By this point in your life, you have probably received lectures about sex on several occasions. You're not confused about where babies come from, you're probably aware of the many reasons to use contraception, and you're familiar with family and religious views on premarital sex. At the same time, you have seen an increasing amount of sex on television, in the movies, and even in video games. Advertisers know that sex sells products, particularly to the college-age market. How you approach sex while at college will be one of the most important decisions of your college career and perhaps your life.

The absolute safest choice you can make is to abstain from sex. This will protect you from an unwanted pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, and other emotional or physical harm. Some students who choose abstinence have reported that they have just as much fun as everyone else at college, have fewer emotional crises, and are still accepted by their friends. Abstinence is a choice, and one that you should consider.

You and your new friends will certainly talk about sex, no matter what your intentions are. In the process, you will identify friends who have similar thoughts or values. Talking to these people regularly and openly about sex can help you maintain your resolve to stick to your values, and you will likewise help your friends stick to theirs.

If you choose to have sex while at college, you need to protect yourself physically and emotionally. You should start by deciding what circumstances will lead you to having sex. How long do you need to know your partner, and what do you need to know about him, before you have any form of sexual contact? Also, what type of sexual contact are you willing to engage in? Know your limits before you get involved in a sexual encounter. If you don't want to do something, be certain to express that clearly early in the encounter.

If you decide to have sex, use some form of protection. You want to avoid getting a sexually transmitted disease as well as preventing pregnancy. Latex condoms are the most popular and widely recommended safe-sex devices. However, even condoms can't provide 100 percent protection from diseases or guard completely against pregnancy. For this reason, it's wise to use two forms of contraception when engaging in sexual acts.

Safe sex is the responsibility of both partners. If you are unable to have an open conversation about this, you and your partner need to wait before having sexual contact. If you talk about this issue early on in your relationship, you'll be prepared for planned or spontaneous sexual encounters.

A variety of birth control methods are available over the counter. The type of birth control you want to use is a very personal decision. Talk to your health center staff or primary physician about birth control. Your conversation will be confidential and you can learn about what is available, the risks involved with each method, and other important facts. Your health and safety must be your primary concern, and it will be largely your responsibility.

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