Student Health and Wellness is home to The UConn Sexperts, a volunteer, peer education program composed of 5-15 highly dedicated students who are passionate about promoting sexual health on the UConn campus.
The Sexperts mission is "to promote positive and responsible health to UConn students; respecting people’s individual choices and creating awareness of sexual health issues, including safer-sex strategies, sexually transmitted infections, contraception/birth control, sexual boundaries and consent, pleasure, and healthy decision making."
Name: Emma Stierle Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Program Development Committee Chair Semester: 7 Semester as a Sexpert: 5 Major: Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Hobbies: I enjoy skiing, hiking, painting, and being involved on campus. Why the UConn Sexperts? I joined the UConn Sexperts because I am passionate about the health and wellness of the student body. Everyone at UConn deserves the resources and information to make the best choices for their health and wellbeing. I really enjoy being a peer educator and being able to engage in amazing discussions.
Name: Meg Gunnamreddy Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Program Development Committee Member Semester: 7 Semester as a Sexpert: 4 Major: Physiology and Neurobiology Hobbies: My hobbies include weight lifting, spending time with family and friends, and meditation Why the UConn Sexperts? I chose to join the UConn Sexperts because, through Student Health and Wellness, we, as peer educators, get to spread awareness on sexual health and promote sexual health education with engaging programs and enriching events on campus
Name: Evan Horton Pronouns: he/him Role: Campus Communications Committee Member Semester: 7 Semester as a Sexpert: 4 Major: Psychology Hobbies: Writing, playing Pokémon Go, baking, playing video games, and DnD. Why the UConn Sexperts? I have always loved learning about sex education and sexuality, and I was eager to join a group of like-minded people! I also wanted to support my UConn community and provide everyone with non-judgmental and inclusive information!
Name: Sarah Adlassnig Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Strategic Partnerships & Events Committee Member Semester: 7 Semester as a Sexpert: 3 Major: Biomedical Engineering Hobbies: I love to read, experiment with new recipes, and recently I have been getting into yoga and rock climbing! Why the UConn Sexperts? I joined UConn Sexperts because I am truly very passionate about sexual health, access to comprehensive health, and sexual health education. I am planning to pursue medicine in the future and believe that through activism and education surrounding sexual health, we can create not only a safer and healthier campus, but a more sex positive world. Having conversations about these important topics on campus is essential to reducing the stigma surrounding sexual health and care. I am able to do all of these things and more as a UConn Sexpert and it is truly my favorite thing that I am involved with on campus.
Name: Ashten Pronouns: he/him Role: Campus Communications Committee Chair Semester: 5 Semester as a Sexpert: 3 Major: Psychological Sciences, Minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Hobbies: Art, advocacy, hanging out with my cat. Why the UConn Sexperts? I wanted to get involved with health education and I value accessibility to information. I really like being able to get involved with my community at UConn :)
Name: Aliza Ebora Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Strategic Partnerships & Events Committee Chair Semester: 5 Semester as a Sexpert: 2 Major: Allied Health Hobbies: Working out, hanging out with friends, making memes. Why the UConn Sexperts? I chose to join the UConn Sexperts because I am passionate about public health and health education. Sexual education is incredibly important, and it is important to approach these sensitive topics without stigma or shame.
Name: Fizza Dar Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Strategic Partnerships & Events Committee Member Semester: 7 Semester as a Sexpert: 2 Major: Nursing Hobbies: Cooking, baking, watching basketball, and spending time outdoors Why the UConn Sexperts? I chose to join the UConn Sexperts because I believe that sexual health is such important topic and is a fundamental component to our overall wellbeing. I'm very passionate about health care and believe everyone should have the access to resources. Being on a college campus, I want to help educate others, promote safe practices, and destigmatize the topic of sexual health.
Name: Marissa Ciccarini Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Strategic Partnerships & Events Committee Member Semester: 7 Semester as a Sexpert: 1 Major: Molecular and Cell Biology Hobbies: My hobbies include watching movies (especially horror), cooking, and I’m getting back into reading! Why the UConn Sexperts? I think talking about sex related topics can sometimes be uncomfortable and I really want to be a part of de-stigmatizing it. I also believe sexual health education is extremely important and often overlooked. I really wanted to get involved with some type of public health program on campus and think the Sexperts have awesome programming and initiatives!.
Name: Jillian Grande Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Campus Communications Committee Member Semester: 5 Semester as a Sexpert: 1 Major: Political Science & Women and Gender Studies Hobbies: My hobbies include reading, Hiking, Going to the Beach Why the UConn Sexperts? I chose to join the Sexperts because I believe that everyone should have equal access to a comprehensive sex education. I wanted to help serve the UConn community by normalizing talking openly about sex, and want to help provide a safe space for those who may have questions.
Name: Nafeiza Gregory (FiFi) Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Strategic Partnerships & Events Committee Member Semester: 7 Semester as a Sexpert: 1 Major: Public Health & Health Promotion Hobbies: My hobbies include swimming, movies, trying and cooking new foods. Why the UConn Sexperts? I have always enjoyed learning and educating teens about safe sex practices, but there's so much more to sexual education than what meets the eye. I joined the Sexperts to help BIPOC students understand that they should not be afraid to talk about sexual experiences and there's no harm in seeking help when needed for advice. There is so much stigma around sexual education and health in different cultures from my own experience so I want to provide students with a safe space to break that stigmatization.
Name: Sam Dooley Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Campus Communications Committee Member Semester: Semester as a Sexpert: Major: Hobbies: Why the UConn Sexperts?
Name: Alejandra Gonzales Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Campus Communications Committee Member Semester: Semester as a Sexpert: Major: Hobbies: Why the UConn Sexperts?
Name: Claire Murphy Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Program Development Committee Member Semester: 3 Semester as a Sexpert: 1 Major: Molecular & Cell Biology Hobbies: Acting, dancing, baking, rock painting, and going to the beach Why the UConn Sexperts? I am very interested in public health and health education. I believe that sexual health is an important aspect of healthcare because is affects our physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. Everyone deserves access to sexual health knowledge and resources, so I am really excited to promote sexual health education and help other students on campus!
Name: Olga Wilson Pronouns: she/her/hers Role: Program Development Committee Member Semester: 7 Semester as a Sexpert: 1 Major: Physiology & Neurobiology Hobbies: Rugby & Dancing Why the UConn Sexperts? To make sure the student body of UConn is educated about sex and prevention of pregnancy and STD/STIs. The last thing sex is suppose to be is worrysome!
Want to learn how you can support the mission of the UConn Sexperts and improve the sexual health of students on campus? There are several ways to connect with us.
1.) Book a program or presentation for your club or organization!
The UConn Sexperts provide several educational programs and presentations for student groups. These presentations cover a wide variety of topics, ranging from safer-sex practices (i.e. condom use), birth control/contraception, decision-making, consent, pleasure, and more! Some of the groups we work with often include Greek Life, Residential Life, & cultural centers. For a list of our current offerings, and to book a program, visit the Student Health and Wellness program request form by clicking here.
2.) Collaborate with us on events, campaigns, and more!
Want to collaborate with us on an event, or consult us on a sexual health initiative or program your team is developing? We want to work with you! Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org!
3.) Reach out to us with your feedback!
Have questions about accessing sexual health resources on campus, or want to provide input on your experience with sexual health services on campus? Reach out to us at email@example.com! We're always looking for feedback so we can help improve sexual health services for UConn students. For other questions about sexual health, consider filling out our "Ask the Sexpert" form for an anonymous response on our website!
Applications for the Spring 2022 are closed, but please feel free to fill out an application for consideration for the Fall 2022 semester. Applicants must be available Mondays from 4pm-6pm throughout the semester. Applications are open to first-year, second-year, and third-year undergraduate students. We are unable to accept students scheduled to graduate the semester after they apply. Please fill out the form below to apply!
For more information, please contact our supervisor, Cassy Setzler, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Want to join the UConn Sexperts? Here's some more information about the program commitments & requirements:
All students are required to dedicate a minimum of 8 hours of volunteer time a month, with additional hours throughout the semester, including mandatory attendance at:
- 2-hour combined weekly all-Sexpert group meeting & committee meeting on Monday evenings from 4pm-6pm.
- 1 all-day Saturday training at the start of each semester
- 1 30 minute mid-semester meeting with the UConn Sexpert’s Supervisor
Additionally, students may also have the opportunity to participate in various other activities, including:
- Additional virtual & in-person programming
- Attendance at the Involvement Fair, Block Party, Condom-a-thon, and Late Night events
- Experience assisting with gloveBOX program
*Sexperts who are chosen/sign-up as program presenters are required to be available extra hours to present programming
**Added commitments are required for our three committee chair positions
Sex can be hard to talk about! We’re here to make things easy by providing an anonymous and judgement-free space for you to ask any sex-related questions you have. All you have to do is fill out the form with your question, and we’ll do our best to answer your question on our website within the week (we will remove any identifying information before we post it publicly!)
*Please note that this form is for educational purposes only, and not for individualized medical advice. We encourage all students with specific questions about their sexual health (i.e. are experiencing symptoms, are concerned about potential pregnancy/exposure to STIs, etc.) to make an appointment with a medical provider by clicking here. If you are experiencing an emergency or mental health crisis, please call 911. This form will not trigger an immediate response. Additionally, submissions to this form do not constitute notice to the University regarding Prohibited Conduct under the Policy Against Discrimination, Harassment, and Related Interpersonal Violence. If you've experienced a sexual harassment, sexual assault, stalking, or intimate partner violence, we encourage you to seek support. If you'd like more information about support resources and reporting options, please click here. Remember, it is NOT your fault and you are NOT alone.
When I masturbate, I finish within a couple of minutes. How do I make that process last longer?
Everyone has a different pace in which they may experience orgasm. This is nothing to be ashamed of if it only takes a few minutes for you, since people’s bodies function and experience sex differently! The overall range for how long it can take people to orgasm tends to vary from less than one minute to longer than half an hour, so there is no “correct” length of time that it should take for you.
However, if you want to try and extend the time it takes you before you orgasm, you can try edging, which is the process of trying to prolong your experience and increase pleasure before you ejaculate/orgasm.
One method you can try is the “stop and start” method. This includes pausing the stimulation of yourself before you feel like you are going to finish, then waiting thirty seconds to one minute. Then when you are ready, you can go back to stimulating yourself. You can continue this cycle of starting and stopping until you would like to orgasm. Some signs that you are reaching orgasm that you can look out for are a faster heartbeat, skin flushing, and tenser muscles. You also may notice that your vagina gets more lubricated or “wet”, or your scrotum starts to withdraw before orgasm. People experience orgasm differently though, so these aspects are not a one size-fits-all but can be used as a guide to sense when you are close to finishing, if you want to practice the technique of edging.
If you have a penis, you also can try the “squeeze” method. This includes getting yourself aroused and stimulated, and before you feel like you are going to orgasm, you can squeeze the head of your penis to attempt to stop it from happening. After waiting thirty seconds, you can start the process of stimulation again!.
Does UConn provide pregnancy tests? If so, at what charge?
UConn does provide pregnancy testing through Student Health and Wellness. There are pregnancy tests available for pickup at the Student Health and Wellness pharmacy located on the ground floor of the Hilda May Williams Student Health Services building.
There are two options to purchase at home pregnancy tests:
- “First Response Pregnancy” in a pack of two for $15.45.
- Generic pregnancy test for $3.06.
Both generic and name brand pregnancy tests are accurate. Drugstore pregnancy tests (regardless of the brand) work 99 out of 100 times.
Another option is to see a medical care provider at Student Health and Wellness. They'll provide you with the test on site, and if positive, they can provide counsel on all your options, including obstetric services, adoption, and abortion services. Seeing a provider for a test may seem overwhelming, but there is no judgement from the healthcare providers, and they can help provide support. Patients are also protected by privacy laws, which means no one besides you and your healthcare provider will know what was discussed at your visit.
Please note: The pharmacy is only open to students who have valid UConn ID and have paid the Storrs Student Health fee. Payment for pharmacy can be made by cash, credit card, check, Husky Bucks, or charged to the health fees. The pharmacy does offer curbside pickup, and the ability to order through an online marketplace!
The current hours of operation for the pharmacy during the academic semester are:
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Fridays: 8-5 pm (closed 12-1)
Wednesdays: 10:30-5pm (closed 12-1)
Saturday & Sundays: Closed
What is the difference between an STI and an STD? Does UConn offer testing for either? How do you get a test?
You've probably heard of the term STD (sexually transmitted disease) but might be hearing the term STI (sexually transmitted infection) more often lately. While they can be used interchangeably, generally, the term “STI” is more encompassing than “STD”- STIs include the infections that cause diseases, since not all infections lead to the clinical definition of disease.
Student Health and Wellness (SHaW) offers testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, genital warts, syphilis, and HIV. These tests are sent out to be processed by an outside lab, and you're billed through insurance. Most insurances cover testing, but it’s always a good idea to call your insurance company to check first! To get tested, call SHaW at 860-486-4700 to schedule an appointment with a provider, and indicate that you’d like to be tested for STIs.
Students of all genders can also get vaccinated for human papillomavirus (HPV) at SHaW (either their first shot, or the continuation of the three-part series.) Scheduling can be arranged by calling the number referenced above and mentioning you’d like to make an appointment to receive the HPV (Gardasil) vaccine.
If you’d prefer to seek testing elsewhere, the CT Department of Public Health has a list of STI clinic locations around the state.
What is the difference between an internal and external condom?
Condoms are protective barriers used during sexual acts to prevent pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). There are so many different varieties and brands to choose from, so it’s a good idea to try different types to find out what you and your partner(s) like best.
Most commonly, when people think of condoms, they usually thinking of external condoms. This type of condom is worn by someone with a penis during sex, or can be used on a sex toy.
To use an external condom, the first step is to check the expiration date on the condom to make sure it’s not expired. If it’s expired, grab another condom. If it’s the only condom you have, an expired condom is better than no condom, so go ahead and use it (it just might be less effective). Next, check for damage to the condom. If you pinch the middle, there should be an air pocket in the corner, like when you squeeze a bag of chips. If there is, you’re good to go – the condom is airtight and hasn’t been damaged. Tear open the packaging, avoiding using your teeth as to not damage the condom. Pinch the tip of the condom and place it on the head of the penis. Roll the condom down to the base, smoothing out air bubbles along the way. After sex, roll the condom off, making sure that the person touching the condom is only touching where their fluids touched. Then dispose in the trash.
There are also internal condoms (formerly referred to as “female” condoms). This type of condom is inserted into the vagina or anus, rather than on a penis or toy. We no longer call these female condoms, because people of all genders can use them.
To use an internal condom for vaginal sex, check the expiration date. Open the condom, avoiding using your teeth as to not damage it. Squeeze the inner ring, and insert the condom into the vagina until the outer ring is flush against the body. The outer ring can provide stimulation to the clitoris. You should check to make sure that the condom stays in place during sex. After, twist the condom and pull to remove, then dispose in the trash. An internal condom can be inserted up to 8 hours before sex. To use for anal sex, use the same way, but remove the inner ring first if desired for comfort.
My partner says they can’t feel my penis inside them during sex, even when it’s fully inserted. How can I increase sensation for us both?
It’s helpful to be in communication with your partner during sex to figure out what feels good for you and them. Some things may feel better for you than others, and some things may not work for you and your partner. That’s completely ok, there is not one right way to enjoy sex.
Adding sensation may help them experience more pleasure during penetration. There are external condoms that are ribbed for a more pleasurable sensation during insertion. There are also lubrications that add sensation, like warming lubes.
If your partner is mentioning that they’re not feeling “turned on” by just intercourse alone, try locating and stimulating the “G spot” if they have a vagina, or the prostate if they have one. To stimulate the “G spot” you can move your finger in an upwards motion against the vaginal wall that is closest to your bellybutton. The prostate is located between the rectum and bladder, and you can stimulate it by going about two inches deep into your partner’s anus and applying light pressure/massaging it. Experimenting with foreplay and different external sensations in addition to penetrative sex can make the experience more pleasurable for all partners.
You can also try communicating with your partner about what feels good and what gives them the most sensation. Most people with vaginas don’t report intercourse being the most “pleasurable” part of sex; clitoral stimulation is reported to be more pleasurable, since the clitoris has more nerve endings than the vaginal walls.
Experimenting with different positions and tools may help increase sensation if your partner is mentioning they’re not feeling “full” enough. Alternate positions to missionary could include doggy-style or having your partner be on top. There are toys called penis extenders that increase girth. The use of external vibrators on the clitoris can also increase sensation.
If your partner literally cannot feel any bodily sensation at all when being touched or penetrated, this might be something they should refer to a medical care provider about. A medical care provider at SHaW can be reached at 860-486-4700.
My partner has a suction cup type thing in her vagina. What is it?
What you are describing sounds like it may be a diaphragm! A diaphragm is a barrier method of birth control that consists of a “cap” that is often used with spermicide to prevent pregnancy. It is important to note we do not recommend the use of spermicide, as it can be harmful to the surrounding tissues, and is not typically the most effective when used as a sole method of contraception. Ultimately, the type of birth control that you use is a personal your choice. If you would like to learn more about the types of contraception, please refer to our website, or ask your healthcare provider.
You may also be referring to a menstrual cup or disc. Menstrual cups are used when someone is on their period, as an alternative to pads or tampons. Please note that because of the position of the menstrual cup, it is unsafe to have penetrative sex with a menstrual cup inserted. There is also another type of period product that is like a cup, but is in a disc shape. Discs are safe to have penetrative sex with, as they sit higher in the vaginal canal. Neither the menstrual cup or disc are a method of birth control.
What should I do if I my penis can’t reach my partner when we have sex from behind? Does that mean we can’t do that position? Please help!
Is it natural to want to admire your partner’s body before having intercourse?
How do you keep your vagina clean? I know it’s supposed to be self-cleaning, but sometimes I feel like it has a scent to it, and my discharge has a strong fishy scent.
Where is the clitoris located?
The clitoris is a sexual organ that exists solely for pleasure! The external part of the clitoris that is seen is called the “glans clitoris”, and it’s located above the vagina and in between the labia towards the top, sometimes covered by a clitoral hood. It becomes more visible as it becomes aroused and swells with blood.
Like the foreskin of a penis, the clitoral hood can be pulled back slightly to expose the glans clitoris more. It has many nerve endings, so it can be stimulated by gentle touching and stroking. It is NOT a “magic button” that needs to be handled aggressively. Speed and pressure are factors that can be adjusted independently as you experiment, but your best bet is communicating with your partner what they want!
The clitoris also has internal anatomy that cannot be seen. The crura, also known as the “legs” of the clitoris rest atop the vestibular bulbs, and there is one on each side of the vaginal opening. Similarly, to the glans clitoris, these parts are also made of erectile tissue that fill with blood when aroused, which can also contribute to sexual stimulation!
More on the clitoris and where it's located can be found here.
How can I tell what is a good condom, or what is good birth control?
All condoms are held to the same standards, and one condom is not “better” than another at preventing STIs or pregnancy. Condoms are “Class II medical devices” as designated by the FDA, and undergo special testing, including water leak testing, airburst testing, tensile testing, and more. To meet FDA standards, all condoms sold in the U.S. must have a score of 99.6% to pass testing requirements – which means that 996 out of 1000 condoms must pass these tests to be put on the market. That being said, people might have brand or type preferences, which is why Student Health and Wellness offers so many types.
So, ultimately, the best condom is an undamaged one that is used correctly and consistently every time! The best way to check if a condom has been damaged is to hold it in the middle and check the corner; it should be airtight and have a slight bubble, like a bag of chips. Check the expiration date and open the condom wrapper with your fingers, not your nails or scissors, in case you tear the condom.
Proper storage is also important; don’t store it in your wallet or in heat or cold. Condoms are 98% effective in preventing pregnancy if used perfectly every single time. Accounting for human error, condoms are about 85% effective.
In terms of birth control - the best one is the birth control that works best for you, and that you and your doctor discuss together. Like any medication, birth control works differently for everyone. What might work for one person may not work for you. Having open conversations with your doctors and your needs and concerns will be the best way to determine your best option! Want a starting place? Use this comparison chart to compare types of birth control on things like effectiveness, side effects, cost, effort, etc!
Is it normal for your testicles to hurt after sex?
If you are experiencing testicular pain after ejaculation, there are a few important things to consider.
There are a lot of muscles are involved in ejaculation, feeling sore after sex is a common experience due to these muscles contracting.
However, there are also other causes of pain that should not be ignored. Swelling of the epididymis (the tube at the back of the testicle that carries sperm) could also account for testicular pain after ejaculation and can be caused by STIs. If you are sexually active, it is always a good idea to get regular STI tests, especially if you are experiencing something that is outside the norm for YOU and your body.
Lastly, it is important to identify the type of pain that you are experiencing. Muscle pain is often described as soreness, and can be quite common! If your pain is sharp, severe, or long lasting, or if you are experiencing redness or swelling, we recommend speaking with your doctor to determine the best course of action. If you need to speak with a medical professional, you can always make an appointment with SHaW or speak with the 24/7 advice nurse at 860-486-4700!
Every time my partner puts his fingers in my vagina, it starts profusely bleeding. I’m scared to have sex with him because of how much it could bleed. Why is it bleeding a lot all of a sudden?
There are a few reasons why bleeding can occur during sexual activity. Sometimes, a light amount of bleeding can occur during penetration due to lack of lubrication (which can occur for many reasons, including medication side effects, to not having enough “foreplay” prior to penetration). Using a water-based or silicone-based lubricant each time you have sex can reduce these chances. You can purchase lubrication over the counter at the SHaW pharmacy or retail pharmacies like CVS – and can also get small packets for free through gloveBOX or at Planned Parenthood! Untrimmed nails can also cause a small amount of bleeding, so if your partner has longer nails, you could ask them to trim them prior to sex.
However, what you’re describing sounds more than just a few drops of blood. In this situation, we’d recommend reaching out to your healthcare provider, especially if it causes you pain and you’re concerned about the amount of bleeding you’re experiencing. There is also the 24-hour advice nurse through SHaW, who can be reached at 860-486-4700.
I have been in a long-term relationship with someone for a while, and we have been dating on and off for a while. My partner is no longer interested in having a sexual relationship, which is discouraging. I am not sure what to do. (Note: we are in our 60’s)
Changes in relationship dynamics, can be difficult to adapt to, especially later in life, and when you have been with a partner for an extended period! If sex is not important to your partner, but you find it is important to you, we would encourage speaking to them more about why they may not be interested. While differing libido levels can be hard to navigate, it does not mean a relationship is destined to fail. We would encourage you to read the response to the question below to identify ways to address differing levels of libido in a relationship!
If you find that after having a conversation, a sexual relationship is completely off the table, but you’d still like to continue an emotional relationship, then we would encourage discussing other forms of intimacy with your partner, as well as examining your own relationship with your individual sexuality!
I was having sex with a girl and she bit me so hard I started to bleed and now I got a bad bruise. It was my first time so I don’t know if that’s normal – is it?
Bruises can form from any type of impact to the skin, so it’s just as normal to get a bruise during sex as it is by bumping into a table, or tripping. Like with any bruise, keep an eye on prolonged inflammation or numbness & weakness in the affected area, but if is any concern at all, it is highly recommend to contact a medical provider, or call the Student Health and Wellness 24/7 Advice Nurse at 860-486-4700.
Finding a bruise after sex can be alarming, especially if it’s something you didn’t anticipate, or want. While some people may enjoy biting during sex, or may be okay with having bruises, other folks might now. Check in with yourself, and if you are anticipating having sex with the same partner, check in with them and let them know if you’re uncomfortable with biting, bruising, or anything else that may have caused you discomfort!
Most importantly, if this experience was overwhelming or distressing to you, you can talk to a mental health provider at Student Health and Wellness by calling 860-486-4705.
How do you manage different libido levels in a relationship?
Different levels of libido are a very common experience in sexual relationships. There can be many accompanying emotions like frustration, guilt, or shame. It’s important to note that a difference in libidos is okay, and it does not mean that a relationship (sexual and/or emotional) is destined to fail. The pain is in the resistance to the difference, so focus on what you can change, rather than what you can’t!
Take the time to talk with your partner(s) about where your libidos do overlap. Be curious about where you can expand on the overlap, rather than focusing on where you mismatch. For example, you can talk about different expressions of your sexuality that you would be willing to explore, together or separately, like masturbation, ethical porn, sex toys, open relationships, etc., and identify any shared desires.
It's also important to try to communicate to your partner what your needs are in a relationship (not limited to sex) and listen to them share about what they need as well. While these conversations might feel daunting or difficult, it can help to think of them as a collaborative problem-solving effort, rather than accusatory or blaming your partner or yourself for the differences.
You and your partner(s) may not be on the same page all the time, and that is okay! There are some things that you are not going to be able to change by having a conversation – but feeling safe enough to have a discussion is important and shows your partner that you respect their boundaries, and they respect yours!
Can I get birth control prescribed through UConn?
Yes! SHaW offers a variety of birth control options. If you’re looking for a particular type that SHaW doesn’t offer (for example, if you’d like an IUD placed), they can refer you to a provider that can!
One common type of birth control that SHaW can prescribe is oral contraception (“the pill”). You will need a gynecological exam and pap smear, which you can schedule by calling 860-486-4700. You can choose to finance this through cash, check, credit/debit card, or you can add it to your fee bill.
In the event of an emergency, Plan B (“morning-after pill”) is also FREE over-the-counter at the SHaW pharmacy!
What do I do if I have bad lower-abdomen cramps and profuse vaginal bleeding after my first few times having sex. Will I be okay?
If you are bleeding after sex (that is more than just a little spotting), it can be scary and overwhelming, especially if you have not had sex before. Profuse bleeding is not normal to experience following vaginal intercourse. If you are experiencing these symptoms, we would advise visiting your medical provider to discuss your concerns. You can make an appointment with a medical care provider at Student Health and Wellness by calling 860-486-4700.
Is there an easy way to tell if a lubricant is spermicidal? Does spermicidal lube have health risks?
Spermicide is a form of birth control that contains something called nonoxynol-9. This is the active ingredient that paralyzes sperm, preventing it from joining with an egg. Spermicidal lube, or condoms that have spermicidal lube on them should specifically labeled as such on the packaging, but check for this ingredient to make sure.
Some people like the additional pregnancy prevention spermicide provides. However, nonoxynol-9 has been shown to irritate the skin, specifically the vagina and anus, which can increase the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS, and can also contribute to painful irritation, allergic reactions, and UTIs.
Student Health and Wellness does not offer spermicide, due to the increased risk of students contracting STIs, or developing other infections. For more information about spermicide, please click here.
Do you have tips for oral sex?
The foundation for giving oral sex is knowing about your partners’ body, and learning what feels good for them!
For vagina owners, the clitoris is the part of the vulva that solely exists for pleasure, located above the vagina, between the labia. Many people experience pleasure from stimulation from the tongue, fingers, or a vibrator. You could also incorporate penetration of the vagina with your fingers or a toy.
For penis owners, the glans (tip) of the penis is highly sensitive as it contains thousands of nerve endings. If your partner is uncircumcised, you can also stimulate their foreskin. Some penis owners enjoy stimulation of the testicles. You can use your mouth or your hands, whatever is more comfortable for you and your partner.
When performing oral sex on a partner, you can use different forms of protection to make the experience safe and fun, such as flavored condoms (for those with penises or to use on a sex toy), or a dental dam (which is a latex sheet that can be flavored), for oral-anal or oral-vulval/vaginal sex. Flavored lubrication can also be a fun additional for all partners involved!
Ultimately, the best way to please your partner is to ask them directly. If you are unsure how to bring this up, try asking things like “is this speed okay?” or “do you want me to keep going like this?” This may feel awkward to initiate, but it is okay to take your time and allow your partner to teach you how to please them. Remember, sex is an experience, not a performance!
Is it bad that I’ve never had an orgasm?
It's never a bad thing to not have experienced an orgasm before. It takes time to learn what your body responds to, and what you like best! People are different, and their response to different stimuli varies. Some people may orgasm very easily, but the majority of people need more experience with their bodies before learning what induces an orgasm, and that’s okay! It’s important to also remember that there are many different ways to experience an orgasm, and not all experiences with orgasms are universal.
If having an orgasm is important to your sexual experience, it can be helpful to experiment with different types of touch on different areas of your body. Try using, or asking your partner to use, different types of strokes (softer, firmer,) speeds, or sex toys, if you have access to them Let yourself move at a speed that works for you, your body and your partner(s).
If there is something that you enjoy or may want to try with a partner, it may be helpful to try it by yourself beforehand through masturbation or self-touch to learn what is most comfortable for you - without any added anxiety.
There is a lot of pressure to orgasm after every sexual experience, but remember that orgasms are not the end-all, be-all for sex. There are many aspects to sex that don't involve orgasming, that can be just as fun! Even if you do not orgasm, sex can still be a pleasurable experience!
Does SHaW provide services for IUD placement? Does UConn provided health insurance cover IUDs?
Student Health and Wellness does not place IUDs (intrauterine devices), however, our providers can provide referrals to providers who can place IUDs that are within walking distance to campus. SHaW does however, offer other types of birth control (contraception), and students can discuss options with a healthcare provider by calling 860-486-4700 and asking to schedule an appointment! As for insurance, we recommend calling your insurance company directly to find out more about coverage.
How do you get over the fear of intimacy?
There is no “one size fits all” to facing fears of any sort!
The first thing that may be helpful is to ask how you would define “intimacy”. What does physical intimacy look like to you? What does emotional intimacy look like? What do you want these forms of intimacy to look like? Are there specific types of intimacy you are particularly interested in or particularly hesitant to try?
One suggestion is to journal what you are afraid of and why you may have these fears. Examine what kind of connections you find most rewarding (sexual or non-sexual). Think about what you want to feel in your connections outside of fear. What kind of relationship are you looking to have? What kind of feelings do you want to have? What would help you feel this way?
Writing out your thoughts can aid in understanding yourself better. Once you are comfortable, you may find it beneficial to ask yourself why you feel this way. Instead of focusing on internal judgements of “I should do this”, practice self-compassion, healthy boundaries and give yourself time and patience.
Your relationship with intimacy will grow and change alongside and within your intimate relationships. Some forms of physical or emotional intimacy may not be something that you enjoy, and that is also perfectly okay! Intimacy should be something that adds to your relationships and experience, not something that takes away from them or adds pressure to them.
It can be emotional to unpack any fear, so make sure that you are making space for yourself and taking care of yourself physically, mentally, and emotionally.
What antibiotics interact with birth control?
While antibiotics have historically been thought to decrease the effectiveness of hormonal birth control methods, recent studies have shown that most antibiotics don't affect contraception at all. The exception is rifampicin-like antibiotics, which are used to treat diseases like tuberculosis and meningitis. However, it is still very important to talk with your medical provider about any side effects of any of new medications before taking them. Make sure you are keeping your medication list up to date with your provider(s) so that they can be sure to prescribe medication that does not interact with your contraception, or if that is not possible, so they can discuss alternative types of birth control to use while you're on the new medication. Recommended forms of "back-up birth control" often includes condoms, which don't typically interact with medication.
How do you have period sex?
Having sex while you or your partner, or you and your partner, are menstruating, can look about the same as having sex while you're not menstruating! The main difference is that there's bleeding involved, and it can be a little messier.
In terms of safety - the main consensus is that period sex isn't harmful to your health. However, it's still important to have protected sex, and use condoms the same way you would when not bleeding, to avoid STIs (especially those that can be passed through blood, like HIV). And, always remove tampons before having sex so you don't risk pushing it further inside and forgetting about it, which can cause an infection.
To limit contact with blood, some folks like to keep towels, tissues, and baby wipes on hand so they can wipe themselves down occasionally. Some people who typically may not use condoms, may prefer to wear a condom when their partner is bleeding, for easy clean up as well. And, placing a towel down underneath everyone involved can also be helpful to avoid stained sheets! If you don't want to risk the stains, having sex in the shower is also an option, as the water can rinse away blood flow as it happens.
You may find (for clean up or comfort) that trying a different sex position than you usually engage in may make period sex more enjoyable for you and your partner(s). It is also important to recognize that your or your partner(s)' bodies may respond differently to sexual stimuli and/or pain when menstruating. For some, sex might be a bit more uncomfortable or painful due to cramps, while others may find it actually is more pleasurable, and can help with cramping!
You may also consider different "types" of sexual activity depending on your comfort level. For example, although oral sex can be safe to receive during one's period (while using a dental dam), some folks may prefer not to engage in that activity while they or their partner is menstruating. For others, even the sight of blood can cause discomfort, so communicating with your partner about preferences is extremely important! Activities such as sensual massage, or "foreplay" that doesn't include oral sex or any type of penetration might be a fun alternative.
While there is some stigma around "period sex", the reality is that it is perfectly normal and can be pleasurable for all parties involved!
TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING: I was in my first relationship last year (until March) with someone that ended up abusing my trust through actions, such as preemptive revenge porn. How do you filter out bad people when it seems you don’t have many options to start with? I hold identities that reduce my pool of options.
It can be very difficult to explore relationships after a breach of trust such as the one you experienced. We want to make it clear that it is never okay for a partner to publish explicit content of you without your consent. We understand that this can be a very weighted and emotional experience.
After an experience like the one you shared, it is understandable to be hesitant. However, your partner's lack of respect for your boundaries is not a reflection of you. It is important to remember to practice self-compassion and be patient with yourself.
It can also be important to have an idea of the type of relationship you are looking for. Many people are searching for emotionally invested long term relationships, many others are looking for something less defined or more “casual.” There is a wide range of possibilities for how you may choose to express your sexuality. It can be frustrating to feel limited but getting in touch with what you may be searching for in a relationship can be a great place to start.
Joining a club or organization, such as one through UConn, can be a great start to meeting people who have the same values and/or interests that you do. And, building friendships and connections with folks who are likeminded can be a first step when it comes to meeting potential romantic partners. You never know who you’ll meet at the wide range of social events and gatherings there are on and off campus!
And yes, dating sites or apps, such as Tinder, Hinge, or Bumble, are also options for connecting with potential romantic or sexual partners. These apps or sites allow for you to be upfront about your identities, interests, and what you’re looking for in a partner, and reach those that might be most compatible with you! The most important thing is to be honest & clear about your expectations. And, while it’s not always possible to “filter out the bad” – listen to your gut. If someone is saying things that you’re uncomfortable with, or that seem “off” – there’s a good chance they’ll continue to behave that way once they meet in person. You deserve to connect with people that treat you with respect, and no less!
I’m thinking about having sex for the first time in a few weeks. I really like this person. I’m really nervous about it but I trust the person I’m gonna be with. We’re not in a relationship but I’m worried I might catch feelings after sleeping together and I’m not sure if they will want the same. Any advice?
Having sex for the first time can be intimidating! Since you mention that you’re planning on having sex with someone that you already know and trust, try having a conversation prior to having sex, and before the clothes come off! Sit down with them and discuss some of your concerns and ask questions, too! Talking about things like sexually transmitted infection (STI) status, contraception/birth control, pleasure & desires, boundaries, and relationship type/status can help make sure all involved are on the same page! Some example questions include:
- What are you nervous about? What are you excited about?
- What type of relationship do we currently have? How will having sex affect our current friendship/relationship? Do we anticipate having sex will change anything in our relationship?
- Do we need birth control? If so, what kind? What will our plan be if birth control fails?
- Do we plan on using barriers to protect against STIs? If so, who will be responsible for bringing them? Have you been tested for STIs in the past? What was the result? Do you currently have an STI?
- What are some things you want to try? Where do you like to be touched?
- What are your sexual boundaries? Is there anywhere you do not like to be touched?
Make sure both you and your partner are answering these questions so everything can be out in the open!
There are plenty of people who have “friends with benefits”, and they’re able to remain friends and have sex without any romantic feelings involved. That being said, catching feelings after having sex with someone is a possibility. If this is a concern of yours, it’s important to be prepared, and make sure to take any steps needed to take care of yourself. If you’re concerned that having sex might lead to you having feelings that you’re not ready for, or that might not be reciprocated, discuss these concerns with your future sex partner. And, if you’re still unsure if you’re okay with that possibility, you might consider holding off on having sex until you’re with someone where there are pre-established and mutual feelings for each other. While having romantic feelings for someone is not a prerequisite for having sex with someone, many people do enjoy the experience of having sex with someone they care about, that cares about them too – and that’s perfectly okay!
Is it weird/abnormal that I’m not interested in having sex (I am a woman).
All people experience sexuality differently – and that includes feeling sexual or not. Lack of interest in sex, or lack of sexual attraction is perfectly normal, and is the experience of many people, regardless of gender.
If you’re experiencing a temporary lack of sexual desire that is unusual for you (i.e you’re a sexual person, but you haven’t been wanting to have sex lately) this can be due to many factors (see our question below regarding “libido” for more information). However, unless it’s impacting your life or relationships, or causing you distress - there may be no action that you need to take – it’s perfectly normal to experience changes in sex drive throughout one’s life.
There is also a community of people that identify as “asexual” or “ace” – that have little-to-no interest in sex (despite many still desiring romantic relationships). Asexuality is a spectrum, and can mean different things to different people. Only you can decide for yourself if this is an identity that you hold. To learn more about asexuality, click here.
Whether you’re simply uninterested in sex or sexual relationships, or consider yourself to be asexual, you are completely valid and normal!
Is it normal that my right testicle gets a sharp, achy feeling whenever I walk, occasionally?
Occasional aches and pains are usually nothing to worry about – but they’re also our body’s way of telling us that something may be wrong. The testicles are very sensitive, and pain can be from something as simple as wearing too tight of underwear. However, pain in the testicles can also mean something more serious is going on.
In this case, we’d recommend reaching out to a medical professional. You can speak to someone right here at Student Health and Wellness, by calling 860-486-4700. Ask to speak to an Advice Nurse and let them know what’s going on - they may recommend you come in for a physical exam and assessment.
What’s a good penis size (Iike, actually?)
Like the rest of our bodies, penises come in a variety of sizes – and just like the rest of our bodies, it’s unfair to assign worth or value (“good” vs. “bad”) to them based on size. We’ve all heard, either in person or in the media, someone attempt to insult or shame another person by saying they have a “small penis” (whether true or not). Unfortunately, in our culture, this is meant to insinuate that those with smaller penises are less of a “man” or less masculine or can’t provide enough pleasure to a partner – when neither of these notions are based on fact.
Let’s break this question down a bit more, without using “good” vs. “bad” language:
If you’re asking what an average-size penis is: research suggests that the average penis-size is between 5.1 – 5.5 inches, when erect, despite many men believing that the average is well over 6 inches. If you’re asking what size penis is optimal for sexual intercourse: it’s important to note that penis-size is not an indicator of someone’s sexual ability. If someone has a larger penis, it does not always mean that sex is “better”, and if someone has a less-than-average size penis, that doesn’t always mean that sex will be “worse”. That being said – some folks may have different preferences when it comes to their partners’ penis-size, and one reason may be regarding fit. For example, some people may find that if their partner has a larger penis, that it can cause discomfort during penetration. Rest assured, however, that there are many possible solutions in these types of situations – including using more lubrication, trying out different sexual positions, etc. to make sex more comfortable. There are also options that folks with average to smaller-size penises can use, such as penis sleeves, to provide their partner with a “fuller” feeling as well. Talk to your partner, and a medical care provider (such as an ob-gyn), to strategize other ways to have more comfortable (and more enjoyable experiences!)
Despite all this – it IS important for people with penises to know their penis size. Contrary to popular believe, not all condoms are one-size-fits-all. The #1 complaint from condom-wearers is regarding fit, or that condoms are uncomfortable, and choosing a larger or snugger-sized condom can make all the difference! For more guidance around condom size and fit, please click here, and scroll down to the section on “sizing”.
How prevalent are STDs? Do condoms protect me from all STDs?
STDs/STIs (sexually transmitted diseases/infections) are common, with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimating that 20% of people are living with an STI any given day. Individuals between the ages of 15-24 are also at the highest risk for contracting STIs – and make up nearly half of all newly acquired STI cases each year. While many STIs can be cured with proper treatment, there are some STIs, such as herpes, HIV, HPV, and hepatitis, that are uncurable.
Using a condom is a great way to reduce your risk of contracting an STI. It is important that you are familiar with the proper way to use a condom as well, as incorrect usage can increase risk of STIs. However, even with perfect-use, condoms are not 100% effective in protecting against STIs (they’re typically around 98% effective - which is still pretty great!). The reason for this is that some STIs, such as herpes, syphilis, and HPV and genital warts can be spread through skin-to-skin contact (v.s. through bodily fluids alone) – and condoms don’t cover all of the skin around the genitals.
That is why it’s important to get tested for STIs regularly, and talk to your partner(s) about getting tested too. There are also vaccinations for some STIs, including HPV, and hepatitis A & B, and medications (such as PrEP & PEP), that folks at higher-risk for HIV can take to reduce their risk of contracting HIV. Talk to your medical care provider, or a provider at Student Health and Wellness, if you're interested in learning more!
Do women have to wait 8 hours after eating to have anal sex?
Prior to penetrative anal sex, the receiver, sometimes referred to as “bottom”, might choose to “prepare” in various ways, including using an enema (a device that shoots fluid into the intestines through the rectum to “clean it out”), or by fasting (avoiding eating prior to sex, to eliminate the possibility of feces making an appearance). While neither of these are necessary, and quite honestly, can feel like stressful tasks, we know that people may still engage in these practices. However, both of these methods come with risks.
First things first – it is never recommended to skip meals or avoid eating when you’re hungry. This can be incredibly harmful, and can trigger disordered eating patterns. Many people fear that they’re going to “poop” on their partner during sex, but the reality is that stopping eating isn’t the answer to avoiding that
If you’re considering fasting to avoid loose stools prior to/during sex, a better alternative includes limiting insoluble fiber, in favor of soluble fiber that day (which can look like avoiding whole grains, avoiding fruit & vegetable skins, in favor of more “binding” food items, like white rice and bananas). If there are any foods that you know can upset your stomach, such as spicy foods, dairy, alcohol, or caffeine you may want to avoid these before hand too. That being said – it’s important to speak to a medical care provider/dietician if you plan on altering your diet drastically.
Using other methods to “prep”, such as enemas, can also come with risk, including potential of damaging the anus & intestinal lining, if used incorrectly. For safe anal-douching instructions (including enema use), click here.
Last – it’s important to remember that when it comes to anal sex, the possibility of running into trace amounts of feces is always there. That’s where fecal matter passes, after all! Some traces might show up on a condom, penis, toy, or fingers when having anal sex – so if you’re not sure if you’re ready for or comfortable with this possibility, that’s something to absolutely discuss with a partner!
TRIGGER/CONTENT WARNING: I just started a new birth control and was only taking it for 4 days. My partner then “finished” inside me after I told him not to. Should I take Plan B?
Hormonal birth control typically begins to take effect after seven days; up until then, another form of contraception is recommended. In this instance – emergency contraception would be recommended if pregnancy is a concern. Emergency contraception, such as Plan B (which is more effective the sooner you take it and can be bought over-the-counter), ella (which must be prescribed by a medical provider, but will be as effective on the fifth day after sex as the first day after sex) or the copper IUD (which needs to be inserted by a provider), all of which should be used within five days of having unprotected sex.
Above all, we would like to note that when a partner does something that you do not want them to do during sex (including not wearing a condom, removing a condom during sex (i.e. “stealthing”), and/or ejaculating inside you), this is a violation of your body. Just because you were already having sex at the time, does not mean they have the right to go against your wishes. We want to be clear that regardless of personal feelings surrounding this event, this type of behavior can be considered sexual assault (sexual contact or sexual intercourse without consent), and can even be considered reproductive coercion.
The University definition of consent clearing states the following: “consent is an understandable exchange of affirmative words or actions, which indicate a willingness to participate in mutually agreed upon sexual activity. Consent must be informed, freely and actively given. It is the responsibility of the initiator to obtain clear and affirmative responses at each stage of sexual involvement. Consent to one form of sexual activity does not imply consent to other forms of sexual activity. The lack of a negative response is not consent. An individual who is incapacitated by alcohol and/or other drugs both voluntarily or involuntarily consumed may not give consent. Past consent of sexual activity does not imply ongoing future consent.”
What happened is not your fault. UConn has resources for people who wish to seek support surrounding sexual violence, relationship violence, or stalking. Click here for a comprehensive list of resources, including access to urgent & medical/mental health care, confidential advocacy, & reporting & investigations.
How can I increase my libidio in the moment, and maintain it?
There are multiple factors that can impact libido (a.k.a sexual desire). Libido can be impacted by a variety of things, including medications, age, hormones, stress, medical conditions (including mental health conditions), and relationship dynamics/issues.
If interested in increasing and maintaining your libido, it is especially important to consider the following:
- How medication or medical conditions might be impacting you:
- Various medications can affect sex drive. If you’re currently taking a medication that you feel may be contributing to a loss of libido, talking to your medical provider about what you’re experiencing can be helpful – they may recommend another type of medication with less sexual side effects, or can provide other alternatives & recommendations to improve sex drive.
- Mental health conditions can also impact sexual desire. If you’re feeling like you’re not able to enjoy activities that you once did (including sex), you might consider reaching out to a mental health professional.
- What sexual organs you and your partner(s) have, and how you prefer to experience sexual stimulation:
- For individuals who have a penis, a simple way to increase libido would be to try out a penis ring (also called a cock-ring). This is a minimally invasive and temporary measure that you would be able to wear during sex. This type of device constricts the base of the penis (or sometimes the penis and testicles) and maintains blood flow to the area. This can result in longer lasting erections, and you may find it helpful to increase for both you and your partner(s)!
- People who have penises can also talk to their medical providers about medications that can improve their ability to get and maintain an erection (such as Viagra).
- Libido also extends beyond the sexual organs. Learning your and your partner's "turn-ons" are extremely helpful when maintaining stimulation and attraction. Talk to your partner about where and how they like being touched. Foreplay can be so vital to many sexual experiences. Exploring your likes and dislikes, as well as how you experience sexual stimulation can be a great start!
Whether you have low libido, your partner does, or you both/all do – talking to them about your concerns is the first step to addressing it. Together, you can talk about strategies (including those listed above) to make it so all partners are feeling sexually satisfied in the relationship!
How do you know when to start a birth control plan?
When to start a birth control plan is entirely up to you! Many people start using birth control methods if/when they begin having vaginal/penile intercourse, and do not want to become pregnant. Others utilize various types of birth control around the time when their menstruation becomes painful (i.e. for cramps); others might start using birth control when they get a long-term partner. There are many reasons to begin birth control, and your it’s ultimately your decision! There are a number of birth control options to look into, many of which are listed from previous answers, so feel free to explore the various options and talk to your doctor (and possibly partner(s) to figure out what option is best for you!
Is it always recommended to shower before sex, as opposed to having “raw sex”?
While it might be preferred by some for aesthetic reasons, there is no absolute requirement to shower immediately before sex. Some folks like to make sure their squeaky clean for their partners, others don't mind if they've gone a few hours without washing up!
However, if you've reached a point where there is visible dirt or buildup on any part of the body (i.e. you've just spent 12 hour working outside in the elements, or playing sports), it's probably a good idea to jump in the shower before engaging in sex, to avoid getting dirt or bacteria in a partner's genitals. Pay special attention to the hands! We use our hands for so many things - so it's important to wash them often, especially prior to any digital penetration (fingering).
Is it normal NOT to like penetrative sex?/Am I weird if I prefer role playing and other forms of touching more than actual sex?
It is completely normal to prefer some sexual activities over others! Some folks don’t enjoy being penetrated, or penetrating someone else, and prefer other types of stimulation, such as light touching, kissing, sucking, or caressing. One preference is also not more “normal” than another, regardless of what is believed to be the “standard” or the “norm” (these standards are rooted in homophobia and transphobia & stem from various dangerous ideologies that sex is solely for procreation, between a man and a woman).
While most things that are considered sexual activity usually involve oral, anal, or vaginal contact, sex is ultimately what YOU and your partner(s) consider it to be! Just because one activity doesn’t fit the traditional definition of sex, certainly doesn’t mean it’s not sex. Sex can include things like sharing fantasies, role-playing, sensual touching, phone sex, and more!
What is important is to discuss your preferences with your partner(s) to ensure that sex can be pleasurable for all parties involved! We hope that through exploring your own sexual desires, you and your partner can decide what type of sex is most pleasurable for you.
How can I prevent pregnancy without birth control?
Great question. First, it’s important to note that anything that purposely prevents pregnancy from occurring can be considered birth control. However, we know that many people use the term “birth control” synonymously with “hormonal birth control”. While hormonal methods, such as the Pill, Shot, Patch, IUD, and Implant are all safe and effective forms of birth control, we recognize that not everybody wants to, or can, use these methods to prevent pregnancy. The good news is that even if you aren’t interested in using hormonal birth control, there are many other ways to prevent pregnancy! The most effective way, however, to prevent pregnancy, is to not have sex (abstinence). We support choosing what is best for you, and if you and your partner decide to have sex, there are options outside of hormonal birth control.
Barrier Methods: these are ways to prevent pregnancy by using non-hormonal devices that block sperm from reaching an egg.
- The most commonly used non-hormonal form of contraceptive are external condoms (which also prevent against STIs). These are thin sheaths that go over the penis to prevent ejaculate (cum) from entering the vagina. The most effective condom is the one that is used correctly and consistently every time sex occurs! Student Health and Wellness offers a wide variety of external condoms through our gloveBOX service.
- Another option is the internal condom. It’s a nitrile pouch with a thick inner ring that goes inside the vagina up to eight hours before intercourse. They also prevent the transmission of STD’s/STI’s. Student Health and Wellness offers internal condoms in our gloveBOX service, if you are interested in trying one!
- The diaphragm is a dome-shaped, silicone cup that is inserted into the vagina up to six hours before intercourse. It covers the cervix to prevent sperm from reaching the egg. It is bent in half and then inserted into the vagina to cover the cervix. The diaphragm is commonly paired with spermicide to prevent pregnancy, and is prescription only. Here’s an example of a diaphragm.
- Similarly, a cervical cap a silicone cup that is inserted into the vagina to suction the cervix which covers it, and it is placed up to six hours before intercourse. It can be left in the vagina for up to two days. To be effective, the cervical cap is paired with a spermicide, and after every session of intercourse, it needs to be left in your body for at least six hours. Since the cervical cap can be left in your body for up to two days, if you choose to have intercourse again, you just have to put a new dose of spermicide into your vagina. The cervical cap is prescription only. Here’s an example of a cervical cap.
- The sponge is a small piece of plastic foam that is inserted deeply into the vagina up to 24 hours before intercourse. It covers the cervix with a fabric loop that faces towards the inside of your body. This method of birth control is hormone-free, however, does contain spermicide, and begins working after the spermicide is activated with water. Here’s an example of a sponge. ]
- Note: The diaphragm, cervical cap, and sponge are all often used with spermicide – which should be used with caution, as it can irritate the genitals. For more information about spermicide, please click here.
Lifestyle Methods: these methods require no devices or hormones, and simply require adjusting one’s sexual practices.
- One option is withdrawal, a.k.a. “pulling out”. The pull-out method is when someone “pulls-out” their penis from the vagina (before ejaculating). In order for the withdrawal method to be effective, the person pulling out needs to be in tune with when they’re going to ejaculate and needs to practice & perfect this method before relying on it. In fact, for every 100 people who use the pull-out method “perfectly”, 4 will get pregnant, because pulling out can be very difficult to do perfectly. In real life, (when people pull-out not-so perfectly), about 22 out of 100 will get pregnant every year. This option is one that works well when paired with another form of contraceptive!
- Family Awareness Methods: When tracking ovulation, you are trying to identify when the ovaries are going to release an egg. While some people use this method when trying to find the best days to conceive, it can also be used for birth control – to find the best days to abstain from sex (so it’s less likely the sperm will join with an egg). There are three main ways to do so:
- Observing cervical mucus is a helpful method for tracking fertility. The cervix produces mucus, which comes out of the vagina as discharge. This mucus changes in amount, texture, and color during the menstrual cycle, especially around ovulation. To track fertility using this method, become familiar with what this discharge looks like at different points in your fertility, perhaps tracking it on a chart, and then use this information to figure out when you will ovulate.
- Tracking body temperature can also be used to track fertility. Body temperature changes a slight bit throughout a menstrual cycle, lower in the first part of the cycle, and higher during ovulation. These temperature changes are minimal, close to about four-tenths of one degree higher during ovulation. Similar to the cervical mucus method, tracking your temperature and recording it on a chart throughout your ovulation cycle is necessary to gain a baseline for your average temperature. Therefore, it is recommended to wait three months of tracking temperature before using it as a birth control method. The body temperature method works best when paired with another tracking method, such as cervical mucus.
- The calendar method helps track fertility by tracking the menstrual cycle over several months, and calculating your fertility window, counting when you will be fertile and when unprotected sex is less likely to cause a pregnancy. This is fairly common, especially since many people who menstruate already track their menstrual cycles!
Other Non-Hormonal Options
- Vaginal gel (including Phexxi) is a great and new alternative to hormonal birth control. It’s a gel (not a spermicide) contraceptive that can be used up to one hour prior to sex. To learn more, find our question from last week about Phexxi!
- The copper IUD (intrauterine device) is inserted into your uterus by a medical provider. It is non-hormonal and works for up to twelve years! Copper creates a toxic environment for sperm which effectively prevents pregnancy. It is non-toxic and safe for the majority of people so long as they are not allergic to copper. However, it is important to note that the copper IUD does NOT protect against STI’s or STD’s.
With all these options available, we hope that you can find what works best for you and your partner! Schedule an appointment with a provider at Student Health and Wellness to discuss these options (and/or hormonal options, too!) to figure out what method is right for you!
Are there any birth control options available on campus?
Finding birth control options can seem like a difficult task! A good first step is to familiarize yourself with the types of birth control available. The providers at Student Health and Wellness can go over many of the options available to you, but it can be helpful to go into an appointment knowing what types you might be interested in to help narrow it down (there are over 15 types/methods)!
Through UConn Student Health and Wellness, students can obtain prescriptions for hormonal birth control, including the Pill, Patch, Ring, & Shot. For this to be filled at the pharmacy on campus, the prescription must be written by a SHaW provider.
IUDs, Implants, or other forms of prescription birth control are not available directly through Student Health and Wellness – but they can refer you to someone close to campus who can implant these forms of birth control.
The Student Health and Wellness pharmacy, located in the Hilda May Williams building, also carries a generic form of the emergency contraceptive “Plan B” which is available over the counter for $15. While this should not be used as a primary form of birth control, it can be used in emergency situations after unprotected sex.
Students who are interested in barrier methods of birth control, such as internal or external condoms can order them via gloveBOX for free!
What’s the deal with shaving “down-there” and is it really required?
Choosing to shave the genitals or genital region (or not) is a matter of personal preference - and is absolutely not required or necessary. Hair growth on the pubic region is normal for people of all genders! In fact, some people find hair around their genitals may act as a “cushion” during sex, which can increase pleasure. However, some people do choose to shave or trim their pubic hair, for either comfort or aesthetics. If you choose to shave, keep in mind that the skin around your genitals tends to be more sensitive. It is advisable to keep harsh/irritating products away from these sensitive areas of skin. Ultimately, shaving or not shaving is a personal choice, so don’t feel any pressure either way!
I’ve been seeing ads for a new birth control called “Phexxi” – what is it, and how does it work?
Phexxi is a non-hormonal prescription contraceptive gel. The gel comes in prefilled applicators, that look similar to the ones used with tampons. One full applicator is inserted into the vagina up to one hour before penile-vaginal sex. If Phexxi is inserted more than one hour before sex, another application is required. Phexxi acts similarly to spermicide, but it IS NOT spermicide, and does not contain the same ingredients. Phexxi lowers the PH of the vagina, which makes it harder for sperm to move. This reduces the chance of sperm joining with an egg. If used perfectly, Phexxi is 93% effective. With typical use (what generally happens in real life), it is about 80% effective in preventing pregnancies. Phexxi is quite convenient – there is no need for invasive surgical procedures or a medication to take every day. It is something that you can take on an as-needed basis.
If you are considering using Phexxi, contact a medical provider, such as one at Student Health and Wellness, to determine if this is the right contraceptive for you!
How does oral sex work between two women? What do I do?
Oral sex is a common sex act performed across all genders and sexualities, and it involves oral stimulation to the genitals. Vaginal or vulval oral sex can involve a partner licking or sucking around the outside of the vulva, including the clitoris, which is a large bundle of nerves that meets at the top of the vulva. This sex act can be performed by one partner to another, or can be done simultaneously (a.k.a “69”).
There is no right or wrong way to perform oral sex! Each person is different, and talking with your partner about what feels good to them before, during, and after sex, is key to a positive sexual experience. It might take some practice as you figure out what’s pleasurable and what’s not (for you, or your partner!) – but communication will definitely enhance the process! We recommend using a dental dam while performing oral sex to prevent transmission of STDs/STIs. A dental dam can be held across the vulva or vaginal area and lubrication can be applied to either side to stimulate more pleasure for both parties.
How does the Galactic Cap work?
The Galactic Cap is an experimental condom prototype. It fits on the head of the penis, and does not need to be rolled down - which leaves the shaft exposed to increase sensitivity. It's made of polyurethane film (so it doesn't contain latex), and has a skin-safe adhesive that wraps over the head of the penis. It has a reservoir that will catch semen, just like a typical condom. It is important to note that this product has not been tested by the FDA as use for a condom, and may not prevent pregnancy or reduce the likelihood of transmitting STIs, although it is currently in the process of testing
What is “ethical porn”?
Ethical porn is pornography that is made in a sex-positive environment with conscious business practices for the creator, the performers, and the viewers. Ethical porn consumption includes paying for porn, tipping favorite workers, and/or using websites and companies that help decriminalize sex work.
Other important practices include only viewing porn created or distributed by companies who hire sex workers that are of legal age, that have fully consented to the work being done for each video. Conscious business practices of ethical porn material also include creating safe working conditions, promoting pleasure for all, allowing performers more choice in who they work with, as well as fair pay for work.
Ethical porn consumption also leads to more diversity within the porn community, and supports, includes, and represents the LGBTQIA+, BIPOC, and disabled sex worker communities. In the end, ethical porn consumption is something we all have to be actively aware of, and how we continue viewing porn affects the industry as a whole. While no one individual is solely responsible for the problematic trends in the mainstream porn industry (i.e racial stereotypes, normative beauty standards), we can all make a great difference together to break the patterns of mainstream porn consumption, by becoming more intentional and thoughtful about with the porn we watch.
How can a female masturbate without touching or penetration?
It’s possible to masturbate without touching intimate areas of your body if they’re something you’d like to avoid, even if it might seem difficult! There are many erogenous (sensitive to sexual stimulation) areas on the body besides the genitals, such as the nape of the neck, the nipples, and the ears, which can all provide gentle and arousing feelings if stimulated. Even they underarms can be an erogenous part of your body!
Dancing while grinding on an object, self-massage, and breathing with intention are options for masturbation without touching or penetrating the genitals. Moving your body to get in touch with your sexual needs are all ways to masturbate and feed into the sexual connection that you have with yourself. These are a few options that we’ve found, but please feel free to continue researching and explore your body to know what you like best!
I’m a female and have never masturbated before, but I want to try. Where is the best place to start?
It’s great to want to explore your body! Masturbation is something that many people do for pleasure and to learn more about their bodies. People of all genders masturbate, and women masturbate as much as men do. However, there is an unfortunate amount of stigma and shame that is unfairly associated with women and femmes and pleasure. Please know that masturbation is completely normal and is a great way to be in tune with your own sexuality and learn more about what brings you pleasure.
There are many great resources online on where to begin. Sexualbeing, based out of the Washington D.C. Health and Wellness Center, has a great resource about how people with vaginas can approach masturbation for the first time. This includes things like setting the right mood, and what types of touch to start with. Another article, by Healthline, provides different positions for masturbation people with vaginas can try here.
Sex toys are also a great way to start masturbating. For more about sex toys and how to get started, Flo’s article can help choose what toys are best for you! Sex toys allow our bodies to experience sensations that may not be able to be mimicked by our hands alone, and for those with vaginas and vulvas, there is absolutely no shame in using a toy to orgasm. Refinery29 has compiled their best list of sex toys here.
Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. It takes time to understand your body and what pleases you. It should be a fun and stress free experience! Take your time and experiment with what works and feels best for you. As a note, many of these articles reference “female” masturbation - but are targeted towards people with vaginas or vulvas. Not everyone with a vulva or vagina identifies as a woman or female, so please keep that in mind.
Does SHaW offer Viagra or anything like that? I want to last longer during sex.
Wanting to last longer during sex is completely valid! There are so many options out there to help people last longer during sex.
First, Viagra is a medication meant for those who are unable to gain and/or hold an erection (not those who necessarily want to last longer). Viagra is a prescription medication, meaning that it is not available over-the-counter (OTC). If erectile dysfunction is a concern, you can schedule an appointment with a medical care provider to see if Viagra or a medication like it is right for you. Student Health and Wellness can fill prescriptions for Viagra or Cialis, but keep in mind they can only be filled by a SHaW Medical Care provider or by a UConn Health provider in Downtown Storrs. Another option is using services such as Forhims.com, which offers telehealth appointments where you can get prescriptions for erectile dysfunction and other sexual health concerns, and safer sex supplies. This is a great resource to use if you're looking for accessible care and supplies delivered right to your door! Keep in mind, that medications such as Viagra have side effects, so it’s important to discuss any concerns with a medical care provider.
Since you mention wanting to last longer during sex, there are other options to delay ejaculation too! Thicker condoms can reduce sensation slightly, which some people report can help delay ejaculation. Some numbing sprays and gels can also help reduce sensation. The main ingredient in numbing gels is typically lidocaine, a local anesthetic commonly used in dental settings. Another option is penis rings (a.k.a "cock rings") which wrap around the base of the penis to reduce blood flow throughout the shaft. This results in longer-lasting erections, as well as delayed ejaculations. There are many types of penis rings, including vibrating penis rings. The vibrations can also help slightly numb the penis, therefore causing one to last longer. However, the vibrations may cause some to be more sensitive, so definitely keep this in mind. Depending on your preferences, using sex toys like this can make sex more pleasurable, too! Try them out first and see what works.
Additionally, the “pause-squeeze” method is a technique that can be performed during sex to help prolong ejaculation. When you feel like you need to ejaculate during sex, pull out of your partner and squeeze the tip of the penis for a few seconds. When the feeling of needing to ejaculate passes, continue having sex and repeat as needed. This method may take some practice and communication with your partner, but over time this may help train your body to last longer!
How should students living on campus go about having safe sex with the “no-guest” policy in residence halls?
We understand that having sex can seem impossible these days, especially because of social-distancing and current guest policies in the residence halls. But there are plenty of options to have fun and keep yourself and your community safe in the process. If you or your partner lives in off-campus housing, it’s recommended to engage in any activity there, to avoid breaking the no-guest policy at the residence halls.
But if you and your partner(s) live in the residence halls, it may be wise to engage in non-physically partnered forms of sex, including video/phone sex (which can involve masturbation, with or without toys), for the duration of the semester. Sex outside of the residence hall, including in public locations and cars, while they may SEEM exciting, can carry some risk. These include issues with the law, as well as potential exposure to people that are not involved, which is a major consent violation! Take caution if considering this approach.
If you choose to engage in any sort of sexual activity, regardless of when and where, it is always important to continue practicing safer-sex, and use condoms, lubrication, and/or dental dams. To make sex even safer, you can even try positions in which you’re not facing your partner, to reduce the likelihood of the spread of COVID-19, or even try wearing a mask during sex (it might even spice things up a bit!)
Where can I get free condoms besides gloveBOX or going to the Rainbow Center? I currently live at home and can’t afford to purchase condoms.
There are many places that offer free condoms and safer-sex supplies right in your hometown! Planned Parenthood offers a variety of safer-sex supplies for free, and there are hundreds of locations in the U.S. Find a location near you by clicking here. You can also check out your local health department or doctor’s office, to see if they offer free supplies. Sometimes they’re located in baskets in the waiting room, but because of COVID, you’ll most likely have to ask directly, or call ahead. If going to Student Health and Wellness for a medical appointment, you can ask your provider for free supplies as well. Some states also offer free online options, where local health departments or non-profit organizations will mail condoms in discreet packaging to your address!
What is “vaginismus” and how can it be cured? What are some alternate things my partner and I can do besides sex (since it’s painful!)
Vaginismus is the term used to describe persistent muscle spasms in the pelvic floor and vagina. Constant spasms can make penetration of any kind difficult, and can sometimes cause pain. You should talk to your doctor for more specific advice about treatment, which may involve the use of vaginal dilators. In the meantime, there are plenty of sexual activities that you can engage in that doesn’t involve vaginal penetration! Mutual oral sex (a.k.a. “69”) involves giving and receiving oral-sex at the same time. This is a great option that is stimulating for all partners, that does not require any vaginal penetration (although can include it). Other activities, such as external mutual masturbation, using external sex toys/vibrators, and anal sex are all other options that don’t involve vaginal penetration and may be more comfortable!
As a reminder, we are not medical professionals and any health concerns regarding vaginismus should be consulted with a trusted healthcare professional. You can make an appointment with one of Student Health and Wellness’s medical care providers by calling 860-486-4700.
Can a guy’s physiological response affect how a woman feels?
While we’re not 100% sure what the physiological response in question is, what we CAN say is that everyone reacts differently to any type of response (whether it be physical or verbal), regardless of gender. To understand how your partner(s) feels either physically or emotionally, it’s important to communicate! Open-minded and honest communication can help you learn and understand how everyone involved is feeling, what their likes and dislikes are, and can even be a bonding experience. For some helpful tips for talking to a partner about sex, click here!