It's college time again, which means new classes, new roommates, new laptops and new experiences.
It also means "sexual debut," as the researchers call it, for more than a few freshmen.
About 40 percent of high school students are virgins when they graduate, says data from the latest Youth Risk Behavior Survey. But this minority of virginity drops to about 25 percent between the ages of 18 and 20.
Thus, it's no surprise that adults who care about young adults' sexual health have some guidance for them.
One prevention message is the sassy "Take Care Down There" Web site (www.takecaredownthere.org) from Planned Parenthood of Columbia-Willamette in Oregon.
The site features clips of college-age teens in pink or blue T-shirts asking questions about sex and sexually transmitted infections. An older, wiser teacher pops in to say things like "You're going to get a little testerooni" or "I want to be sure you know how to use a condom - a rubber, a raincoat, a boner bucket, party hat, squirt skirt, love sock."
One clip called "Horse Penis Virus" addresses teens' ignorance about human papillomavirus (HPV), which is the most common sexual infection and is linked to cervical and other cancers. The teacher urges young women to avoid getting HPV by getting the HPV vaccine.
Other clips deal with oral sex and masturbation.
The traditional values group Family Research Council has decried the Take Care Down There site as an "online playground for the prurient."
But others in the blogosphere who take the "sex is fine, just be safe" approach, praise the site as "honest," "fun," "creative" and "unique to the field."
A starkly different message for college students, especially women, comes from the Clare Boothe Luce Policy Institute in its new "Sense & Sexuality" booklet (www.cblpi.org/senseandsexuality).
Written by Dr. Miriam Grossman , who penned a book about the sexual travails she saw as a campus psychiatrist, "Sense and Sexuality" offers a roundup of her most urgent advice.
For instance, since "intimacy promotes attachment and trust," she writes, it's unwise for young women to get sexually involved with a young man who has no intention of bonding with her.
Other subjects address how "the rectum is an exit, not an entrance," "a hook-up usually leads to regret" and having a few alcoholic drinks "makes him hot ... when he's not."
"You've been told that exploring and experimenting - as long as you're 'protected' - can be safe, satisfying and beneficial. Don't fall for it," Dr. Grossman writes.
"It's easy to forget, but the characters on 'Grey's Anatomy' and 'Sex in the City' are not real. In real life, Meredith and Carrie would have warts or herpes. They'd likely be on Prozac or Zoloft. Today, a woman cannot have so many partners without paying a price. Listen to the lesson of hard science: it's wise to be very, very careful about who you allow to get close to you," she writes.
Two different approaches, two different messages. Both seek to prevent unhappy outcomes.
Please act wisely. Class dismissed.
Cheryl Wetzstein's On the Family column appears Tuesdays and Sundays. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.