Dr. Patricia Mirwaldt, Director, UBC Student Health Services, on what students should think about when it comes their sexual health
What are university students’ biggest concerns when it comes to sex?
There is an enduring myth that college students have a lot of sex. Since we began collecting health statistics in 2004, the average number of sexual partners for undergraduate students is less than one – many students have zero partners.
So the most common concern is whether or not to get into a sexual relationship and how to negotiate it so it’s safe for themselves and their partners.
How do you address these concerns?
Sex exists, and it manifests in many ways–it can be with the opposite sex, same sex or with more than one person. We expect students will be interested in experiencing sex in their young adulthood, so we acknowledge it openly and non-judgmentally when we speak with them.
We encourage them to examine their desires before they’re in a potential situation – whether it’s having sex for the first time, entering into an intimate relationship that includes sex, or “hooking up” –, and to ask whether now is the right time, and how they would protect each other. It can be great fun but there can also be dire consequences.
What are the biggest misconceptions students have about sex?
There are two: if you know the person well, they couldn’t possibly have a sexually transmitted infection; and if I was tested I can’t give anything to my partner.
The truth is, wonderful people like you and me can have a sexually transmitted infection. Most of the time when someone passes on an STI, they honestly don’t know and you can’t tell either. And we can’t test for everything that can be transmitted.
So the key is to have a frank and honest discussion when you’re ready to proceed, and proceed with a conversation about what this means and what you’ll do to protect each other.