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Saturday, December 03, 2022
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Sex Out Loud answers UW-Madison students' sex and sexual health questions

Have you ever wondered how to ask your sexual partner if they have an STI? Or where to find sexual health resources on and around campus? Well, The Daily Cardinal and Sex Out Loud have the answers to these questions, and more, for you. 

Sex Out Loud is a UW-Madison organization that provides sexual health resources from peer to peer. They accomplish this by promoting healthy sexuality through sex-positive education and activism. Kyira Romero, the chair of Sex Out Loud, and Mia Warren, the club’s engagement coordinator, are also co-hosts of the Cardinal’s podcast, Out Loud, where they discuss topics relating to sex, sexuality and health. 

Mia and Kyira sat down with us and dove into questions ranging from sexual health resources available on campus to how to ask someone if they have an STI. For a full response to each question, check out the newest podcast episode of Out Loud. 

This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

What type of sex and sexual health resources are available on and around campus?

Mia: This is a great question. Unfortunately, I do wish there were more. But the resources that we have are really great as well. So first, we have the GSCC, which is the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center, and that is located in the Red Gym. 

There is also University Health Services (UHS), which is really great about testing for STI needs. They also have survivor services and things of that nature. They're located at 333 East Campus Mall. 

And finally, there is Sex Out Loud! We provide a variety of programs and services to students, including peer counseling and programs ranging from pleasure to consent to any sexual health needs or services. We're located on the third floor of the Student Activity Center and our suite number is 3143.

There's a big penis banana in there, you can never miss it. 

Ky: In addition to that, we [Sex Out Loud] also have library books, ranging from a bunch of sex and sexual health topics that any student can check out. We also have free condoms, free lube and a lot of great free resources for students.

Mia: I don't know if this question necessarily was like in regards to sexual assault also, but there are a lot of resources for that on campus as well, including Promoting Awareness, Victim Empowerment (PAVE). It’s located next to our office. As I mentioned before, UHS has a lot of great programs, and around campus, there's also the Rape Crisis Center. There's a lot in Dane County in general.

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Ky: This is a complicated question. First of all, it’s important to recognize that everyone has preferences and sexuality is really complicated, and just because you like a man doesn't make you a straight person. Just because you like a woman doesn't necessarily mean that you only like women — like it's a lot more complicated than that. 

Understanding how you feel as a person individually is really important. And even identifying that you do have stuff to unpack is a really good first step. There are different groups on campus that do talk about these issues. So if anyone is interested in discussing fluid sexualities, the GSCC has a discussion group for undergrads that meets with students every Tuesday from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. right at the GRCC room. There is also a graduate student group that meets on Discord Mondays from 5 to 6 p.m. I would suggest going on their website, going to one of these meetings and having this conversation further with people who may be in similar situations. 

Do I have to use protection if I'm on my period?

Mia: Short answer to this is yes. There's always a risk for an unwanted STI. So even during your period, protection is strongly encouraged. If we're mainly concerned, though, about unwanted pregnancy, we should still be using our preferred form of protection. Even on our period, sperm can just chill in our uterus and fallopian tubes days after penetrative sex with ejaculation. So even though there's a common misconception that, “I will be safe if I'm on my period,” that's not always true. A lot of people don't know when they're ovulating. It's very complicated; it can change all the time. There's always a risk for sure, especially when you're on your period. 

Ky: I think pregnancy and periods and the timelines are very complex, and we don't really get a good debrief on what that looks like. So it's always best to just use protection to make sure, especially if you are worried about unwanted pregnancies. I also know that Planned Parenthood has a lot of great resources on its website and videos to watch. 

How to bring up the “do you have any STIs” conversation with a partner?

Mia: We recommend talking outside of the bedroom about STI status before any sort of sexual activity occurs, if possible. We do recognize that it is hard to talk about, especially if it's just a casual hookup —  it's not something that a lot of people think is super sexy and they don't want to bring it up, which is super understandable. But at the end of the day, being upfront and honest will likely be the most productive way to communicate about these things, and the best way to make sure we're protecting ourselves and others from unwanted STIs. 

I also want to say, STIs are so common that the stigma around them is kind of absurd to me. They're not gross or dirty or anything, they just happen. Of course, we want to prevent them from happening, but they do happen. We shouldn't be ashamed to talk about these things. Especially in regards to this question. Just ask when the last time they were tested or start the conversation by telling them when the last time you were tested and your status first. 

For example, I had a hookup one time and I told them I hadn't been tested in a while. That changed the method that we chose to use while engaging in sexual intercourse. That's totally okay. I'm sure they [one’s sexual partner] would appreciate it as well because no one wants to be uninformed when they're having sex. That definitely goes into consent as well because it's crucial to be informed when talking about consent. That means being informed on STI status, contraception, etc.

It's really crucial to know what we're going into for lack of a better term. We at Sex Out Loud like to say every three months if sexually active and this can be less if agreed upon with your partner potential long-term partners. 

How to ask a guy to wear a condom?

Mia: Communication is the most important thing. Be straightforward and upfront, if possible. It is hard to have these conversations, just like with STI status. We recognize that, but it also is something that's super important. Discussing a preferred barrier method before any sort of activity is ideal, so it's not happening at that exact moment. I think that can make the conversation harder and scarier. Talking about it before is really helpful, then you allow yourself to know what's happening, and all parties are in agreement. 

I think overall, that is the best way to ask instead of in the moment. In general, just be upfront about what you want. You should never really be doing anything that you don't want to do, especially if we're thinking about having consensual safe sex that is on your term — just be aware of that and stand up for yourself.

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