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Let’s talk about sex: Professionals emphasize consent, safety

KentWired Illustration by Kadence Hetsler

Most college-age students will be sexually active, and staying safe is important. 

STIs are one of the most consistent concerns when it comes to sex. The Ohio Department of Health reported 34,155 new cases of chlamydia in those between the ages of 15 and 24 in 2022.

Megan Factor-Page, the assistant director for the Kent State of Well-Being, said the university offers several services dedicated to the prevention and detection of STIs. 

“We have free and anonymous HIV testing,” Factor-Page said. “It’s in the DeWeese Health Center Annex.”

The clinic offers free testing as well as PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), which are medicines taken before and after exposure to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. 

The DeWeese Health Center, located at 1500 Eastway Drive on campus, has sexual health and gynecological services clinic on the lower level of the facility. It offers general gynecological exams, pap testing, cervical cancer screening, support regarding menstrual irregularities and initiation of birth control. 

In addition to the HIV testing, Kent State of Well-Being works to distribute free condoms across campus. 

“One thing that we do for sexual health is we partner with Undergraduate Student Government to ensure that there are condoms free and available right now,” Factor-Page said. “External condoms are available in machines in six different locations across campus.”

The Well-Hub, located in the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, is one of six locations on campus that provide condoms. In addition to external condoms, it offers free internal condoms, dental dams, lube, finger cots and pamphlets on safe sex. 

Factor-Page said Undergraduate Student Government pays for the condoms, but the Kent State LGBTQ+ Center started the program. 

“I think it was really important for them to upstart this program because sexual health affects everybody, so that’s something that made sense for the Kent State of Well-Being to take responsibility for,” she said. 

Karisa Butler-Wall, an assistant professor of media and journalism and communication studies at Kent State, said a lot of the practices associated with sexual health were pioneered by the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Safer sex was actually invented by gay men,” Butler-Wall said. “Because it was in the context of the AIDS epidemic, and it was a really interesting moment where gay folks were not super accepted in society.”

She said most conversations around sex have been opened by the queer community. 

“Queer people have been having to talk about sex because it’s just intrinsic to how society understands us,” Butler-Wall said. 

The university’s LGBTQ+ Center is in the basement of the Student Center and works to create a safe space for all communities — no matter their sex or orientation.

“I think that at a lot of campuses in particular there has been growing awareness which in some ways is because I think students are being more vocal, and there’s more kind of visibility with student groups,” Butler-Wall said. 

Butler-Wall said although a lot of safe sex conversations have had to be opened by the LGBTQ+ community, they suffer from a lot of issues when it comes to sex. 

“Free condoms is one thing– that’s great, I’m not against it – but also, Where are the conversations happening around consent?” Butler-Wall said. “Because safe sex, like, what does that even mean? Is it safe emotionally as well as physically?” 

The university offers sexual and relationship violence counseling services for students, faculty and staff through its Center for Sexual and Relationship Violence Support Services. The center can be contacted at 330-672-8016. 

Marshall Miller, a sex educator who hosts several events at Kent Interhall Council’s Sex Week such as Sex in the Dark and I <3 Female Orgasm, said consent is one of the hardest things to talk about during sex – but it doesn’t have to be. 

“There’s just no shame in talking to each other,” Miller said. “One of the common misconceptions is that not talking during sex is sexy, that somehow it’s better if you don’t talk.” 

Miller said he sees a lot of college students say they prefer not to talk to avoid getting emotionally involved with a hookup. 

“You know, it’s up to the two of you to figure that out, but there’s no reason why talking and communicating and connecting with each other can’t be something that you do together,” he said.

Miller also recommended integrating consent into sexual situations. 

“Just a simple check in like saying, ‘Is this OK,’” Miller said. 

He said affirming consent can make a lot of sexual situations better. 

“It could be as simple as ‘What do you like’ or ‘What feels good?’” Miller said. “Asking them to guide you or offer suggestions. ‘Does it feel better if we go faster or slower?’ ‘Should I touch you harder or softer?’ You know, giving two options and having to pick.”

Miller also said asking a partner about possible STIs is important. He said it can be similar to asking about consent. 

“There are just moments in sex that are going to be awkward, and embracing the awkwardness, do not be afraid to do that,” Miller said. “There may be a moment in the sexual situation where you’re like ‘do you think you might have an STI?’ but most people are going to be relieved you brought that up.”

Miller recommended students show more care the first time they hook up with someone. 

A student might think that, “The first time I hook up with somebody, I’m not going to have unprotected oral sex or I’m going to choose to use a condom or dental dam,” Miller said. “You can use your fingers instead of your mouth, or any number of things that can reduce your risk.”

Dental dams are designed for protection around the mouth during oral sex. 

Miller said being safe during sex should be easy, and that safety transcends borders of gender or sexual orientation. 

“The nice thing about safer sex is it doesn’t really matter what your gender identity is, what your sexual orientation is,” he said. “It’s all just a matter about thinking about what body parts you have and what body parts your partner has and how to protect each other.”

Andrew Bowie is a reporter. Contact him at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Andrew Bowie, Reporter
Andrew is a general assistant reporter at KentWired and a second-year Communication Studies major. He hopes to improve his writing skills here and deepen his understanding and connection with writing. He likes learning about people, and he always finds himself so impressed at all the things people can do – which is why he enjoys writing about them. "Ask me stuff, ask me to do stuff, ask me for help even though I don't know much yet. I'll probably say yes!" he says. Contact him at [email protected]

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