Heather Corinna replies:
I'm a 17 yr old male and thinking hard about sex because I am going to college in the fall. My parents were not clear with me on sex so I am asking you: is sex fast like in pornography or nothing like that and slow and romantic? Also what are the chances you could get a STD or infection without using a condom?
You know, what "sex" even IS differs for everyone. There are a world of sexual activities out there -- oral sex, manual sex, intercourse, anal play, role play, frottage, the works -- and how each person does them isn't only different from person to person, but from partnership to partnership, and even just from day to day.
In other words, for any one given person, one day you may be in the mood for really hard-driven, fast intercourse, and on another, for something slower and more mellow. On top of that, what the person you're having the sex with wants is half the equation, so it's all about feeling out what you want at a given time, and then working out with both what your partner wants, and what the dynamic of your relationship and particular chemistry and joint mood is.
But whatever way any pair or group of sexual partners wants to have sex in, so long as everyone is on the same page -- and if that isn't clear by observing, all one has to do is ask verbally -- it's all good. But either way? Porn and the movies in general aren't very good places to get an idea about what's realistic when it comes to sex: they're not meant to be, after all. So, when it comes to your expectations, best to leave that question open-eneded: over time, you'll get an idea of what's realistic in your sex life all by yourself.
In terms of sexually transmitted infections, having unprotected sex, especially when you're younger, puts you and your partners at pretty big risks of contracting or transmitting an STI/STD. Right now, a minimum of one in every four people under the age of 25 are toting one around, so you can see how very big a risk that is. Condoms are so easy to get and so easy to use -- not to mention that when everyone involved feels safer, the sex is usually better -- that there's just no good reason not to start your sexual life with condom use as a must (and not just for intercourse either: for oral sex or any anal sex as well).
I've linked some articles here for you that I think may help you get started with these questions and more.
Enjoy your college life, and here's to starting your sexual life safely!