How to Have Sex in College

For many, college is the first time that sex is not only permissible but is actually desired. It is liberating to not have to worry about your parents walking in on basement sex or your boyfriend’s roommate barging in at random times of night.

That being said, sex in college isn’t easy.

1. Know your limits

Whether you’re a virgin or a sex aficionado, the freedom and excitement of college is an exhilarating time to explore your sexuality. Unfortunately, navigating this newfound horniness in a dorm room with a roommate, thin walls, and an RA who knows all about fire safety and underage drinking can be a bit challenging.

One of the most important things you can do is learn your limits and communicate them with anyone you might sleep with. If you’re only comfortable with sex in certain situations (like when your roomie isn’t home or it’s just too damn cold), you should be open and honest about that to your partner. And if you’re only interested in sex for pleasure, that’s totally okay too!

A good place to start is having a conversation with your sex therapist—or even just researching sexual health information online. There are plenty of resources available, including sex education apps like Scarleteen, Dr. Jennifer Lincoln, a board-certified ob-gyn in Portland, tells SELF. Masturbation is another great way to get to know your body and what makes you feel good, Lee Phillips, a licensed sex therapist in NYC, tells SELF.

It’s also important to remember that consent is ongoing and you have the right to rescind it at any time. So if you don’t want to continue an activity, you should say so.

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2. Don’t be afraid to say no

For many young adults, college is their first real experience living away from home. They may be revved up to hookup and get their sexual fantasies fulfilled, but if that’s not what you want, don’t be afraid to say no.

A lot of freshman orientation workshops don’t touch on communicating effectively and instead encourage students to learn by trial and error when it comes to hooking up, which can lead to unhealthy, low-quality relationships and even sexual assault, especially for women and LGBTQ+ students. Having a solid no-sex plan can help you avoid those types of experiences.

One in five women report being sexually assaulted during their time on campus, and this happens often because young people aren’t taught how to communicate about sex, says Dr. Lincoln. It’s important to talk to your roommate and your friends about expectations of each other when it comes to sex and dating, so everyone is on the same page.

It can be scary to say no, but remember that saying no isn’t just normal, it’s an act of rebellion against a world that conditions us to conformity through fear. Be true to yourself and start laying the foundation for your own unique personality by learning how to say no with confidence. And don’t listen to armchair quarterbacks who think you are missing out on life by not participating in the sex culture on your college campus, because the truth is that it’s all about what works for you.

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3. Know your boundaries

If you’re a college student, it’s likely that your social life will include sex. But sex isn’t mandatory and shouldn’t define you as a person. Many young people choose to skip it altogether or delay it until marriage, some have sexual traumas that make them reluctant to engage and others simply prefer the platonic relationships they’re able to form on campus.

If sex is important to you, know your boundaries and communicate them clearly. This is especially true for those who may be sex beginners, and it’s also a good idea for those with experience to do so as well. “You want to make sure that you’re communicating all of your needs and expectations in a way that makes sense to your partner,” Baksh says.

Often, this involves identifying your values, which are your morals that guide how you act and what you allow in your relationship. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself, too—“your gut instinct is usually a pretty reliable indicator of whether you’re okay with something or not,” Kennedy says.

Many sex workshops at orientation never mention communication as an essential part of healthy relationships, Talukder says. And this lack of instruction can mean that students have to learn through trial and error. It’s up to parents to help their students understand that they have the right to have any kind of intimacy they want, but it should be based on consent and communication.

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4. Know where to go

Living on campus puts you in a hyper-horny environment where things you only imagined or fantasized about as a kid are suddenly real possibilities. That can be exciting, but it can also be scary and confusing if you’re just starting to explore your sexuality or are in a relationship with someone new.

For many people, college is their first taste of sexual freedom. It’s a time to experiment and explore, but the reality of roommates and twin XL mattresses can make things tricky. Not to mention the fact that your neighbors can hear everything. And while sex with the guy next door is always fun, it’s not really the same thing as having that experience in the privacy of your own room.

In addition to being a place for exploration, college is also a great way to figure out who you are and what you want in life. So take advantage of the opportunity, but remember that sexual experimentation isn’t necessarily a rite of passage or a sign of a sexual awakening. The most important thing is to be aware of yourself and what you’re doing. And don’t be afraid to talk about your boundaries and anxieties with your friends, especially when nobody is drunk. It’s far better to discuss these things when no one is going to get hurt than to be a victim of unintended consequences.

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