Tons of Students Aren't Using Protection. Here's Why We Need to Cut That Out

By Rebekah Harding

*All names used in the article have been changed to protect the identities of the interviewees.

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Cuffing season is coming to a close and Valentine’s Day is upon us. It’s no surprise that lots of students are planning a romantic date with their new beaus to celebrate. Students are heading to the stores to pick up some chocolates, flowers, and condoms…well not everybody.

Sexual health resources around campus and online advocate for safe sex using a barrier method for protection, which protects against pregnancy and STDs. However, some students are actively choosing NOT to use protection during sex, even in no-strings-attached scenarios.

Dr. Maria Pellecchia, the assistant clinical director at Temple University’s Student Health Center, weighed in on condom usage amongst the students that come to their facility as patients.

“More than half our students who are sexually active say they used a condom the last time they engaged in sexual activity. However, less say they use condoms consistently,” Dr. Pellecchia explains. “Often it is because there is improper use of condoms. Other times the influence of alcohol may affect judgement. Also, students think that having sexual activity with someone known to them is less risky since they are ‘known partners’ which is inaccurate. This arises from a general misunderstanding or lack of proper sex education in high schools.”

A survey collected by CollegeStats.org identified Temple University as the most sexually active campus in the United States. That’s all the more reason to use protection, especially in a more casual ‘sex-uation’.

Anna, a student at Temple University, first began having unprotected sex with her High School boyfriend.

“My first ever boyfriend pretty much refused to wear a condom whenever we had sex, and one time, my period was super late”, she explained, “I was so scared. I was 17 and a senior in high school—I didn’t want a baby.”

Even after her high school relationship, Anna has had other sexual encounters where she felt like she couldn’t request the use of protection.

Anna said, “I’ve had a couple unprotected partners, which I know isn’t good at all, but those specific people didn't make me feel like I could ask them to use a condom.”

Sexual partners refusing to use condoms is a huge problem, especially when the other partner still feels pressured to go through with it. In a lot of cases, all the pressure is put solely on one partner to worry about protection and/or call the shots when it comes to practicing safe sex.

It takes two to tango, so both parties should be investing in their protection!

Despite saying no to condoms, students that engage in unprotected sex are still concerned about the potential risks and find themselves regretting the decision to neglect protection in the heat of the moment.

Jessica, a freshman at Temple University, explained that her habit of not using protection during casual sex and sex within a relationship stems from her first partner, who she didn’t use protection with.

“My experiences with unprotected sex are something I almost always regret”, said Jessica, “In the moment I don’t think about the potential consequences but I am always stressed afterwards. The potential for disease is something that worries me regularly after engaging in unprotected sex.”

While they are the most accessible and easy to use method of contraception, condoms aren’t always the full package when it comes to sexual health. Certain condom brands contain spermicide, which while they do work in killing the sperm in addition to a traditional barrier method, can actually cause UTIs, yeast infections and other irritation in female partners.

Luckily, condoms are getting more and more innovative everyday. From condoms that change color when they come in contact with an STD to textured condoms to make protection a little bit more fun, there really is a condom for everyone.

There are several brands like Sustain that make fair-trade, vagina-friendly condoms that are free from harsh irritants that may throw your pH out of whack (and they’re vegan!). Plus, these condoms are made in different sizes and latex-thicknesses to suit whatever preference you and your partner have.

The Temple University Wellness Resource Center offers inexpensive safe sex supplies to students that can be purchased with diamond dollars. Yes, you can buy condoms with those extra Diamond Dollars that might come with your meal plan.

They offer everything from external/internal condoms to flavored lube and nothing costs more than a dollar. You can even pick up some non-latex condoms if you or your partner have a latex allergy.

It really comes down to if you want to be safe, you need to be intentional about your commitment to protecting yourself. You should feel comfortable asking your partner to use protection without stressing about ‘ruining the heat of the moment’. Regardless of whether you anticipate having sex, keeping a condom on hand is always a good idea so you can be confident in whatever decision you make.

It’s a new year, let’s make a commitment to our health and safety and choose to protect ourselves during sex (especially during all of our Valentine’s Day shenanigans).

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