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Advice and support on safe sexual relations

Understand more about positive, healthy, consensual sex before moving away from home and starting university

You'll have many new experiences when you go to university, including developing healthy relationships with new friends and, possibly, new sexual relationships.

Living away from family and friends gives you more choice over how you spend your time. This includes the choice to be sexually active and explore your sexuality – but it's important to take your sexual health seriously.

Sex might not be a topic you've discussed openly before. But it's important to know your choices and your options when it comes to a safe sex life.

Trigger warning: We cover some topics here that may be uncomfortable to read if you've had a negative experience.

Get urgent support: If you're a current student at Portsmouth and you need urgent support in a crisis, find out how to get support after sexual assault, violence or harassment from the University and/or the police.

Sexual health

If you're sexually active at uni, it's important to take care of your sexual health. Your sexual health can impact on your physical and mental wellbeing, but it's easy to stay safe if you know how.

When thinking about your sexual health, consider the need to:

  • Protect yourself from sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
  • Use contraception to protect yourself from STIs and unplanned pregnancy
  • Develop confidence to talk about sexual health with your partner and GP

Make sure you know the risks and how to avoid them by reading up about sexual health:

  • Sexwise – honest advice about contraception, pregnancy, STIs and pleasure
  • NHS – their sexual health pages provide information on general sexual health and STIs

Sexual health services

You can get medical support for your sexual health, including free contraception and STI checks, from the following services:

  • Your local doctor
  • Local sexual health clinics – in Portsmouth, you can visit St Mary's Community Health Campus and Solent Sexual Health Services
  • In England, call the Sexual Health Line on 0300 123 7123 or NHS 111
  • In Wales, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47
  • In Scotland, call NHS 24 on 111.
  • In Northern Ireland, call the FPA helpline on 0345 122 8687

Sexual consent

You give your consent when you give permission for something to happen. This applies in all areas of life, including in your sexual relationships.

Just because you give permission for one thing to happen, like a kiss, doesn't mean you've automatically consented to other kinds of sexual behaviour. The same goes for your partner – always ask, never presume. It's important that everyone involved in any type of sexual activity has freely given their full consent.

Similarly, if you've given consent previously, your partner shouldn't assume that you've consented to sexual activity at any time in the future.

And you're allowed to change your mind – don't feel you must continue if you don't want to and do let your partner know you're not happy to carry on.

Consent cannot be given by anyone under the age of 16 in the UK.

Communicating consent

Lack of consent may not always be communicated verbally. If your partner pulls away from you, tries to push you away or seems uncomfortable in any way during sexual contact, ask them if they're okay to continue.

If you're the one feeling uncomfortable, say so. Without your full consent, your partner should know not to continue. It might be easier to start by saying something like 'Can we just take a break for a moment and talk about this?'

New relationships

Sexual consent can be cloudy in new relationships. When you meet someone new, be open to discussing your boundaries with each other. It might seem uncomfortable at first, but you'll be able to be more open and trusting with each other once you're on the same page. And that makes for a much better relationship.

Remember, not all sexual relationships are portrayed realistically in the media and online, especially in porn. When approaching a new relationship, remember that consent is rarely displayed in porn and your partner shouldn't be expected to perform in the same way either.

Lack of capacity to consent

If drugs or alcohol are a factor in your sexual activity, consent can be harder to be sure of. If you or your partner are too drunk or high to make informed decisions, or if your partner is unconscious, then you should stop engaging in any kind of sexual activity. This includes touching or kissing.

Sexual assault, violence or harassment

We take every report of sexual assault, violence or harassment seriously. If you're a victim of sexual assault, it's important to know that you're not to blame and there are confidential services you can go to for support and advice.

We can provide you with active support measures to feel safer on campus, signpost you to confidential medical and counselling services and take disciplinary action if needed. 

Get support after sexual assault, violence or harassment


More advice to stay safe

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