COVID Canoodling: Sex, Intimacy and Health was hosted by Healthy Outreach through Peer Education (HOPE), the Women’s Center and the Pride Center to educate on sexual health and domestic abuse during COVID-19.
Vanessa Vought, the coordinator of health promotion within student health services and the advisor of HOPE said that a lot of collaboration is done with the Women’s Center and the Pride Center to educate students on a broad view with diversity playing into health issues.
“Sexual health is always important,” Vought said. “In this semester, where everything sort of changed, we have this this time where public health is important to understand with different safety measures and how to interact with people in general. It’s important to ask ‘what else do I need to know in regards to sexual health?’ and it is important to get all the education out there in regards to COVID-19.”
Shelby Gluth, a senior physical health major and Ryan Bastry, a senior biology major presented HOPE’s presentation on sexual health and intimacy.
The presentation began with a basic lesson on how COVID-19 spreads and how intimacy can still be achieved during a pandemic.
“Can sex be safe during COVID?,” asked Gluth. “We say yes it can.”
HOPE offered precautions in regards to safe sex during COVID such as making sure you and your partner are following proper COVID-19 protocols, keeping track of any symptoms present, keeping the number of sexual partners low and decreasing risk by wearing a mask during sex.
Although there are also safer alternatives to having sex, such as going solo or going digital.
If you and your partner do decide to engage in any form of a sexual encounter, HOPE advises both parties to take care of themselves during sex by avoiding kissing anyone who is not part of your small circle of close contacts, using forms of protection, washing up before and after sex and experimenting with new things.
“Avoid rimming because that might spread the virus through feces, but don’t be afraid to try new things,” Bastry said. “You can get creative with sexual positions that don’t involve face-to-face contact.”
HOPE also educated on Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) which is a preventative medication used to reduce the risk of contracting HIV. This medication is recommended for any individual who has had anal or vaginal sex and has a partner diagnosed with HIV, does not consistently use a condom or has been diagnosed with an STD in the past six months.
PrEP is usually prescribed by a health care provider and near Slippery Rock can be received at AGH Positive Health Clinic and the Community Outreach Wellness Center with a full comprehensive list available at the Student Health Center along with available STD testing and prices.
Vought and the HOPE Peer Mentors want those who attended to learn how to be more safe and understand the risks in certain sexual situations.
“We understand the students want more practical guidance and not to say ‘this is what you shouldn’t be doing’,” Vought said. “We need to meet students where they are and try to say ‘in this situation, what can I do to be safe?'”
However, intimacy and relationships aren’t only changing in the physical and sexual aspect. Desolina Valenti with the Women’s Center and Pride Center presented on domestic abuse.
“With people spending more time at home, abuse has become more common,” Valenti said.
The presentation educated participants on signs of abuse such as being overly controlling, checking a significant other’s messages, forceful sex, violent outbursts and more.
To protect from the increasing abuse during quarantine one should find a place to retreat to safety, avoid the bathroom or kitchen, enlist support from a trusted friend, have a code word or phrase, memorize phone numbers and make sure you can easily access cash, identification documents, medical insurance information and any necessary documents.
The Women’s Center and Pride Center does serve as a resource for domestic abuse, however they are not confidential. Other resources on campus include the University Police, Title IX Coordinator, Student Health and and Counseling Services, Student Support and The Office of Student Conduct.