Tyler Gross

By the time I started college, I'd been on birth control for two years, I'd caught chlamydia twice from the same cheating-ass no-good soon-to-be-ex boyfriend, and I'd suffered from at least a half-dozen UTIs. I didn't need sex and love advice so much as I needed a break.

You likely don't need much advice, either. You have the internet, YouTube, dating apps, social media, campus doctors, and friends, all of whom are sources of information. But a few tips never hurt anyone.

1. Put away your goddamn phone. It's more fun to meet someone IRL.

You'll be spending plenty of time with your face glued to a screen for school. When you can, take the opportunity to actually go out and experience the city, and get some face time with the people in it. Avoid getting catfished from the start.

You like books? Loads of literary events happen on the regular that are cheap or free. Dig music? Go see a show, there's a deluge of them every night, and Dave Segal has some recommendations for where to go if you're not 21 yet. Art, film, random trivia nights, food, improv, coffee—whatever it is, you'll naturally meet people with shared interests by figuring out where activities or hobbies or diversions you enjoy take place, then going out and enjoying them and engaging with people that you find attractive who are also out enjoying these things. Maybe you'll just make a friend. Maybe you'll find your next lover. Maybe you'll have a nice conversation that leads nowhere. Maybe it will be awkward as fuck. You can laugh about it later. What do you have to lose?

2. If you have a roommate, lay down some ground rules.

For example: No sex in the common areas. But if sex is going to happen, knowing your roommate's schedule—or at least when they're supposed to be home and not be home—will save you both much embarrassment (and images of each other you can't get out of your heads). Keep the dialogue open. If your schedule changes, make sure to share. If you are having sex while your roommate is home, turn up the volume on your music and keep the howling to a minimum.

3. The only person who cares about your orgasm is you.

There are few college-age men who are both willing to and capable of making you come. You are in control of your own pleasure. If you really want to have a good time, show your partner what it takes to get you off—so long as they're worth it and you have the patience to do a little coaching. Communication is key. If that doesn't work, don't be afraid to take matters into your own hands. Fingers. Whatever you need to get the job done.

4. Don't get married.

Let's say you fall in love. Splendid! DON'T GET MARRIED. You're too young and you still have a lot of growing to do. Trust me. If you're still with the dude you met in college when you're 30, and you still know you must be with him forever, by all means. Until then, leave the law out of it and save yourself the heartache, the paperwork, and the additional paperwork (and the money it costs) when it ends in divorce.

5. If you get sexually assaulted, don't keep it to yourself.

Seek counseling. Talk to a victim advocate. Call the National Sexual Assault Hotline (1-800-656-4673), which will connect you to a local sexual assault service provider and health facility that can care for survivors. There are also resources on every college campus (washington.edu/sexualassault, seattleu.edu/caps/resources, seattlecolleges.edu/hr/student_sd.aspx). Deal with what happened, because it will not just get better or go away. If you can, report the assault to the Seattle Police Department as soon as possible, especially if there is physical evidence. Washington State has a statute of limitations on rape; a survivor of rape must file a police report within a year, and then has 10 years to press criminal charges. If a person fails to file a report within a year, he or she has only three years to press charges.

6. Don't get pregnant.

It's really not that hard. If you are sexually active, use contraception. First, condoms. Second, hormonal birth control—it's the easiest and most effective way to ensure your continued fruitlessness. The pill is easy, if you find one that works for you (hormonal cocktails aren't a one-size-fits-all thing) and can remember to take it. There are also lots of birth control options beyond the pill, including the shot, patch, ring, IUD, and implant. Your campus health center is a good place to find out about your options. There's also your primary care doctor. And there's Planned Parenthood—it's inexpensive, and the staff is kind, knowledgeable, and nonjudgmental.

7. Better safe than an STI.

The pill obviously doesn't protect you from STIs or HIV. Use condoms, people. Trusting the person you're fucking doesn't protect you from the diseases they could be carrying. Of course, condoms aren't foolproof protection against HPV, so if you haven't gotten the vaccine, get started now; it's a six-month process. If you've started the process but haven't finished it, what the hell are you waiting for?

8. Pee after sex.

If you get a urinary tract infection, you know it. An unceasing urge to go, a terrible burning sensation when you do, multiple unsatisfying bathroom trips, passing cloudy urine in trickles. A surefire way to avoid getting a UTI is peeing after sex. That's right, that UTI is avoidable. During sex, the urethra comes into contact with bacteria from the genitals and anus; peeing immediately afterward flushes the bacteria out before it can travel up to the bladder and kidneys. Also, drink lots of water, pee when you have to (don't hold it), wipe from front to back, and avoid douching (the vagina is self-cleaning, my dears). Also, make sure to get antibiotics if you do get a UTI. It won't just go away, and the longer you wait, the worse it will get and the likelier you could get a more painful and harmful kidney infection.

9. You're pregnant, now what?

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Having a child is no joke. Trust me, I have a 1-year-old. If you get pregnant in college, you need to carefully weigh your options. Are you in a position to be a parent? Is your partner in a position to be a parent? Are you prepared to be a single parent? Can you juggle school and a child? Can you afford day care for your child while you're in class? If the answer to these questions is no, and you decide you want to get an abortion, that's okay. You are not a monster. You are an adult making a very hard, adult decision, and you should not feel ashamed.

The procedure is safe, insurance usually covers it, and if you qualify for the state's insurance program (Medicaid or Apple Health), that covers it as well. Planned Parenthood, Cedar River Clinics, Seattle Medical and Wellness Clinic, and All Women's Care are all local options. Just don't wait too long to make your decision. The sooner you deal with it, the easier (and less expensive) an abortion will be.