Risk and Reward

Caroline Hurwitz

We talk a lot about sex on this campus. Whether or not we’re having it, whether or not we’d like to be, with whom, if it was good, how the sex we may or may not be having plays into campus culture, whether it is means for empowerment, the list is endless. It is discussed openly and frequently in various contexts. However, we rarely discuss the physical consequences of the act itself.

Life is all about risk. Our lives are, in short, a series of risks we either do or do not take. Sometimes these risks are worth it, and other times we end up wishing we had passed up the opportunity. Among other things, sex is a serious risk. Men and women both risk the contraction of STDs and women are at risk for pregnancy. Some may view this as a risk worth taking for personal pleasure or emotional fulfillment. Even if a woman is on birth control, though, even if a man uses a condom, they are both still at risk if they have sex. We live in an imperfect world, and though it is more comfortable to pretend we can protect ourselves, accidents

happen. Mistakes are made and people are put at risk. Hardly anything is foolproof.

With all the room for error and consequence, there is hardly any discussion about the ramifications of (particularly casual) sex. Why do we talk about sex so loudly, and STDs hardly at all? Why do we treat the two as if they are independent of each other? Treating the consequences of the act as shameful creates a shameful mentality towards the act itself. Disengaging from the consequences of our actions is a reflection of denial and immaturity. If we are mature enough to put ourselves in sexually intimate situations, we need to be mature enough to vocally acknowledge the consequences with our partners.

Serious conversations about health and risk are easier to have in a committed relationship. When an open, honest dynamic is established, a conversation about protection and risk can be relatively painless. These discussions are just as important when you aren’t committed to your partner. Regardless of title and length of encounter, the possible repercussions remain the same. Discussions about health and protection are not necessarily the sexiest of topics, but protecting yourself is so much more important than potentially not getting laid. Ask your partner if they have been tested. Not because you think they’re dirty, not because you don’t trust them, but because it’s better to ask and risk killing the mood then live with a disease you could avoid completely. If the person is worthy of being with you, they won’t be offended. They will be honest and respect you for looking out for yourself.

This honesty only works on the assumption that people are getting tested. I cannot stress enough how important it is for people engaging in regular sexual activity to get regularly tested for STDs at the health center. In order to create an honest environment where people are protecting themselves and their partners, there needs to be a commitment to getting checked out. Instead of treating STDs as a far off concept unrelated to what you do on a Saturday night, treat them like the very real possibility they are. Getting checked out may be uncomfortable, and you may not like it, but I would bet it’s more comfortable than chlamydia. I would also bet it’s more comfortable than having to explain to a former partner how they got chlamydia. Many STDs can be entirely manageable if treated early on, so why take the risk?

We are a small, hyper-sexualized community. Indulging in sexual experimentation can be a wonderful thing as long as both parties are consenting, healthy and honest. If we want to have sexual relationships like the adults we are becoming, we need to treat our health like adults would. Besides, imagine how much better the sex will be knowing you won’t be leaving the encounter with any unwelcome souvenirs.