Sex & sexual health

Overview

Learning more about sex and sexual health can help you have safe, respectful, and enjoyable experiences.

In university, there are often expectations and assumptions about sex, sexuality, and what “everyone else is doing”.

What we know about sexual activity among Canadian university students:

  • 32% of students report having no sexual partners in the past 12 months
  • 45% report having 1 sexual partner in the past 12 months
  • 23% of students report having 2 or more sexual partners in the past 12 months
  • Of those who reported having a sexual partner, 46.5% engaged in oral sex, 50.6% in vaginal sex, and 5.6% in anal sex in the last 30 days

Navigating sex

Love yourself

The best way to learn about your sexuality and preferences is to get to know your body first.

Masturbation can be done on your own or with a sex toy. The UBC Wellness Centre sells sex toys of all types and has Wellness Peers available to speak confidentially about what might be right for you.

YOU decide if and when to have sex

If you’re thinking about having sex, make sure it’s your own choice for your own reasons, and not because of pressure from others – or because of what you’ve seen online or in the media.

Sex means different things to different people. Reflect on your own reasons for having sex, and ask a partner about their assumptions and expectations.

Consent is KEY

Consent is an enthusiastic and freely given 'yes' to engage in sexual activity.

Consenting to one kind of sexual activity does not mean consent is given to another sexual activity. Consent only applies to each specific instance of sexual activity.

  • Heart eyes emoji icon
    Yes consent
    Yes! = yes when it's enthusiastic, freely given, and current
  • Kiss emoji icon
    Consent caution
    You're dating = treat them right, ask every time
  • No words emoji icon
    No Consent
    Silence = nope
  • Questionable emoji icon
    No Consent
    A 'maybe' or hesitation = nope
  • Sick emoji icon
    No Consent
    Intoxicated (even a little) = not happening, get them pizza instead
  • Sleep emoji icon
    No Consent
    Unconscious or sleeping = definitely not... make sure they're okay

Talk to your partner

You need to respect your partner’s reasons for choosing to have or not have sex.

  • Check in with your partner
  • Recognize that you or they can stop at any time
  • Communicate so that you both feel safe and comfortable

It’s each person’s responsibility to ask, listen to, and respect their partner. That way, both people have an enthusiastic and enjoyable sexual experience.

Along with talking about consent, it’s important to verbally communicate about your sexual preferences and boundaries. Everyone has things they like and don’t like, things they want to try, and things they do not.

Questions to help you communicate about your boundaries

  • What are you looking for in a sexual experience?
  • What are you comfortable with?
  • Where are your boundaries?
  • How are you going to set those boundaries?

Questions to help you communicate about sexual health

  • Do you need contraception to prevent a possible pregnancy?
  • What kind of contraception do you and a partner want to use?
  • Have you been tested for STIs?
  • How will you prevent STI transmission?

Questions to help you communicate about your wants, desires, likes, and dislikes

  • What would you like you try?
  • What do you definitely want?
  • What do you definitely not want?

Knowing the answers to these questions and communicating them with a partner will help you feel comfortable during sex. These questions are all components of a healthy sexual experience.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that spread as a result of sexual activity or contact, including oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Some STIs can even be passed by skin-to-skin genital contact1. STIs can affect anyone who is sexually active.

STIs can be1:

  • Bacterial (e.g., Chlamydia)
  • Viral (e.g., HPV, HIV)
  • Parasitic (e.g., pubic lice)
  • Fungal (e.g., yeast infection)

If you’re planning to be sexually active, consider and discuss STI prevention methods with your partner beforehand.

1 sexandu.ca (2018), STIs

Preventing sexually transmitted infections

STIs can be transmitted via oral, vaginal, and anal sex. There are 4 ways to prevent STI transmission:

  1. Use a barrier
    Use a condom for vaginal, anal, or oral sex. External and internal condoms provide a barrier to prevent STIs from spreading. Oral dams can provide STI protection for oral sex and anal stimulation.

    At UBC, you can get condoms and oral dams at-cost at the Wellness Centre. Wellness Peer Educators at the Wellness Centre can provide more information about safer sex practices and answer any questions. You can also get condoms at any drug store or pharmacy.
  2. Get vaccinated
    Contact your doctor to receive the human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine, which protects against some strains of the HPV virus and Hepatitis A and B.

    At UBC, Student Health Service offers vaccines. There may be a cost for certain vaccines.
  3. Get tested
    Most STIs have no symptoms. Getting an STI test is the only way to know if you or a sexual partner have certain STIs. Talk to your doctor about what an STI test includes. If you test positive for an STI, your doctor will be able to recommend treatment options and can also refer you to support resources and services.

    At UBC, Student Health Service offers STI testing.
  4. Practice abstinence
    The only certain way to avoid getting an STI is to abstain from sexual activity.

Find out more

Contraception and birth control

Contraceptive methods help prevent pregnancy. Many methods are very effective at preventing pregnancy; however, no method is 100% guaranteed.

Types of contraception

  1. Learn about birth control
    Understanding the different types of birth control can help you make an informed decision.
  2. Get your preferred contraception
    Discuss the options with your sexual partner(s) before getting the contraception.
    1. Intrauterine devices (IUDs) need a prescription from and insertion by a doctor.

      At UBC, Student Health Service can prescribe IUDs. IUDs may have additional costs.
    2. Hormonal methods (e.g., pill, patch, ring), require a prescription from a doctor and can be bought at a pharmacy.

      At UBC, book an appointment with Student Health Service for a prescription or to get more information.
    3. You can buy barrier methods (e.g., internal and external condoms) at any pharmacy, sex toy store, or drugstore.

      At UBC, you can get condoms at the Wellness Centre or AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC).
  3. Maximize the effectiveness of your birth control
    1. Follow the instructions for how to use the method.
    2. Ask your doctor about it.
    3. Learn more about the birth control method.
    4. Combine contraception methods. The most commonly combined methods are the pill and external condoms. Together, they provide more protection against pregnancy and STIs.

Emergency contraception

If you had sex without contraception, or if your contraception failed during sex (e.g., the condom broke, or the pill wasn’t taken consistently), emergency contraception (EC) may be an option. Since emergency contraception drastically changes your hormone levels, it is only meant to be used occasionally, not as regular birth control.

EC is available as a pill and can be taken within 5 days of vaginal sex. The sooner you take it after sex, the more effective it is. Taking it within the first 12-24 hours after unprotected intercourse is the most effective.

In British Columbia, you can purchase emergency contraception from any pharmacy. You can get a prescription from a physician at Student Health Service or another doctor’s office to reduce the cost of EC and/or to find out about your options for EC.

  • Ask for a same-day appointment to get the prescription as quickly as possible.
  • Let the pharmacist or doctor know how many hours have passed since intercourse. They might have suggestions for pregnancy prevention.
  • Talk with them about which emergency contraceptive is the best option for you.
  • After your doctor’s appointment, you’ll still need to buy the EC from a pharmacy. Ask the pharmacists or check with your health insurance provider to see if the EC is covered.

Learn more

Pregnancy

If you’re concerned that you, a friend, or partner may be pregnant, you may wish to use a pregnancy test.

You can buy pregnancy tests at the Wellness Centre, or at any drug store or pharmacy in British Columbia.

A doctor or nurse can also administer a pregnancy test and discuss your birth control or pregnancy options. Book an appointment with Student Health Service on campus, or find a clinic in Vancouver.

Healthy relationships & sex

Relationships take on many forms and may or may not be romantic/sexual. Find tips and strategies for building healthy relationships.

Get tips

Apps & interactive resources

These websites and apps have been carefully chosen by health professionals at UBC. They’re easy and accessible tools you can use any time to help you manage your sexual health.

Sex & U
Learn more about sex and sexual health.

Sexplanations with Dr. Lindsay Doe
Watch sex-positive videos that answer questions about sexual health and sexuality.

Options for Sexual Health
Find clinics and resources, or contact the anonymous phone line to talk about sexual health.

Web Smart Sex Resource
Learn about STIs, testing options, find clinics, or chat with a nurse online.

Sexual diversity
Join your community, access resources, and be an ally.

Clue
Keep track of your monthly period cycle by entering data about your period, pain, and notes.

Peer support

It might be easier to talk with a trained student about sex. They may understand what you’re going through and can offer helpful resources.

Wellness Centre
Wellness Peer Educators are trained students who can help if you have questions or need resources for your sexual health or anything related to your life as a student.

Speakeasy
Speakeasy provides free, confidential, one-on-one peer support for UBC students facing a wide variety of challenges.

Professional help

If you need a prescription for birth control, STI testing, or support with sex and sexual health, talk to a health professional.

Student Health Service
Book an appointment to get prescriptions, testing, IUD insertion, and more.

Counselling Services
If you or a friend are in a relationship that doesn't seem healthy, book a one-on-one assessment to talk about your concerns.

Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO)
If you've experienced sexual assault or violence, we believe you. SVPRO can help you navigate your options for academic accommodations, reporting, and more.

AMS Sexual Assault Support Centre (SASC)
Talk to a trained student or support worker in a confidential and safe space.