SHAG Week: A Students’ Union View

Written By Kelly Coyle, UCC SU Deputy President & Campaigns Officer.

‘Let’s talk about sex baby’, a common phrase used during Sexual Health Awareness and Guidance Week and with any introduction to pretty much anything to do with sex, it also just so happens to be the lyrics to a pretty great song. On a serious note though, talking about sex is one of the most important parts of your sexual health. Sexual health, much like physical health and mental health, is present in absolutely everyone, whether you’re sexually active or not, you should still be thinking and talking about your sexual health in a positive way.

When we talk about sexual health we tend to talk about it in a negative way by discussing Sexually Transmitted Infections. Don’t get me wrong, STI’s are a massive part of your sexual health, and with 1 in 6 students in UCC carrying one, it is incredibly important to use protection and be careful when having sex so you avoid catching an STI. Some ways you can do this is by getting tested regularly and talking about STIs with your sexual partner(s) and you should always carry a condom or a dental dam with you so you are always prepared. Ideally you should make sure that any new sexual partner you get with has been tested but where this isn’t possible you should get tested 2 weeks afterwards to make sure you don’t have an STI.

Finally, you can’t talk about sex without talking about consent. Sex with consent is great, but sex without consent is rape, and it’s incredibly important that everyone understands that and understands boundaries.  A simple ‘is this okay?’ Or ‘are you okay with this?’ can make all the difference.

Luckily in Cork, there are quite a number of sexual health services within the vicinity of UCC. The sexual health centre is just down the road and provides a number of fantastic services from 3-option pregnancy counselling to rapid HIV testing. You can visit their website at sexualhealthcentre.com or call into them on Peters Street to find out more on what they can do for you. Our very own student health centre is leading the way in sexual health services with completely free STI testing for students. Whether you just want the quick test, where you pee in a cup or take a swab, or if you want a full comprehensive screening, you can get it for free in the UCC Student Health Centre, just give them a call on 021 490 2311. We then of course have Niamh, the Welfare Officer in the Students’ Union who provides free condoms and dental dams to students along with sexual health advice. You can contact Niamh at welfare@uccsu.ie.

Our SHAG week has now been and gone but I couldn’t write an article about sexual health and it’s importance without talking about what we learned ourselves from SHAG week this year. This year, we decided to change the dates of the week on the advice of the student health centre, STI’s are more likely to show up in a screening 2 weeks after you get them, so SHAG was moved to make sure everyone got tested 2 weeks after Freshers’ Week. We tried to organise as broad a range of events as possible to cover all the bases, we had everything from Consent Workshops to Sex Toy Bingo.

What is Sex Toy Bingo you ask? It’s essentially a game of bingo with sex toys as prizes but really it’s so much more. What better way to get people openly talking about sex than to have competitions of who can put the condom on the banana the fastest, or who has the best sex secret, all for the glorious prizes of dildos and butt plugs. If anyone was so unfortunate as to miss out on sex toy bingo we will be running another on in Semester 2 so make sure to keep an eye out.

So to sum it all up, talk about sex and your sexual health, use protection, get tested and most importantly make sure that you’re thinking and talking about your sexual health in a positive way.