The World Health Organization (WHO) defines sexual health as "the state of physical, emotional, mental and social well-being related to sexuality; it is not merely the absence of disease, dysfunction and infirmity. Sexual health requires a positive, respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships, as well as the possibility of having pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination and violence. For sexual health to be attained and maintained, the sexual rights of all persons must be respected, protected and fulfilled."
All people are sexual beings from birth to death. Our sexuality includes:
Not everyone has the same definition of sex and what it includes so when you are talking with your partner, make sure both parties understands what you are talking about!
The SHS Health Promotion Department approaches safer sex with a harm reduction approach. We focus on education and prevention. Our message: “Should you choose to have sex, here’s how to protect yourself and your partner by practicing safer sex.”
Safer sex means protecting yourself and your partner from sexually transmitted infections (STIs), HIV and unplanned pregnancy. It can also mean deciding to abstain from sexual intercourse or finding other forms of sexual expression that do not involve the exchange of bodily fluids.
Abstinence is the only 100 percent foolproof method of preventing STIs, HIV and pregnancy.
Abstinence can also mean different things for different people depending on that person’s definition of sex.
Communication is vital in a healthy sexual relationship, but how do we communicate? What is good communication?
Good communication helps you know what your partner likes and dislikes: Ask what turns your partner on. Likewise, your partner won’t know what you like unless you voice your needs and desires.
Safer sex: Talk with your partner about your preferred method of protection from STIs and pregnancy prevention.
It is important to talk about your sexual history: This can be a good way to figure out if you are at a higher risk for STIs/STDs. You can also talk about whether or not you or your partner have been tested recently.
Speak for yourself rather than the other person: Approach it this way: "I want to be sure to protect myself AND you." Very few people are going to think it’s a bad thing.
Plan when to have the conversation: NOT IN BED! Not during the act. Here are some example conversations to get you started.
Think before you talk: What do you want, what are your limits, how you are going to protect yourself?
Think talking about sex beforehand will ruin the mood? Think again. It can be a turn on for many people!
Talking about the basics can lead to other topics: It can open the discussion to experimentation and fantasies.
Once you’ve talked about your limits and protection, the real fun begins!
Communication is the best sexual technique – the best way for both parties to get what they want from the sexual relationship.
Be prepared for denial or rejection: You haven’t "lost" anything, just count it as practice.
Practice beforehand what to say to a partner about safer sex: Some people practice on friends or in front of a mirror.
Negotiating with a partner can be awkward at first, but it gets easier.
Here are important things to keep in mind for your relationship health:
Take the time to be there: It is important to make quality time for the other person. Try turning off the TV and going for a walk with your partner, or relax on the couch and just talk.
Actively listen to your partner: Show interest by asking questions, or just being a sympathetic listener.
Balance your relationship with your other obligations: Be honest about your priorities, and follow through with your commitments.
Let your partner know about the good things, too: Point out positives as well as negatives; it helps to show that you see the things they do right, not just what they do wrong.
No two people are the same: Be willing to make compromises with your partner, but remember that you have a right to stick to your values and beliefs.
Make sure your needs are met, too: You deserve to get what you want from the relationship, and from the other person.
Your partner is human: They can’t always meet all of your needs. Sometimes you have to look outside the relationship for more emotional support, or just someone to vent to about homework. Maintaining other friendships is still important while in a relationship.
Keep your expectations of the other person realistic: Don’t expect the other person to change who they are. Also don’t expect them to know what you are feeling or what you need before you tell them (they aren’t a mind reader). But don’t let your expectations be too low, you deserve someone who respects you and your values.
No one is born an expert: Relationships take practice, and each one is different.
Be yourself: “Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter, and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss
Talk with each other: Good communication is essential for a healthy relationship.
“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” – Dr. Seuss
The first months of relationships are usually full of promise and free of conflict. When you are just starting a relationship:
Some keys to resolving conflicts in healthy relationships are self-honesty, and a willingness to consider your partner’s perspective even if you don’t fully understand it.
Communication is important but rarely, if ever, are we actually taught HOW to communicate effectively.
Particularly when there are important decisions regarding marriage, sex, career, and family to be made, healthy communication is critical. Here are some things to help you communicate successfully through tough issues.
Emotional support for each other is critical. Emotional support means giving your partner the message that you’re behind him or her. This does not mean always agreeing with one another. Emotional support involves accepting your partner’s differences and not insisting that he or she meet your needs only in the precise way that you want them met. Find out how your partner chooses to show his or her love for you and don’t set absolute criteria that require your partner to always behave differently.
Understanding why or how your partner solves problems the way they do starts with understanding how their family solves problems. Similarly, let them know how you were brought up to solve problems. If you styles don’t match up, you can work together and even find new ways. Here is a great resource to help understand and deal with dysfunctional family styles: http://www.counseling.txstate.edu/resources/shoverview/bro/dysfunc.html
Research on happy couples suggests that it is important that couples “time” their fights in the way that works best for them. Contrary to previous notions, the best time to resolve a conflict may not always be “right away” or even as soon as possible. A “time-out” period can help you avoid saying or doing hurtful things in the heat of the moment and can help partners more clearly identify what changes are most important. Remember—if you are angry with your partner but don’t yet know what you want, it will be nearly impossible for your partner to figure it out!
A “win-win” stance means that your goal is for the relationship rather than either partner to “win” in a conflict situation. If your partner feels bullied, out-talked, or otherwise the “loser” in a fight, you may win the battle but lose ground in the relationship. Find ways to compromise so that each partner agrees with the solution.
Bringing up other problems when the first discussion is unfinished can also lead to distance. Do your best to keep the focus on resolving one concern at a time, even if it is tempting to “list” other concerns or grievances; putting all your gripes out at once can be overwhelming and greatly escalate the discussion to a fight.
Even partners coming from very similar cultural, religious, or economic backgrounds may find it important to discuss their expectations of how a “good” boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse behaves. What seems “obvious” or “normal” to you may surprise your partner and visa versa. If you are from different backgrounds, be aware that you may need to spend more time and energy to build your relationship. It may be important to take the time to learn about your partner’s culture or religion, being careful to “check out” what parts of such information actually “fit” for your partner.
Time spent apart and time spent together is a common relationship concern. You enjoy time together, but you also may enjoy time alone or with other friends. If you interpret your partner’s time apart from you as, “he or she doesn’t care for me as much as I care for him or her,” you may be headed for trouble by jumping to a premature conclusion. “Check out” with your partner what time alone means and share your feelings about what you need from the relationship in terms of time together. Perhaps you can reach a compromise where you get more time together while leaving your partner the freedom to be alone or with others without your feeling rejected or neglected. Demanding what you want, regardless of your partner’s needs, usually ends up driving your partner away.
For most college students, their families remain an important source of emotional, if not financial, support during their years at the university. Some people find dealing with their partner’s family difficult or frustrating. You may wonder how you can have a good relationship with them, or if you should even try! It can be helpful to take a mental step back and think about parental good intentions. Let’s assume at the very beginning that most parents are concerned about their children and that they want to stay in contact with them. Problems sometimes arise when parents forget that their children are individuals with separate lives, who are making their own decisions. People come from varied backgrounds, and families may offer well-intentioned advice about your relationship or your partner. It’s important that the two of you discuss and agree how you want to respond to differing family values and support one another in the face of what can be very intense “suggestions” from family.
There are some people who seem to believe that “If I’m in a relationship, I have to give up all my personal friends unless my partner likes them as much as I do.” Giving up friends may not be healthy for you or the relationship, except in circumstances where your friends pressure you to participate in activities such as drug or alcohol use that are damaging to yourself and the relationship. Neither should it be assumed that your partner will enjoy your personal friends as much as you do. Just as with other areas in a relationship, you can negotiate which friends you and your partner spend time with together. You might ask: “Which of my friends do you enjoy seeing and which ones would you rather I see alone or at other times when I’m not with you?” Talk with your partner about friendships with others, negotiate any concerns and recognize that each of you may need to continue your friendships even when you are intimately involved with one another.
Strong, loving relationships come in many different forms. Cross-cultural or inter-racial couples, same-sex couples, relationships where one partner has a disability, and long-distance relationships are but a few examples of relationships that involve additional challenges beyond those discussed in here.
Here are some tips to boost your confidence in negotiating safer sex.
Source: modified from www.everything-condoms.com
There are several strategies you can employ when trying to get your partner to use a barrier method:
Strategy #1: Respect – Acknowledge your partner’s concerns.
If your partner says... “Condoms ruin sex for me; I just can’t feel anything with those things.”
Possible response... “I understand what you’re saying, and I want you to enjoy our time together. Could we try using lubricant to see if that helps?”
Strategy #2: Education – Be knowledgeable about sexual risks.
If your partner says... “I wouldn’t care even if you did have the virus, we’ve had sex before and I’ve never got it; it’s my decision.”
Possible response... “I’ve been trying to educate myself about this virus, and I now regret that we ever had unprotected sex. Using latex is for the protection of both of us, so it’s not just your decision. Actually, it’s possible that either, or both of us, already have the virus because it might take up to six months for the test to say we’re HIV-positive. It’s also possible for us to give each other different kinds of infections that we may not even know we have.”
Strategy #3: Perseverance – Offer an alternative point of view when faced with resistance.
If your partner says... “Oral sex is safe. I don’t think either of us wants to be covered in latex for oral sex.”
Possible response... “On the other hand, why take chances with our health. Actually research has shown that oral sex isn’t as safe as it was once believed to be. We’ve never used flavored condoms for oral sex. It could be fun. Maybe we should give it a try.”
Strategy #4: Eroticizing latex – Incorporate latex into loving making.
If your partner says... “Stopping to put on a condom ruins the mood; it really turns me off.”
Possible response... “I know ways to use condoms that will actually get you more turned on. Let me show you.”
Strategy #5: Bargain – Reach a mutually satisfying outcome.
If your partner says... “I want to have sex with you, but I don’t want to use a condom.”
Possible response... “I want to have sex with you, too. So we definitely want the same thing. So why don’t we try using the lubricant with the condom to see if we can make it feel good for you? That way we’ll both get what we want and in the process we’ll be showing that we care about each other’s health.”
Sources: Casey, M.K., Timmermann, L., Allen, M., Krahn, S., Turkiewicz, K.L. (2009). Response and Self-Efficacy in Condom Use: A Meta-Analysis of this Important Element of AIDS Education and Prevention. Southern Communication Journal, 74(1), pp. 57-78. Lam, A.G., Mak, A., Lindsay, P.D., Russell, S.T. (2004). What Really Works? An Exploratory Study of Condom Negotiation Strategies. AIDS Education and Prevention, 16(2), pp 160-171.
It’s up to you to get what you want from sex and to avoid what you don’t want. Get to know yourself, and know your body. Know what you want out of the sexual relationship. What do you find sexually appealing? What feels good to you? What are your limits? Know what kinds of things you are willing to participate in and what things you won’t within a sexual relationship.
Create your own Sexual Health Bill of Rights. Here are some examples:
When you are choosing a contraception method, the first thing you should do is establish a relationship with an SHS provider, or someone in Corvallis or from your home community. They will be your best resource for contraceptive information.
Here are some other things to consider:
Barrier Methods: Barrier methods are methods of contraception that work by preventing contact with sexual fluids. Using some form of plastic, usually latex or polyurethane, fluids are blocked, thus preventing transmission of STIs as well as pregnancy. The main types of barrier methods are the male condom, the female condom, and dental dams.
Hormonal Methods: There are many methods of hormonal contraception, the most popular of which is the combination birth control pill. Basically it is a method of birth control that changes a woman's hormonal cycle to prevent ovulation.
Some choose a non-barrier/non-hormonal method. These offer no protection against STIs or pregnancy:
Rhythm Method: This method is based on the woman’s menstrual cycle. This can be ineffective if there are any fluctuations in her monthly cycle.
Withdrawal: Withdrawing the penis just prior to ejaculation is also not very effective. Timing withdrawal is difficult, and there can be up to half a million sperm in the drop of fluid at the tip of the penis. Also, concentrating on timing the withdrawal may interfere with the male's ability to relax and enjoy sex.
Barrier methods of contraception offer different levels of protection. Some protect only against unwanted pregnancy; others protect only against sexually transmitted infections (STIs); and some protect against both STIs and pregnancy.
The male condom is rolled over the erect or hardened penis.
Remember, practice is important to ensure proper use!
Remove the condom from its package and rub the outside of the pouch together to be sure the lubrication is evenly spread within it. Be sure that the inner (smaller) ring is at the bottom (closed) end of the pouch, and then hold the pouch with the open (larger) end hanging down.
Squeeze the inner ring with the thumb and middle finger, and then insert it and the pouch into the vaginal opening. With the index finger, push the inner ring and pouch all the way up into the vagina against the cervix
The penis should be guided into the condom in order to ensure that it does not slip into the vagina outside of the condom. After intercourse squeeze and twist the outer ring gently and then pull the condom out keeping the semen inside. Then simply discard as you would a male condom.
Remember, practice is important to ensure proper use! Learn more about female condoms (PDF).
Hormonal methods of contraception protect against unwanted pregnancy, but not sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Here is information on each form of hormonal contraception.
Student Health Services offers complete STI testing services for OSU students. They are always confidential. To schedule appointments, call 541-737-WELL (9355).
Know you are not alone: STIs are sexually transmitted infections that affect people of all ages, backgrounds, and from all walks of life - in the U.S. alone there are about 19 million new cases each year, about half of which occur among youth ages 15-24 years.
You should get tested for STIs if any of the listed risk factors apply to you:
The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) estimates that there are more than 25 STIs (sexually transmitted infections) in existence. Listed here are the eight most common STIs in the United States. Click on a specific STI below to learn more.
Genital HPV Infection: http://www.cdc.gov/std/HPV/STDFact-HPV.htm
Genital Herpes: http://www.cdc.gov/std/Herpes/STDFact-Herpes.htm
Testing for HIV is available at Student Health Services. A fee will be charged. Call 541-737-9355 to schedule an appointment.
The tests commonly used to detect HIV infection look for antibodies produced by your body to fight HIV. Most people will develop detectable antibodies within 3 months after infection, the average being 20 days. In rare cases, it can take 6-12 months. If you are concerned that you may have HIV, please get tested again.
Free and anonymous HIV testing is available at the following Corvallis locations:
First Christian Church
602 SW Madison Ave., Room 17
Tuesdays from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. (Enter from rear of church)
101 NW 23rd St.
Fridays from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
You need not bring anything; testing is completely free and anonymous. The results of the blood test will be available in about 20 minutes.
No personal information (such as name or Social Security number) is associated with the test result.
May be necessary if you need documentation of your HIV status, such as those entering the military or Peace Corps.
The test result becomes a part of your medical record.
Abstinence is the only 100-percent foolproof method of preventing STIs and unplanned pregnancy.
Abstinence can mean different things for people depending on that person’s definition of sex.
So if you choose to be abstinent, that’s great, you are doing the best thing you can do to protect yourself from unplanned pregnancy and STI’s. Here are a few things you can do to maintain your decision to abstain from intercourse:
Even if you are not having sex right now, it’s still good to review the information in the rest of these pages. That way you are ready, if you do decide to engage in sexual activity.
Anyone who is sexually active should think about testing for sexually transmitted infections. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine HIV testing. The CDC recommends annual chlamydia and gonorrhea for sexually active women under the age of 25 and recommends syphilis and chlamydia testing for sexually active men who have sex with men (MSM).
There is an interval between a potential sexual exposure and when testing will be accurate. If you take a test too soon you may not get an accurate result. Your provider will be able to recommend when to be screened.
If you have symptoms or more questions about STI’s, you can make an appointment with a clinician at Student Health Services. Call 541-737-9355 to make an appointment.
A full list of screening recommendations can be found here.
1) Log into Patient Portal by going to:
2) Click on “Request new lab” within the Medical Records tab
3) Walk-ins are also welcome
The OSU Student Health Fee includes routine office visits with SHS physician, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant. While there is a fee associated with lab tests, STI tests are now offered at a reduced cost to OSU students. More information regarding common fees can be found here.