By Hayley Cunningham, Columnist
The “V” word rarely escapes a man’s lips without a quiver of apprehension. Can he live up to expectations? Will he handle it in just the right way to make his significant other happy? Or will it end in embarrassment and disappointment as it does for so many?
Valentine’s Day is upon us, amping up emotions all over the world. While some are giddy with anticipation, many find themselves in a state of frenzied trepidation. If there is one thing decades of psychology research has shown, it is that emotions are confusing—so confusing that we can mistake any arousing emotion for, well, arousal.
Regardless of whether someone is actually turning you on or if you are just sexually aroused by a scary spider or the fear of letting your beau down on V Day, please remember to respect yourself and your significant other if you do decide to have sex (and by sex, I mean any combination of genitals, mouth, rectum, and hands).
Use protection every single time. Even if you or your partner is on birth control, the pill is not 100% effective and does nothing to protect against Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). The male condom is the most effective tool for preventing the transmission of STIs, but any barrier method is better than none. It is important to use a barrier during any form of sexual activity, as STIs can be transmitted between the mouth, rectum, and genital areas. Remember to make sure the condom is new and undamaged, and if you use lube, choose a water-based variety; oil-based ones make it easier to rub through your rubber. Free condoms are available in the infirmary; just walk up to the check-in window, ask, and you shall receive—no questions asked or lectures given. There are also bowls of condoms in each of the exam rooms, so you can sneakily stuff a few in your pockets during your next visit.
It is important for you and your partner to get tested so that you can both be confident you’re STI free or receive treatment if you are not. STIs are common on college campuses (1 in 4 sexually-active students has one!) and many may cause no noticeable symptoms as they permanently damage your reproductive system. Get tested if you experience symptoms, have sex with someone new or with someone who has an STI, or once each year if you are sexually active.
STI testing is available in the infirmary from 2:00 to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Friday and is completely confidential. Your parents’ insurance will not be billed unless you explicitly ask. Instead, you can purchase individual tests for $10 or $20 or the entire set (HIV, Syphilis, Gonorrhea, and Chlamydia) for $40. If you cannot pay $40 up front, you can pay $10 per month for four months.
Bottom line: make sure both you and your partner know your statuses and get tested if you do not. If you feel uncomfortable talking about it, you are probably not ready to take on the responsibility of sex. If your partner refuses, ditch them. You deserve better.
If you do not have a significant other to buy you mediocre chocolates on Feb. 14, there is no need to feel alone or unloved. If you do have a special someone, do not feel pressured to have sex (or do anything else) if you do not want to. While it may feel like everyone else is smitten with their soul mate or reaping the cardiovascular benefits of a raging sex life, that is not really the case. There are many people, myself included, who are single and not sexually active. Feel proud you have the strength to do what is right for you.
Loving yourself is just as important as loving others, and all forms of love are worth cherishing. Hug a friend, call your mom, or treat yourself to something special. Remember you are loved and worthy of love not just today, but every day.