen form of harm. Rather, it’s the same old, pernicious harm, but played out in a particular social and cultural context. It’s important to acknowledge that.

BJG: There are a variety of features that generally impact relationships in queer communities. There can be pressure for the relationship to look perfect or live up to a certain standard, particularly since the small size of the community can lead to fewer examples of what a relationship can look like. The smallness of the community can also lead to “two degrees of separation” so to speak, where others in the community are all aware of the relationship and the partners in the relationship have many mutual friends. There can also be relationships in which partners meet anonymously, particularly for those who are not out. All of these features can impact someone’s decision to communicate their experiences in their relationships.

SDS: Even if we just look at something like outness, for example, it makes sense that a person who has concerns about being perceived as queer may not share everything about their relationship with those who under other circumstances might be considered confidants. In reality, this can also prevent people from reaching out for help from offices or organizations that support those who have experienced the harm of sexual violence or assault. There are lots of reasons why a person would not want to openly identify or be identified as queer: for example, out of fear of reprisals or stigma, for safety reasons, because they haven’t decided or aren’t sure that they do identify as queer, or even because the language and labels (gay, bi, trans, etc) just don’t fit their experiences. This also applies to the language we use to describe those who experience harm: “survivors” and “victims”. The question for some people becomes, ‘Does this apply to my situation? If the language doesn’t apply, then is this a resource or a support system that is actually made for me, with my experiences in mind?’

BJG: Beyond the barriers for reaching out for support, barriers also exist on the other end by the offices and people who are supposed to be in a position to provide support, such as police officers and counselors. It can be invalidating for someone to have to explain themselves more than once or justify their situation, because others don’t trust it at face value or their situation doesn’t seem to fit the typical mold, or the stereotype. A person could also have concerns about their situation being given the care and attention it deserves, as prejudice, transphobia, and homophobia often lead people to dismiss queer experiences.

SDS: Wow, I’m glad this is just the start of this conversation. There is so much more to say! Next week, we’ll continue this conversation and consider the role that community has to play in supporting those who have experienced harm. As people who identify as members of the queer community, we’ve tried to shed light on an uncomfortable topic while also holding these experiences with sensitivity. Just as we lit the candle at the start of this post, we’ll carry it with us over the next two posts as well.

Sheehan Scarborough, Director of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

BJG, Undergraduate Intern ("Quintern") in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

For Further Reading:

My partner and I have found that often when we’re trying to have sex, he has trouble keeping an erection. What could be causing this and how do we figure out how to meet each other’s needs?

AG: Thanks for the thoughtful and nuanced questions! This is a pretty big topic with a lot of different implications so we’re going to spread our answer over two weeks. Today we’ll be discussing different types of desire and some of the physiology that contributes to or inhibits erections. Next week we’ll go into more detail about factors that can inhibit or excite sexual desire as well as the norms shaping these situations. We’ll end by talking about the importance of communication in these situations!  

AA: Thank you again for this question. It can definitely be a hard one to ask and not something we talk very much about in our society, even though it is very common. According to a 2000 study, 43% of women and 31% of men report some sort sexual dysfunction.  Even in looking at the language used to describe this type of concern, there is potential for better reflecting the prevalence and therefore normality of this type of experience. The more we can begin to normalize these experiences the more we can reduce the stigma and isolation that people may feel regarding these concerns.

AG: In today’s society there are many gendered norms about sexual desire. One pervasive norm is that all male bodied individuals have spontaneous desire, where they can instantaneously feel sexual regardless of the context, and that all female bodied individuals have responsive desire where they need to be in a sexual situation in order to feel sexual desire. While these may be true for many bodies, it is really important to remember that all individuals at any given time experience a different mix of things that contribute to desire.

AA: This is such an important point to make regarding sexual desire and how that can play into arousal. I will also note that erections for male-bodied individuals are affected by a number of factors. These can include being aroused in the sexual experience, as well as blood flow to the penis upon stimulation. Male-bodied individuals who experience difficulty maintaining an erection may not be getting the necessary amount of blood flow to the penis. There are a number of things that can contribute to decreased blood flow to the penis; use of alcohol and other drugs, medications one may be taking, high blood pressure, and some other medical conditions.If you feel that one of these factors may be attributing to an inability of maintaining or achieving an erection it would be best to consult a medical professional.

AG: All of these factors aside, the context of a sexual experience also directly shapes arousal and desire. Even if both people are excited about each other and the idea of having sex, other things can be contributing to your state of mind that might be preventing an erection. For example, if your roommate had walked in on you and your partner once then worry about that happening again might be distracting and could possibly prevent an erection. So many things can contribute to this such as an upcoming exam, a fight with a friend, thoughts or concerns about your body, and much more. The list is endless and looks different for each person at any given time.

AA: This is a great beginning to the conversation and next week we will explore more, so stay tuned for next week’s blog post.

Is it weird that a lot of single sex groups vet members of the same sex at parties but don’t seem to do the same for members of the opposite sex? What can people do to encourage equity?

AG: Hey and thanks for reaching out to Sexual Literacy! These questions are coming at a timely point where Harvard is talking a lot about inclusivity, social spaces, and single-gender organizations and I think people on campus are trying to navigate how to best encourage equity. I want to start just by validating that yes, it is weird. It can be really awkward to show up to a party you thought was open with a group and have some people turned away at the door because of their gender.

ML: Absolutely--if you’re planning to go out with a group of friends and suddenly you can’t all go into a party together, it can embarrassing and frustrating. Historically, single-gender institutions were founded as such over a century ago with the idea of providing men and women with separate social outlets in college. Over a century later, these same institutions oftentimes follow these antiquated practices despite a changed environment in which they exist, lending itself to extremely heteronormative behavior.

AG: We don’t mean to entirely bash on these organizations. I know many people who are members that have gotten a ton out of their involvement. People find communities, comfort, and yes--places to party, in these groups. I also don’t think that people in these clubs are making these heteronormative decisions out of spite. Rather, often I think that it choices like this can come from a well-intentioned place (for example, trying to reduce the club’s liability in letting individuals they do not know into the club) but in practice are more problematic.  

ML: As a member of a single-gender organization myself, it’s really difficult to question the institution to which you belong. There are many benefits of joining these organizations--from new friendships, alumni connections, and even parties--however it is also important to be able to look at how your group operates and seek change when you feel something is wrong or outdated. It can also be difficult to make these changes when other members or chapters of your organization do not agree, however I’ve felt from my own experience that working to show others what you and your group prioritizes is more important than any resistance you may face.

AG: So going back to your second question, I think that small changes like letting both genders in at the door or having events cosponsored across differently gendered organizations can go a long way. Obviously these doesn’t change the institutions on a national level but working from the bottom up is often a powerful way to enact change.

Neither of us had a condom and it killed the night, what could we have done that would still have been safe?

AA: Thanks for the question! It can be frustrating if you both are wanting to have the type of sex that might involve safer sex supplies and y’all realize you don’t have any. However! This definitely does not have to kill the night--there are so many other fun options that you and your partner(s) could explore.

AG: If you are concerned about not having a condom because you’re trying to avoid pregnancy then some options include: oral sex, mutual masturbation, playing with sex toys, cuddling, intimate talking (which seriously can be really sexy!), kissing, massages, watching or reading ethically made erotica, or any other forms of outercourse! This list is certainly not exhaustive but can be fun places to start. They’re also just all great forms of foreplay or fun alternatives if you aren’t wanting to have the type of sex that would involve safer sex supplies.

AA: It is important to note that some fun-sexy-play-time activities may transmit STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections). A really great way to offset this is to regularly get tested for STIs if you are engaging in any form of sexual activity. You can check out the CDC recommendations for how often a person should get STI tested. STI testing is free for all students at HUHS.

AG: It is also important to maintain open and honest conversation with your sexual partner(s). This includes conversations about pleasure, health, wants, needs, non-negotiables, and shared responsibility for practicing safer sex.

AA: There are many places on campus that provide free external condoms. You can find a map of current locations here. There are also a few places on campus that also supply internal condoms, oral dams, non-latex condoms, and lube. These location are the Health Promotion Office on the 6th Floor of HUHS and the Harvard College Women’s Center in Canaday B.

AG: I think also sometimes in heterosexual relationships it’s easy to put the responsibility for external condoms on the man. However, in all relationships, when having equitable and safe sex, it might be worth negotiating shared responsibility regardless of gender identity.