Originally published in the Pittsburgh City Paper.
Dear college freshmen,
For many of you, this is the first time you are living away from home. This newfound freedom will open up new opportunities for romantic relationships and sexual exploration. While this is really exciting, it can also be overwhelming and scary! To help you navigate this new terrain, I reached out to my Twitter community to find out what my followers wished they’d known about dating and sex when they were your age. Their answers were so insightful, I wanted to share some of the highlights.
Self-Knowledge & Self-Love:
Get right with yourself sexually before bringing other people into your bed. How do you get off? What porn do you like? What is your ideal setup: Hookup? Romance? Monogamy? Playing the field? Find ways other than intercourse to share pleasure. — Nina Hartley
Don’t be afraid to challenge your sexuality. I walked into college thinking I was bisexual and came out as gay a year later. Use this time to experiment and learn about yourself. — Wee Babe
Identities are not mutually exclusive, and are not forever. You can be bi AND ace AND pan AND genderqueer, all at the same time, and that doesn’t mean you have to commit to being all of those things next week, much less next year. — Katherine Barclay
Sexually Transmitted Infections & Contraception:
Be honest with your doctor about your sex practices and test as often as they recommend. — Gemma Paradise
Plan B may not work for women with a higher BMI, so know your options. — Tracy Russo
Don’t buy any excuse a guy gives you about not wearing a condom. … If they slip a condom off in the middle of sex after you insisted on one? That’s rape. Because, consent. — Gaia Glee
Parties & Drinking:
Never drink anything you didn’t see poured. After one drink, switch to water which you carried in with you. — Claudia
Never do anything sexual with someone for the first time while you or they are altered.— Jeremy Dunn
Just because you start making out with someone doesn’t mean you are obligated to have sex with them. You can revoke consent at any time. — Melinda Frevert
Don’t feel pressured to do anything sexually that you aren’t prepared for or comfortable with. Everyone has different needs, desire, and comfort levels. Be true to what you want to do.— Rob Williams
You won’t like everyone, and not everyone will like you, and that’s perfectly okay. … Spend time, instead, on finding the RIGHT people — for YOU. — Kelly Shibari
You didn’t fail if a relationship ends that you thought was forever. Take what you learned, spend time alone to see who you are now, bring that into your next relationship. — Joan Price
Seek professional help if you’re confused, in trouble, upset, or just want to talk about dating and sexuality. … See your student health services for birth control or STI testing. See counsellors for dating and sexuality advice. Join clubs, like LGBT alliances. Get the most out of your money. — Galey
And if you need more advice than what’s listed here, don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends, like I did.