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Contraception and Safe Sex at MIT! by Nisha D. '21

sexual!! health!! is!! important!!

November 2, 2018

**The idea for this post was originally Abby’s, but she is very hosed this week and she wanted it to be posted in honor of the November Rule expiring, so here I am.

Per my previous post: the November Rule is technically over. Also per my previous post, this doesn’t mean that it’s okay for frosh and upperclassmen to start hooking up left and right, but I wasn’t born yesterday and I know that it’ll probably happen to some capacity.

So before starting with that, you should read this post – honestly, anybody who is sexually active (and anybody who would like to come to MIT and would like to also be sexually active at MIT) should read this post.

tl;dr MIT has a surprising amount of options for taking care of your sexual health and contraception, most of which are free!

Sexual Health at MIT – by the students, for the students

MIT is a marvelously sex-positive place. But not only are we sex-positive – we also care very deeply about sexual health in a way that is honestly unheard of in a lot of places. We have two student organizations that focus specifically on educating people about sex and relationships and what’s okay and what’s not okay in both of those things.

  • [email protected] – Pleasure is “a student-led effort to promote healthy relationships and eliminate sexual violence at MIT,” and maybe this is biased, but there are very few organizations at other colleges that are similar to this one. PLEASURE stands for “Peers Leading Education About Sexuality and Speaking Up for Relationship Empowerment”, and their student liaisons — Pleasure Educators — have received a lot of training in a wide variety of sexual health topics, and hold frequent workshops/study breaks about sexual education, consent, and relationships.
  • Student Sex-Positive Club (SSC) – The SSC focuses on “creating a safe space to discuss sex and learning about ways to engage in enjoyable and consensual safe sex”. They have a lot of information about kinks and how to engage in safe sex, and even have a library of books that you can educate yourself with.

PLEASURE and SSC will give you a lot of information on why using contraceptives is important, but if you’re actually in the market for contraceptives, then oh boy do I have a rundown for you. The types of contraceptives that you can get depend on the type of student insurance you have, so let’s go over that first.

MIT Insurance Plan Types

Let’s start with the basics. All MIT students are on one of two insurance plans: the regular Student Medical Plan, and the Student Extended Insurance Plan. At the beginning of each year, we’re all automatically added to the Extended plan. The Extended plan is a full insurance plan in its own right, and “meets the minimum essential health coverage requirements in accordance with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act” according to MIT Medical. It does cost extra, though, and isn’t included in basic tuition (the basic Student Plan is). Since a lot of us are already on our family’s U.S. based insurance plans, it can be unnecessary to have to pay extra to be on a whole other insurance plan, so you have the option to waive the Extended plan and just be on the basic plan.

To reiterate, the basic plan is included in student tuition. This is something that I didn’t know coming in – I thought that because I waived the extended insurance, I just didn’t have MIT insurance. I also didn’t know that just on basic tuition, you can get a lot of services for free at Medical. You can find more information about the basic Student Plan here and more information about the Extended plan here.

Contraceptives and Other Services Offered By MIT Medical

Free and Readily Available to Everybody (walk-in, no appointment required!)

  • Free and confidential STI testing: MIT Medical offers free walk-in STI clinics in partnership with PLEASURE. Every two months, all MIT students get emails from PLEASURE and from their hall’s Pleasure Educators reminding them about this month’s STI clinic. If you are sexually active at all, then this is a great thing to go to! I went with a group of my friends and can confirm that it was very free, very easy, and very confidential. The walk-in clinic is always at the Student Center and tests for most STIs, but some STIs can only be detected through a blood test, so you have the (recommended) option to schedule a blood test at MIT Medical. I did this as well, and it was also free and easy. This isn’t to say that STIs are rampant at MIT (they’re not), but getting tested is part of having safe sex – and it’s better to be safe than sorry, honestly.
  • Free condoms at the Community Wellness Center at MIT Medical (3rd floor of building E23, from 8 am to 8 pm): Yes, that’s right, you don’t even have to buy condoms. Make sure you go when they’re actually open (I’ve made this mistake a couple of times), or get a friendly neighborhood Pleasure Educator to tap you in after-hours. In addition to a very wide variety of condoms (various sizes, flavors, glow in the dark), the Community Wellness Center also has female condoms, dental dams, and many types of lube. Your hall should have a communal box of condoms that is restocked semi-frequently by a hall Pleasure Educator, but you can also just go yourself or with a partner and grab the certain things that you like.

Free on the Basic Student Plan (aka Free to ALL MIT STUDENTS w/ appointment)

  • Intrauterine Devices, more commonly known as IUDs (appointment required, hormonal type lasts 3-6 years and copper type lasts up to 12 years, more than 99% effective!): A PSA to all MIT students with uteruses: YOU CAN GET AN IUD FOR FREE AT MIT MEDICAL. YES, YOU HEARD ME. YOUR PARENTS DON’T EVEN HAVE TO KNOW ABOUT IT IF YOU CARE ABOUT THAT. MEDICAL OFFERS BOTH THE MIRENA AND THE PARAGARD (the hormonal and copper IUDs, respectively). All you have to do is make an appointment with Medical’s OB/GYN and if that goes well, then boom! You can get an IUD! This is genuinely a really nice thing and if you’re considering getting an IUD, then you don’t have to go any farther than MIT Medical! Maybe this isn’t as revolutionary to some people as this is to me, but I honestly didn’t know that I could get an IUD for free on the basic plan – I thought I had to be on the extended plan.
  • Nexplanon implant (appointment required, lasts up to 4 years, more than 99% effective!) – If you’re squeamish about the intrauterine part of the IUD, then you might consider the Nexplanon implant, which is a tiny rod inserted into your upper arm that releases the appropriate hormones into your body. Getting a Nexplanon implant here requires a call to Women’s Health at Medical, but that’s it!

Free on the Extended Insurance Plan (aka Free to students who HAVE NOT waived their extended plan w/ appointment)

The additional forms of contraception that you can get on extended insurance are generally less effective, so I won’t say that much about them. Don’t worry, those of us on the basic plan aren’t missing out on that much!

  • Diaphragm (appointment with Primary Care or OG/GYN required, insert at will, 88% effective with proper use)
  • Oral contraceptives, aka “the pill” (appointment with Primary Care or OB/GYN required, ingest daily, 91% effective with proper use) – Generics are free on the extended insurance, but if you’re on the basic plan, you can get them prescribed at MIT Medical and get the actual medication ordered to a pharmacy outside of MIT. My pills are free on my non-MIT insurance and I just pick them up at the CVS in Central Square, 15 minutes away from campus.
  • Depo-Provera injection (appointment with Primary Care or OB/GYN required, receive every 3 months, 99% effective with proper use) The brand name Depo shot has a copay, but the generic shot doesn’t.
  • Contraceptive patch (appointment with Primary Care or OB/GYN required, replace every week, 91% effective with proper use)
  • NuvaRing (appointment with Primary Care or OB/GYN required, replace every month, 91% effective with proper use)
  • BONUS: Emergency contraception: Hopefully you won’t need this, but if you do, it costs $40 over the counter if you’re 17+ years old. If you’re under 17, then you need an appointment with OB/GYN.

A very nice table with all of this information is available on MIT Medical’s site. It’s also worth going through their Sexual Health page to see all the resources they provide!

That’s it from me – have fun and stay safe this November!