Sexual Health

What is sexual health?

Your sexual health is a multifaceted term that encompasses your physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing in regards to your sexuality and sex. 

In order to be safe and have fun, you need to be aware of the issues surrounding sexual health and wellness, and how they relate to you 


  •  STDS, or sexually transmitted diseases (also known as “STIs” or sexually transmitted infections), are infectious diseases that spread from person to person through sexual contact. STDs don’t discriminate, and they oftentimes have no or minimal symptoms. 
  •  If left untreated, STDs risk being embarrassing and painful – having obvious blister breakouts across your face is no fun. Even worse, untreated STDs can spread rapidly to different people, and cause serious, irreparable damage to your body, from nerve damage to dementia, infertility, HIV suspectibility, and even, in some cases, death.
  •   STDs pose a serious health concern to you and the rest of Rice. Even if you’ve never had sex, sexual contact, or an STD, the potential physical, mental, and emotional consequences of contracting an STD, or being in an environment in which STDs proliferate, is publically unsafe, unhealthy, and not conducive to a positive educational and social experience/environment/atmosphere.
  • The good news is that most STDs are curable or treatable. The even better news is that all STDs are preventable when you take a proactive, responsible approach to protecting your sexual health. For more information, check out the links below.  

Common Misconceptions

 1) Myth: Only "slutty" people get STDs.

Fact: STDs don't discriminate.
Anyone, even someone having sex for the first time, can get an STD. You can get an STD whether you’re in a long-term relationship or hooking up with multiple partners. The only way you can have no risk of getting an STD is by not having sex or any kind of sexual conduct.  

2) Myth: If your partner has an STD, you'll be able to tell.

Fact: STDs often have no signs or symptoms. Not only do most STDs often have no signs or symptoms, they can remain in the body for years, so you could potentially pass on an STD to someone else without having any idea that you have it yourself. The only way to make sure you’re STD-free is to get tested, regularly, by a doctor. Rice Health Services performs a variety of STD tests that are covered by your student health insurance.
To prevent STDs, be proactive and responsible about your sexual health by doing things like using a condom every time.  

3) Myth: You can avoid STDs by having oral or anal sex.

Fact: You can get STDS by having any type of sexual contact, including oral and anal.
(not your words) STDs can enter the body through tiny cuts or tears in the mouth and anus, as well as the genitals. Some STDs, like herpes or genital warts, can spread just through skin-to-skin contact with an infected area or sore. 

4) Myth: Once you've had an STD, there's no chance of getting it again.

Fact: You can get some STDs more than just once.
Some STDs remain in your body for life, like HPV, herpes, and HIV, whether or not they’re symptomatic. Others, like Chlamydia and gonorrhea, can be treated, but you can get them again if you have sexual contact with someone who’s infected. To prevent and protect against re-infection, make sure to use condoms every time and get tested regularly. For more tips on how to have safer sex, and what to do if you have an STD, check out our Tips for Having Safer Sex and Getting Tested sections on this page.  

5) Myth: If you get checked and you're STD free, your partner doesn't need to get checked as well.

Fact: Your partner could have an STD and not know it.
STDs often have no signs or symptoms. A lack of STD symptoms does not preclude the possibility that your partner has a “silent” STD infection, or one without symptoms, that he/she’s mistaking symptoms for some other non-STD health issue, or that your partner contracted an STD prior to your relationship which has not yet shown symptoms.
The only way to know for certain that you’re not going to get infected with an STD is to make sure your partner gets tested as well. And, in addition to getting regularly tested, make sure that you use condoms every time you have sex.

Getting Tested

For more information about appointments, fees, etc., check with Rice Health Services

Coping with an STD

 STDs pose serious health risks to you and your sex partner(s). If you think or know that you have an STD, contact Health Services to get tested and treated.  Having an STD can be embarrassing, even potentially traumatic. Here are some steps for helping ensure your and your partner’s sexual wellbeing during and after treatment: 

1) Talk to your partner: 

  • Make sure they get tested as well.   
  • Set boundaries for having sex.  
  • Make sure you’re using protection when you have sex.   

2) Prevent the spread of infection: 

  •   Don’t have sex your treatment is complete. 
  • Tell your sex partner(s) about the infection. 
  • Make sure your sex partner(s) are tested and treated before having sex again. 
  • Once you start having sex again, use condoms every time.  
  • Check for any recurring STD symptoms both during and even after treatment. Sometimes, an STD is resistant to the type of treatment you’re taking/doing, or your body is resistant to the type of treatment. 
  • Get tested for STDs, regularly.  

3) Have safer sex: 

  • Check out some tips below on ways to reduce your risk for STDs.  

Safer Sex Tips

There’s no way to have 100% “safe sex,” but there are plenty of ways to have safer sex, which helps protect both you and your partner’s sexual health.
1) Monogamy – having fewer sex partners, or staying monogamous with one sex partner, reduces your risk of STDs. Not only because you’re not as exposed to as many risk-wise, but also because you know his/her sexual habits, sexual background, and are on the same page about sexual safety/feeling comfortable about having sex.

2) Talk about safe sex with your partner before having sex.
Even if your sex partner doesn’t have symptoms of an STD, he/she may still have one. Ask your sex partner if he/she has recently gotten tested for STDs, and if so, if they’re STD-free. If they haven’t, set some guidelines/boundaries about having sex and ask the person to get tested soon, realizing that it’s at-your-own risk. Make sure to use a condom while having sex to reduce your risk of STDs.

3) Try no-risk or lower-risk sex - There’s a lot of fun sex beyond just vaginal or anal intercourse. Having no-risk or lower-risk sex means exploring less-risky ways to sexually please each other.
No-risk safer sex play includes 

  •  masturbation 
  • mutual masturbation 
  • cybersex 
  •  phone sex 
  • sharing fantasies 

Low-risk safer sex play includes 

  • kissing 
  • fondling — manual stimulation of one another 
  • body-to-body rubbing — "grinding," or "dry humping" 
  •  oral sex (even safer with a condom, dental dam, or other barrier) 
  • playing with sex toys — alone or with a partner 

4) Watch for symptoms of STDs - such as painful intercourse, unusual discharges, growths, or soreness in your or your partner’s genital areas.

5) Use protection, every time – a condom is the best way to protect yourself from STDs.

6) Be responsible. Avoid sexual contact if you have symptoms of an infection or if you are being treated for an STD or HIV. Use condoms at all times.

7) Be safe and aware of the risks of alcohol/drug use – Mixing alcohol and drug use with sex is a potentially dangerous combination. Drug use lowers your inhibitions, making it more likely for you to engage in any number of higher-risk behaviours that could damage or make you susceptible to damaging your sexual health, including STDs, pregnancy, and/or sexual harassment or assault.

8) Get tested regularly – since most STDs don’t have symptoms, it’s hard to tell whether or not you have one. The only way to know for sure is to get regularly tested. At Rice, Health Services offers STD testing services.

9) Remember that there’s no perfect “time” to have sex.

10) Be prepared for a sex emergency - Consider carrying two condoms with you just in case one breaks or tears while it's being put on. Both men and women are equally responsible for preventing STDs, using contraceptives and both should carry condoms. Sometimes things go wrong even when you try to do everything right. 

Body Stuff: What's normal? What's not?

Everyone’s body is different, so physical responses and development in regards to sexual activity depends largely on the person. At the end of the day, you know your body better than anyone else. Something that may seem “normal” for someone else may not actually be normal for you.

The following is a list of general guidelines to give you a better idea of the range of what’s considered normal and what’s not for a healthy woman.



  • Having one breast that’s larger than the other
  • Breasts feel more tender and swell right before your period
  • Inverted nipples

Not normal: 

  • If you have a lump in your breast (check with your health care provider immediately)
  • Spontaneous discharge from one of your nipples



  • Menstruating every 25-40 days
  • Having a clear, slippery discharge during ovulation
  • Experiencing PMS symptoms (premenstrual syndrome) 1-10 days before your period, such as bloating, diarrhea, nausea, backache, irritability, cramps, tender breasts

Not Normal: 

  • Severe cramps that prevent you from functioning normally (i.e., can’t go to classes because you don’t feel good, play sports, engage in normal activities, do your homework, etc.)
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Struggle to temper or cope with your PMS symptoms
  • Unusual/persistent pelvic pain not associated with your period
  • Gone more than 6 weeks without having a period
  • Gone more than 12 weeks without having a period if you know you can’t be pregnant
  • Having sex is painful



  • Whitish discharge, doesn’t smell bad
  • Thicker, clearer discharge during ovulation
  • Increased wetness or vaginal discharge during sexual arousal

Not normal: 

  • Heavier discharge than normal
  • Discharge smells different – has bad odor
  • Discharge looks different, appears yellow or greenish in colour
  • Vaginal pain, burning, or itching
  • Vaginal sores

If you think you are experiencing anything that’s not normal, or not normal for your body, contact your health care provider immediately.


“Sexually Transmitted Infections.” 

 “Health Info and Services.” Planned 


 “Birth Control.” 

 “Birth Control.” National Institute of Health. 

Sexually Transmited Diseases. Center for Disease Control.   

“Birth Control FAQ.”