Categorized | Editorial, featured, Opinion

Comprehensive sex education should not be taboo

If you read this paper on a regular basis, you must understand by now that I have been a student at the University of West Florida for a fairly long time: seven years, to be exact.

In these seven years, I have pretty much witnessed every nook and cranny this campus has to offer.  I’ve experienced this campus as an undergraduate student, a graduate student, a resident, a commuter and an alumnus of UWF.

I’ve met a lot of different people from a lot of different places here.  I’ve eaten lunch with a soccer player from Trinidad, played ping-pong with a student from Brazil and listened to boisterous vitriol from street corner preachers at the “Free Speech Zone” on campus.

Have I had a few beers with my intellectual colleagues on this particular campus?  Absolutely.

However, one of the great things about this campus, and other public institutions of higher education, is its willingness to provide me and my colleagues with the awareness and information necessary to keep us cognizant of the risks associated with excessive drinking.

Have I kissed a few pleasantly attractive women on this campus?  You bet your sweet tookus, I have.

However, before I engaged in any of these activities, I knew what I needed to know to keep my partner and me safe. My university provided me and many other students like me with the resources and education to help us ensure our personal safety, comfort and well-being are always at the forefront of our decision-making processes pertaining to both sexual activity and alcohol consumption.

At UWF, sex is a subject with educational purpose. Students at UWF have the opportunity to learn about sex with the intentions of becoming smarter, safer and more responsible.

However, there are institutions of higher education in our country that see sex as a subject of taboo.  Because of various social and religious reasons, these institutions will not educate students on the risks associated with unprotected sex, a decision that, unsurprisingly enough, potentially exposes students to the risks associated with unprotected sex.

This past weekend, I attended a conference at Union University in Jackson, Tennessee.  Union markets itself as excellence-driven, Christ-centered, people-focused, and future-directed.  However, when it comes to subjects such as sex and alcohol, Union focuses on warning students of institutional reprimands and consequences as a result of engaging in these activities.

Specifically, Union University possesses a policy relating specifically to unexpected pregnancies.  In this policy, Union affirms its belief that God “designed sexual activity to occur within the context of marriage.”  If a pregnancy occurs outside of marriage, the mother must resign from all leadership positions on campus and will not be allowed to live on campus after the end of first trimester.

While the pregnancy policy includes commendable accommodations such as off-campus housing, it doesn’t change the fact that there are extremely dire circumstances applied specifically to the mother in this instance.

By kicking the pregnant ladies off campus, Union University basically takes a big, black Sharpie and redacts the issue from the campus, minimizing its exposure to the campus population.

I understand the needs of religiously focused institutions of higher education to adhere to values inherent within their faith.  However, I do not understand the inherent need for Union to incessantly focus on the reprimands and consequences relating to “sexual impropriety.”

Researchers from the University of Washington surveyed teens ages 15 to 19 in the United States and found those who received comprehensive sex education are 60 percent less likely to get pregnant or get someone pregnant than those who received no sex education. More importantly, researchers indicated that there was no evidence to suggest that abstinence-only education decreased the likelihood of someone ever having sex or getting pregnant.

Any educational institution that fails to provide comprehensive sex education fails to fully educate its student population.  Sexual health education should not be exclusive to sexually active people.  Instead, sexual health education should be inclusive of those who choose to be abstinent.

As indicated earlier, the student handbook at Union states that God “designed sexual activity to occur within the context of marriage.”  The most important thing to realize is people do not have to have sex to learn about sex.

If we talked about sex in an open, honest and respectful manner, all parties will be better informed, and in turn, better prepared.

John Strickland
Opinions Editor

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