Healthy Sex and Relationships

University can be full of new people, experiences and pressures. Sometimes, people have sex for the first time at university or engage in more regular/new kinds of sex than they have before. Sometimes, they’ll enter into new sexual relationships - be those casual or romantic ones.

There’s nothing wrong with not being in relationships or having sex whilst at university. Loads of students for various reasons, be they personal, religious or otherwise, choose not to have sex or enter into relationships. Whatever decisions you make about sex, they’re perfectly fine as long as all parties involved are consenting and safe. To help with that, we’ve produced this document with some crucial information about sexual health and healthy relationships specific to the Oxfordshire area. If you need any more information about anything below or would like more information, please contact Brookes Union at su@brookes.ac.uk or check out our website at https://www.brookesunion.org.uk

Healthy Sex

Sexually Transmitted Infections

An STI, also called a sexually transmitted disease (STD), is passed from one person to another during sex. Some diseases only affect the genitals and the parts of your body where urine passes through, while others (like HIV and Syphilis) can go on to damage other parts of the body and if untreated can make you very ill. When spread through oral sex, an STI can infect the mouth and throat.

STIs, including HIV, Gonorrhoea, Syphilis and Chlamydia, are on the rise in the UK, especially among young people. If you are over 16 and living/studying in Oxfordshire, you can get a free chlamydia test to use at home at https://www.sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk/chlamydia-screening/

Know the facts:

  • You don't have to have full sex to get an STI.
  • Many STIs show no symptoms at first.
  • The best way to find out if you have an STI is to be tested.
  • All STIs can be helped by medical treatment.

Any of the following symptoms need to be checked out by a doctor, even if you don't think you're at risk of an STI:

  • Unusual discharge from your penis or vagina
  • Stinging or burning when you pass water (urinate, wee)
  • Rash, sores or warts around your genitals
  • Bleeding between your periods, especially after sex

Contraception

Condoms are 98% effective when used correctly and can help protect you and your sexual partner(s) from Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) but it is important to know how to use them well. If you aren’t sure how to put a condom on, a doctor/nurse can advise or you can find tutorials on youtube. Whilst condoms help protect against pregnancy and STIs, they are not the most effective form of long-term contraception. Condoms are best used in conjunction with some other form of contraceptive. If you were afab (assigned female at birth), there are loads of forms of long-term contraception you may want to consider. There are around 15 different types of contraception you can choose from and all are free on the NHS. The best place to find out more about the options available and/or get contraception if you’re considering it is from one of the SHCs in the area (see Sexual Health Clinic List below). To get started and find out which type of contraception might be right for you, you can use this handy Contraception Tool on the Brook website https://www.brook.org.uk/our-services/category/my-contraception-tool

Sexual Health Clinic List

This is a short list of some of the nearby Sexual Health Clinics in the Oxfordshire Area. For regular/emergency contraception, free condoms, gonorrhea testing or chlamydia testing you can go to any clinic in the area. If you have other symptoms, need to be examined or suspect you may have something else, please be sure to go to the Oxford (Churchill) or Banbury clinics. Many clinics do regular walk ins and some allow you to make appointments, please call or visit the website to find out more. A longer, more detailed list of SHCs in Oxfordshire is available at https://www.sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk/visiting/opening-times-and-how-to-find-us/

Abingdon SHC Long Furlong Medical Centre, 45 Lloyd Close, Abingdon, OX14 1XR. Wed 3.30-5.30pm
Banbury SHC Orchard Health Centre, Cope Road, Banbury, OX16 2EZ. Mon and Wed 1pm-5.30pm,Fri 9.15am-12.15pm
Bicester SHC Victoria House Surgery, 119 Buckingham Road, Bicester, OX26 3EU. Tue 3pm-6pm
Didcot SHC Oak Tree Health Centre, Tyne Ave, Didcot, OX11 7GD. Tue 2.30-5.30pmThur 2.30-5.30pm
East Oxford SHC (close to Headington Campus) Rectory Centre, Rectory Road, Oxford, OX4 1BU. Mon, Tues and Thu 9.30am-6pmWed 1-6pm,Fri 9.30am-3pm
Oxford SHC (close to Headington Campus) Churchill Hospital, Old Road, Headington, Oxford OX3 7LE. Mon, Tue, Thu and Fri 9am-2.30pmWed 12.30- 2.30pmSat 9am-12pm

Free Condoms

If you’re under 25 and living or studying in Oxfordshire, you qualify for a c-card. Safety C-Card is a free, confidential scheme that allows you to pick up free condoms from various locations in Oxfordshire, as well as sexual health advice should you need it. To get a c-card, you’ll need to register online at https://www.oxfordshireccard.org.uk/free-condoms/ or visit a registration centre (such as the Churchill Hospital SHC or the Boots on Cornmarket Street in the city centre). Places you can collect free condoms include some pharmacies, sexual health clinics, some youth centres and more. For a list and map of the collection points nearest to you please visit https://www.sexualhealthoxfordshire.nhs.uk/condoms/safety-c-card-scheme/participating-centres/

Emergency Contraception

Whilst you should always try to use condoms and/or long-term contraception (see Contraception section above) when engaging in any sexual acts, we understand that it doesn’t always go to plan and sometimes people end up having unprotected sex. If you forget to use contraception, a condom splits or you are vomiting/have an upset stomach whilst taking the contraceptive pill - you aren’t protected against pregnancy. If this happens, you can take emergency hormonal contraception (EHC) also known as ‘the morning after pill’. The most common kind of emergency contraception must be taken within 72 hours of having sex. But there are other kinds of contraception you can take up to five days after having sex. If you take EHC you have a much lower chance of becoming pregnant.

Anyone can get EHC/the morning after pill for free from their GP or any SHC (see Sexual Health Clinic list above). If you’re over the age of 21, you can buy EHC from a pharmacy. If you’re a cis woman (or anyone with a uterus) aged 21 or under, you can also get it for free from a pharmacy. Several of the many pharmacies in the Oxfordshire area offering this service are listed below. For a more comprehensive and up to date list, please visit www.oxme.info/emergencycontraception

Cowley Pharmacy 258 Cowley Road, Oxford, Oxfordshire, Oxfordshire, OX4 1UH. 01865 251700
  • Monday 7am–9pm
  • Tuesday 7am–9pm
  • Wednesday 7am–9:30pm
  • Thursday 7am–9:30pm
  • Friday 7am–9:30pm
  • Saturday 7am–9:30pm
  • Sunday 7am–9pm
Ahmeys Late Night Pharmacy 150 Oxford Road, Cowley, Oxford OX4 2EA. 01865 770121
  • Monday 8am–9pm
  • Tuesday 8am–9pm
  • Wednesday 8am–9pm
  • Thursday 8am–9pm
  • Friday 8am–9pm
  • Saturday 9am–9pm
  • Sunday 11am–5pm
Barton Pharmacy 6 Underhill Circus, Barton, Oxon OX3 9LU. 01865 763106
  • Monday 9am–5pm
  • Tuesday 9am–5pm
  • Wednesday 9am–5pm
  • Thursday 9am–5pm
  • Friday 9am–5pm
  • Saturday CLOSED
  • Sunday CLOSED
Roundway Pharmacy 3 The Roundway, Green Road, Headington, Oxon OX3 8DH 01865 766994
  • Monday 8:30am–6pm
  • Tuesday 8:30am–6pm
  • Wednesday 8:30am–6pm
  • Thursday 8:30am–6pm
  • Friday 8:30am–6pm
  • Saturday 9am–1pm
  • Sunday CLOSED

EHC is sometimes called the ‘morning after pill’. It does not have to be taken the morning after, but it will work better if you take it as soon as possible after having sex:

  • In the first 24 hours after unprotected sex it is 95% effective.
  • In the first 48 hours it is 85% effective.
  • In the first 72 hours it is 58% effective.

If you think you may need to take EHC, but it is more than 72 hours since you have had sex, you can still take one of two other kinds of emergency contraception. But for these you will need to go to your Doctor or a SHC (see Sexual Health Clinic list above).

Healthy Relationships

Domestic Abuse

All relationships are different. There isn’t such a thing as a ‘normal’ relationship, but there are healthy relationships and unhealthy relationships. If you feel unsafe or recognise any of the negative signs below, take action.

  • They make threats and do things just to scare me.
  • They put me down just to make me feel bad when we’re alone or around friends.
  • They make me do things that I don’t want to do without listening to me.
  • They make me feel guilty if I don’t spend time with them.
  • They don’t try to get on with my friends or family.
  • They hit, slap or push me.
  • They look through my phone, social media or web history.
  • They want to know where I am all the time.
  • They cheat on me or accuse me of cheating on them.
  • They steal from me or make me buy them things.
  • They make me have sex when I don’t want to.

If you’re experiencing any of these things, you should contact the confidential university wellbeing service as soon as possible - they’ll be able to advise. In Oxford, there’s a charity called Reducing the Risk who have helplines and a website with advice for anyone potentially experiencing domestic abuse. REFUGE is another charitable organization providing a range of services for abused women and children. They provide safe houses for women and children escaping domestic violence. If you or a dependent are experiencing, or are at risk of experiencing, domestic violence, you can contact the 24 hour national domestic violence helpline on 0808 2000 247. The helpline is run in partnership between Refuge and Women’s Aid. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for women experiencing domestic violence. All calls are confidential.

LGBTQ+ Support

If you are LGBTQ+ or questioning your sexuality and/or gender, there are places on campus and in the surrounding area you can go. On campus, you can contact the Brookes LGBTQ+ Society to find students with similar identities to you and/or can find support from the Equality and Diversity section of the Wellbeing service if there’s anything you’re struggling with. There are also specific resources available for LGBTQ+ people who are victims of domestic abuse, sexual violence or going through a difficult period. In Oxford, the Oxford Friend helpline is available specifically for the LGBTQ+ community. There’s also an area-specific community called LGBT+ Oxfordshire with links to resources and contact information for advice.

Sexual Violence and Abuse

If you suspect you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual violence, there are several resources available to you at the university and in the Oxfordshire area. You can find the Brookes Union’s information page on consent here and our list of resources for sexual violence here. If you want to seek support through the university and/or open a misconduct case against another student you can do so here. Refuge run an Independent Sexual Violence Advisory (ISVA) service in Oxfordshire for all victims over the age of 18, regardless of gender, sexuality or length of time since the abuse. We’d also recommend the Oxfordshire Sexual Abuse and Rape Crisis Centre (OSARCC) for victims who self-identify as women. If you identify as a man and have been a victim of sexual violence, please contact the university and/or the Refuge ISVA service. There is also a national charity called Survivors UK who specialise in supporting male victims.