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WELCOME TO SEX, ETC. UNIVERSITY

Hey! If you’ve made it this far: good job. It means you’ve found your way to Sex, Etc. University powered by Trojan. It means you’re asking questions and you’re looking for a trustworthy source to find the answers. I know that can seem tricky these days, but don’t worry—we stick to facts here. We don’t judge. We’re here for you—all of you—whether or not you’re having sex right now, and whatever your sexual orientation, gender identity, race, background or experience. There’s no shame.

You may have heard of our sister site, SexEtc.org, which provides sexual health content for teens and by teens who work with trusted sex education experts and medical professionals to ensure our content is medically accurate. Sex, Etc. University is similar, but for those of us who are a bit older now. You may have different questions, needs and experiences than you did in high school, so Sex, Etc. University was designed to grow up with you. Trojan loved the idea, so they’re helping us make it happen. 

Why We’re Here

We created this space to provide you the sex education you might not have gotten. Whether you had sex ed or not, it’s likely you still have questions. According to the Guttmacher Institute, most young people aren’t getting the sex education they need that covers topics like contraception, pregnancy, sexual orientation, gender identity, consent, masturbation, sexually transmitted infections, condoms, dating and relationships. We believe this information should be free, accurate, accessible, affirming and non-judgmental. 

There are a few different places you can start. You might want to check out Maddy’s video about online dating or Jakhi’s video about consent. The important thing is that there are things you want to know—and it’s OK to ask questions. You don’t have to keep wondering. 

Why It Matters

When you can access the information about sex that you want and need, you can make safer, healthier and more informed choices. (You can have better sex and relationships, too.) After all, you’re here to learn, grow and have fun. 

Stay safe out there. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Sarah Emily Baum (she/they) is a rising junior at Hofstra University studying journalism and public policy. She has written for The New York Times, Teen Vogue and HuffPost. When she’s not curating sex education content for the masses, Sarah can be found playing the guitar, befriending the neighborhood feral cat colony or unleashing her stream of consciousness on @SarahEmilyBaum on Twitter. 

FROM CONSENT TO CONDOMS

There are many factors that influence whether sex is consensual or not.

Numerous high-profile sexual assault cases have forced us to have necessary and important conversations about consent. But what is consent? The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines consent as “to give assent or approval.” If you ask someone for sex, and they say yes, then you’re all good to go! If you ask someone for sex, and they say no, then you don’t have their permission.

Easy enough, right?

Not exactly. There are many factors that influence whether sex is consensual or not.

CONSENSUAL OR NOT

Say that you’re at a place where there are people drinking alcohol. You’re sober, and you see someone you’re sexually interested in. You go up to that person and discover they’re drunk. In this scenario, you don’t engage further. Drunk people aren’t always able to make the same decisions that they would if they were sober. If you’re having trouble figuring out if someone is drunk, look out for some telltale signs: slurred words, clumsy movement and if their breath smells of alcohol. This scenario would play out the same if the person was using drugs instead of alcohol. Alcohol and drug use make it difficult for a person to give clear, informed consent, which is why most states have laws stating that a person who is intoxicated or incapacitated cannot consent to sex. If you have any doubt about someone’s ability to consent, assume they can’t.

Another example of a situation that may not be consensual is if you had to convince or coerce your partner into the act. Pressuring someone into sex is not consent, and assuming that because someone agreed to kiss or touch doesn’t mean they want to have sex. If you are kissing someone, make sure it’s O.K. to move further. In other words, getting the O.K. to kiss someone does not mean you also have permission to have sex with them. If someone tells you they want to have sex, but later changes their mind, that’s O.K. too! It’s completely valid if someone changes their mind before, or even during, sexual acts. It’s important to make sure every person involved is comfortable in the present.

These are just some instances where consent can or can’t be given. Although no means no, yes doesn’t necessarily mean yes. We are all complicated, and everything we do is going to be complicated because of it. When looking to have sex, it’s up to you to judge the situation to figure out if everyone involved is truly consenting.

If you think you understand consent, and you are involved in an act that involves the use of condoms, then keep reading.

HOW TO USE A CONDOM

Putting on a condom can be hard. Uh, no pun intended. Some people don’t like condoms for a variety of reasons: They’re tight, they negatively affect sexual performance, or they irritate their skin. If your condom is so tight that it’s uncomfortable, then you need to get a bigger size. If you’re concerned about keeping an erection, try lubricated or ultra-thin condoms for a more natural feel. And if condoms are irritating your skin, you might be allergic to latex. Many condoms are made of latex, so if that’s the issue, consider trying a non-latex condom, such as Trojan’s Supra Bareskin.

Another problem people have with condoms is simply not knowing how to use them properly. Check out our FAQ on how to use a condom.

GOOD SEX TAKES PREPARATION

OK, so you know about consent and how to use a condom. You’re preparing yourself for sex, and that’s great. Although there’s a lot of preparation needed to have sex, there’s nothing else like it. Enjoy and be safe out there!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jakhi Lodgson-McCray (he/him), 17, mostly plays games and watches movies. (Things he says he shouldn’t be doing since he definitely has work to do.) Sex education has been an important part of Jakhi’s life: “I’ve learned many things, and I hope to share them with you!”

ONLINE DATING: CONNECTING DURING A PANDEMIC

In the past year, more people than ever turned to online dating to connect with others. Messaging on the dating app Hinge increased 30 percent during the last year, according to Business Insider, and Tinder reported a record-breaking 3 billion swipes on March 29, 2020.

Online dating is a great way to connect, and there are lots of options for all kinds of people to meet others they really vibe with. Taking the time to find an online dating app that meets your needs can really pay off!

Choosing the App That’s Right for You

For instance, while some apps are geared towards meeting lots of people quickly and hooking up (Tinder), other apps tout how easy it is to meet your soulmate and form a serious relationship using their platform (Hinge). Additionally, some apps have made it easier for LGBTQ+ users to connect. Many apps offer options to specify your gender identity, pronouns and sexual orientation on your profile. The great thing about dating apps is that many platforms have been created for users to find people that they’ll connect with. Whether you use an app that matches you by sexual orientation, religion or similar interests, there’s a lot to explore.

One of the biggest questions you’ll confront when you’re swiping through whichever app you happen to use is this: What are you looking for? Being upfront about what you want on whatever app you’re using is a good way to attract people you would enjoy spending time with. Of course, in the era of the biggest global catastrophe of the 21st century so far, lots of people are looking for connection. And if you’re one of those people, then be clear about what you want, choose an app that can help you meet someone and while you’re at it, be careful.

Safety First

There are some general rules to be aware of, like not giving out personal or sensitive information to someone you don’t know that well, keeping conversations in the app before giving out your phone number and reporting suspicious activity. Generally, if someone is begging to meet with you after like six seconds of talking, something might be up. Trust your gut if something seems off.

And when you are ready to meet, why not try out interesting alternatives to traditional in-person meetings? Zoom dates can be super fun! And the magic of them is that you get to leave whenever you want. Additionally, there are ways to meet up in-person that are COVID-safe, like opting for outdoor activities like picnics. 

The Power of Connection

The point is, online dating gives you the power to control many different aspects of your dating life. And like Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” 

There can be a lot of pressure to find people and forge new and lasting bonds while you’re a young adult. What’s even more headache-inducing is the idea that we’re missing out on meaningful life experiences because of the pandemic. However, it’s important to recognize the power in smaller, casual connections and take the pressure off finding a relationship ASAP. Right now, there aren’t a lot of opportunities to connect to others in real life. Getting the chance to talk to those outside of your immediate circle can be stress-relieving, even if this interaction doesn’t lead to a relationship. 

So get out there and make some quarantine connections. I’m sure you’ll be happy that you did!

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maddy Hill-Glover (she/her), a student at the University of Rochester, is a very cool and funny left-handed genius from New Jersey. She enjoys playing with small animals, hiking, drawing and curating hyperpop playlists. She gives off major bestie vibes because she’s a Libra.

HETERONORMATIVITY AND CISNORMATIVITY: TOTALLY PROBLEMATIC

Why is it that only LGBTQ+ people are expected to “come out”? The answer: heteronormativity and cisnormativity.

In our society, being heterosexual or “straight” and cisgender or “cis” has historically been the default sexual orientation and gender identity. Keep in mind, sexual orientation and gender identity are two different things. And while they may overlap, the identities within each category all have unique experiences. 

Heteronormativity implies that heterosexuality (being “straight”) is the default, “normal” sexual orientation. Cisnormativity is the assumption that being cis (when your sex assigned at birth matches your gender identity) is the default, “normal” gender identity. 

Heteronormativity and Cisnormativity Are Subtle But Harmful

The idea that there’s only one normal sexual orientation and gender identity is problematic. A lot of the time, heteronormativity and cisnormativity are expressed through microaggressions. Microaggressions are subtle, intentional or unintentional behaviors that imply some sort of bias and often communicate hostile, derogatory or negative attitudes toward marginalized groups. Microaggressions reinforce heteronormativity and cisnormativity by insisting that everyone “should be” straight and cis. 

Let’s say you open an account on a dating app, select your gender as “woman,” and the app automatically sets your preferences to seeking men. Or maybe, while you’re setting up the account, the only options for gender are “man” or “woman.” While those categories may work for some people, they don’t work for everyone. It can be hard not to assume the biases most of us are taught about sexual orientation and gender identity are the way things are supposed to be. Sometimes, society’s erasing of LGBTQ+ identities causes us to hide and be ashamed of our identities. But with so many people who don’t fit into the labels of straight and cis, there’s a huge need to normalize queer identities. 

Affirm a Range of Sexual Orientations and Gender Identities

For starters, stand up for the people who are most impacted by stereotypes about sexual orientation and gender identity. Have conversations with family and friends about LGBTQ+ identities and step in if you ever witness a microaggression. If you’re figuring out your own sexual orientation or gender identity, surround yourself with people that affirm your identity. If you’re in an environment that isn’t supportive, set boundaries with people who reinforce heteronormativity or cisnormativity. 

It may not be safe or comfortable to be public about your identity, but know that you’re still valid in who you are. If it is safe for you to be out, proudly presenting your identity and sharing your experience may help other LGBTQ+ people who are in the same boat. Representation matters. Having someone you can see yourself in makes a difference. And feeling like you can be that person for someone else is empowering. By normalizing LGBTQ+ identities and experiences, we can create a more equitable and affirming world for queer people. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Maura Freeland (she/they) is studying political science and women’s and gender studies at Rutgers University. She’s passionate about social justice and intersectional feminism. In the wild, Maura can be spotted registering voters, attempting to learn TikTok dances and raving about philosophical theory to anyone who will listen. 

CHOOSING THE CONDOMS THAT ARE RIGHT FOR YOU

After reading this you can hopefully walk into a store and pick out the condoms that are right for you. Or at the very least, you’ll be a little more knowledgeable about which types of condoms work for you and your partner.

It can be quite overwhelming to buy condoms for the first time, especially when there are so many different types! I remember the first time I went to buy condoms (apart from the time I went to buy them for the customary high school health project). I’ll have to admit—I was a bit frazzled. From ultra-thin to warming to ribbed, there were so many different types, and I didn’t have the slightest idea which ones to buy!

So that your experience isn’t nearly as confusing as mine, let’s talk about the different types of condoms. My hope is that after reading this you can confidently walk into a store and pick out the condoms that are right for you.

…or that you’ll at least be a little bit more knowledgeable about which type(s) of condoms work for you and your partner.

TYPES OF CONDOMS

There are many types of condoms. They may be made out of either latex, polyurethane or lambskin, and these may also be lubricated, spermicidal or textured. Choose a condom material that best suits your needs and those of your partner. For example, latex condoms are very effective at preventing pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (when used properly), but if you’re allergic to latex, you can opt for polyurethane condoms. Lambskin condoms provide protection against unintended pregnancy but not STIs. Viruses and bacteria can pass through lambskin condoms, which is why they are only recommended for monogamous couples.

Lubricated Condoms

Lubricated condoms have a water or silicone based lubricant on them. This lessens the friction between the skin and the condom, making sex feel better.

  • Warming sensate condoms are a type of lubricated condom with a warming agent inside of them that may be stimulating to some people—making sex more interesting.
  • Spermicidal condoms have spermicidal lubricant on them that paralyzes sperm and provides extra protection against pregnancy. However, remember that spermicidal condoms can irritate your or your partner’s body, which could lead to allergic reactions or an increased susceptibility to STIs.
  • Delay condoms have benzocaine inside of them, which delays ejaculation.

Textured condoms can be ribbed or dotted, meaning that they have extra nubs around them to make sex more pleasurable.

Other types of condoms include extra-large condoms, ultra-thin condoms and internal condoms, which are also called “female condoms.”

Don’t be daunted by the various types of condoms—in fact, that’s the best part about them! Because there are so many different types, textures, sizes and shapes of condoms, it gives you even more opportunity to find one that best suits you and your partner. Remember, sex is meant to be fun and pleasurable; good sex stems from good communication about sex—and this includes talking about your and your partner’s preferences for condoms!


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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Parth Thakkar (he/him) is a freshman at Johns Hopkins University studying public health and economics. He has been writing for Sex, Etc. for four years. In his free time, Parth likes to dance, play the ukulele and read nonfiction.