SHAPE answers your questions!

Question: I am sexually active and have been using condoms. I am interested in getting on the pill but I have no idea how or where to go for this. Can I hit up Searle on campus or do I need to go off campus? I’m on my mom’s insurance, will this cover the cost completely?

Answer: You can get a prescription for the pill from Searle! Most insurance plans now fully cover birth control pills, but in some cases there may be a $5 or $10 co-pay. You can contact your insurance provider directly to find out what coverage they offer.

Question: I’ve only had one orgasm ever and I’m 19 (also a girl if that matters). Are there any tips for me/my partner or things that I am possibly doing wrong?

Answer: When you’re feeling like orgasms are unobtainable, remember the boring scientific stuff first: the orgasm is technically a set of physical responses to the peak of arousal, and if it were on a chart (like this one, which is a joke, but also kind of relatable –>, the actual orgasmic part would be extremely small in comparison to the build-up beforehand. Build-up meaning the stages before orgasm, also called the Sexual Response Cycle. These stages include excitement (think anywhere from first kisses and touches to foreplay) and plateau (think, “wow, this is feeling really good in this particular spot that’s being touched/licked/fucked etc., I may be getting close!). Now, to experience both WITHOUT orgasm is definitely frustrating, we hear you. What may help to get you closer, or get you there more frequently, is to get there on your own. Masturbation is super low-pressure in that you aren’t depending on anyone else to provide your pleasure except yourself. Try to mix it up in terms of strokes, pressure, and moods that you set for yourself. What also is a great, well-reported tool for achieving first orgasms is a bullet vibrator. Not saying that all women orgasm from clitoral stimulation, but the majority do! Squeezing the PC-muscles (same muscles you hold when stopping the flow of urine!) while you or your partner stimulates other erogenous zones tends to encourage more blood to flow to the vulva and increases sensitivity. The biggest roadblock to orgasm, though, is the brain. When in that excitement stage alone or with a partner, try focusing on the breathes you’re taking and the pleasurable sensations that you feel. That’s it. Say (in your head out loud, whatever!) when something feels good. If things still don’t happen for you after experimenting with these exercises, considering your health is never a bad idea: mood disorders, hormonal imbalances, pelvic trauma and a whole slew of medications can all disrupt a woman’s ability to orgasm, and can be discussed with a doctor that you trust. Good luck and hope you “come again!”

Question: What are forms of non-hormonal birth control besides condoms?

Answer: It is important to note that all of the following non-hormonal methods of birth control do not protect against STIs:

  • Vaginal spermicides contain chemicals which kill sperm on contact. They can be obtained without a prescription.
  • A Diaphragm is a flexible, rubber, dome shaped cup which covers the cervix, thereby creating a barrier to sperm. They can be fitted by a health care provider.
  • An IUD (Intrauterine Device) is inserted into the uterus by a health care provider, and interferes with the movement of sperm in the uterus. The sperm dies before they can fertilize the egg.
  • Contraceptive sponges are synthetic sponges which create a barrier to the cervix as well as contain spermicide (see above description) which kills sperm.

For more information on these and other non-hormonal birth control methods, including their rates of effectiveness, visit:
You can also take this quiz to find the right birth control for you:

Question: Can you still get an STI if you use a condom?

Answer: Unfortunately, yes. Different STIs are transmitted in different ways. “Some STIs are transmitted through vaginal fluid, seminal fluid and/or blood, but others are transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. A condom can act as a barrier for fluids but it does not eliminate all skin-to-skin contact. As a result, transmission of STIs such as herpes, HPV, syphilis, pubic lice, or scabies can occur even if a condom is used.”

Additionally, while condoms are generally very effective at protecting against STIs transmitted through bodily fluid, they are not always used correctly.
“Condoms that are not used correctly can put someone at risk for infection. STIs can be transmitted if the condom: breaks, is used after initial sexual contact, is torn, or comes off completely.”
For more information:

Question: Can my boyfriend get STD-tested on campus if he’s not a Northwestern student?

Answer: Sadly no – only NU students can get health care at Searle. However, we maintain the following list of off-campus testing centers that are available to anyone!

Question: Are NU students more or less sexually active than the average college student?

Answer: From national data, it looks like Northwestern students are a little less sexually active than the average college students. In 2011, there was a sexual health student survey of Northwestern students:

  • 47% of students have never had vaginal sex. Of the 53% that have, 35% had done it in the past 30 days.
  • 37% of students have never had oral sex. Of the 63% that have, 36% had done it in the past 30 days.
  • 88% of students have never had anal sex. Of the 12% that have, 2% had done it in the past 30 days.

A similar national survey in 2011 found this data:

  • 36.5% of students have never had vaginal sex. Of the 63.5% that have, 44% have done it in the past 30 days.
  • 29.5% of students have never had oral sex. Of the 70.5% that have, 41.8% have done it in the past 30 days.
  • 81% of students have never had anal sex. Of the 18.9% that have, 2.7% have done it in the past 30 days.

Question: What STIs can you give/get from oral sex?

Answer: STIs can be transmitted through unprotected oral sex. Herpes is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact with a developing or existing sore. A person giving oral sex can get gonorrhea in the throat if their partner has it. HIV/AIDS is riskier for the person performing oral sex, usually transmitted through a cut or sore. HPV is transmitted through skin-to-skin contact. Hepatitis B, syphilis, chlamydia, and chancroid can also be transmitted, but the risks are low.

For more information:

Question: How long do you have to take Plan B before it isn’t effective?

Answer: “If you take it within 72 hours after you’ve had unprotected sex, Plan B One-Step can reduce the risk of pregnancy by up to 89%. If you take Plan B One-Step within 24 hours, it is about 95% effective. But you should know that Plan B One-Step is not as effective as regular contraception. So don’t take it as your main form of birth control. And, it does not protect you against sexually transmitted diseases. Think of it as a backup — not for routine use. That’s why it’s called Plan B.”

For more information:

Question: Are there health risks associated with having a foreskin?

Answer: A foreskin requires maybe a little more TLC than a circumcised penis. This is because without regular cleaning of the foreskin, a whitish-yellowish substance called smegma can occur under the foreskin and its presence over a long period of time may irritate and/or inflame the penis and/or cause infections. That said, all penises, circumcised or not, require cleaning. Aside from smegma, other health risks associated with the foreskin — infections like posthitis and balanitis, caused by bacteria that thrive in hot and moist conditions — are usually just the result of poor hygiene.
Additionally, if you’re interested in whether or not foreskins increase susceptibility to HIV — according the CDC and Scientific American, circumcision does seem to lower the likelihood of heterosexual men to acquire AIDS during sexual intercourse. Studies with homosexual men were inconclusive. But it’s important to remember that circumcision is certainly not a form of HIV prevention.

For more information:

Question: Can you get STIs from the liquid in female ejaculate?

Answer: Yes, STIs can be transmitted through vaginal fluid, as well as semen and pre-cum. For that reason, we always recommend that you talk to your partner about risks of STI transmission with any practices involving genital contact, and you get tested regularly. Don’t forget, you can get STI testing done at Searle, and you can go to CARE (on the third floor of Searle) or stop by our portable gazebo, the G-Spot, to pick up condoms, female condoms, and dental dams!


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