Over 60 per cent of students at Exeter have had unprotected sex, according to an Exeposé survey into our sexual habits at university.
The survey, filled out by almost 400 Exeter students, revealed that 229 people had had sex without protection. Worryingly, of these, nearly 30 per cent stated that alcohol was their primary reason for having unprotected intercourse. Another 30 per cent stated that they did not use protection as “it feels better without”. Equally troubling was the fact that of the 54 per cent of students who admitted to having had a one night stand at university, 40.9 per cent said that they did not use protection. Nearly 30 per cent of students admitted to having needed emergency contraception in the past.
Students were also asked for their opinion on attitudes towards sex at university. Over 80 per cent of respondents said that they agreed or strongly agreed that university culture encourages casual sex, whilst 71 per cent said they thought that there was a pressure to be sexually active while at university. Over a quarter of students said they do not worry about catching sexually transmitted infections. Nearly half of respondents thought that university students do not care about the risks associated with casual and/or unprotected sex, whilst 43 per cent thought that students did not understand the risks adequately. Over 20 per cent of students said they never or rarely use protection whilst having sex.
Exeposé also contacted students personally to ask them about their experiences of sex culture at university. Speaking anonymously, one second-year Law student said that although “the University itself does not encourage any sort of culture around sex, other than the culture to practice it safely”, agreeing that “there does seem to be an existing pressure to be sexually active whilst at university which stems from the general student population itself.” The same student went on to say that whilst “in theory” students know about the risks of unprotected sex, “there are occasional times when this knowledge is not put into practice”.
Another third-year English student said: “Although there isn’t necessarily anything wrong with casual sex, I think students are often quite ignorant about the risks of having unprotected sex with strangers.”
The survey also asked students about the number of sexual partners had been with. The most common response was between one and three partners, followed by four to six. Over 15 per cent of respondents admitted to having sex with 11 or more different partners. Nearly a quarter of students said they had 4 or more one night stands in the past.
There is currently no society on campus that explicitly offers support or information surrounding sexual health to students. The Exeter Sexual Health Awareness Group (S.H.A.G.) was a student run society that aimed to raise awareness of the importance of good sexual health, as well as spreading the message of safe sex. However, the society is currently not active, having been made dormant by the Students’ Guild in September 2015.
The Student Health Centre on campus offers free services and information to students about sexual health, including emergency contraception and chlamydia tests. It’s opening hours are 08:45-17:00 Monday-Friday during term time. Students can also attend the NHS walk-in clinic on Sidwell Street for a more comprehensive and confidential sexual health test. There are also various links to wellbeing and support services such as charity FPA and The Brook Advisory service available on the Students’ Guild website.
Despite this, over 30 per cent of students surveyed stated that they felt the University and/or Students’ Guild did not do enough to provide information/services surrounding safe sex, whilst another 35 per cent said they didn’t know if enough information or services were provided. Beth, a second-year Sociology and Anthropology student told Exeposé she thought “the University have a duty to be providing sex education to protect students and their welfare”.
“At the end of the day, the effects of casual sex can really affect student’s studies,” she continued, “so I don’t see why it isn’t more clearly advertised by the University. I’ve not been offered a free condom since I arrived, which is outrageous.”
“I wish the University held a sexual health week with events in the Forum so it was unavoidable and people could really get involved.”
Addressing the concerns raised by students, a University spokesperson said: “The safety and welfare of every student is our highest priority. No student should feel pressured in engaging in any activity.We would encourage any student who encounters incidents of this nature to report them immediately.
“The University has very clear and well-publicised systems for support and advice in place for students, including safety and welfare information within the community guide. The University’s monthly Alcohol Awareness workshops also covers aspects relating to sexual health issues, while the University and the Guild are also members of both the Best Bar None network and the Exeter Violence and Night Time Economy Forum (EVANTE), which promote a host of safety initiatives.”
Speaking about the survey results, Naomi Armstrong, VP Welfare & Diversity, said: “I would encourage every student to take care of their sexual health and guard against unwanted pregnancy. Condoms are available on campus for free from the Student Health centre. University is a liberating experience but it is concerning if a desire for casual encounters is compromising students’ wellbeing.”
Students seeking free and confidential sexual health advice are advised to call the NHS sexual health line on 0300 123 7123 or visit the Student Health Centre website.