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The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

The Student News Site of Quinnipiac University

The Quinnipiac Chronicle

Dismantling the stigma: A plea for comprehensive sex education at Quinnipiac

Amanda Riha

I remember my first sex education class like it was yesterday. It was incredibly awkward. My teacher didn’t know what he was talking about, and I was lost too. Granted, I was 14 years old. We were all curious, struggling to find our identities and consuming media that confused the hell out of us.

As my first year of high school progressed, my classmates showed their more vulnerable sides: asking questions and showing up as if the content really interested them. I even found myself volunteering to put a condom on a wooden penis. Looking back, I realize it wasn’t the content that was making students uncomfortable, it was our general lack of preparedness.

So what’s so daunting about talking about sex? The strangeness, the graphic nature or the cruel sideline jokes? The truth is, sex brings about feelings of shame, guilt and inadequacy. Speaking up requires you to put yourself at risk, making you unguarded to judgment and rejection.

The problem is that there’s not a shared vocabulary about sex. You’re not alone if you feel strange saying sexual words and phrases out loud to voice consent or to express instances of sexual assault. Different experiences, cultural expectations and (lack of) prior education leave students aimless. Sexual knowledge doesn’t come naturally. We need to be taught about sex in non-judgemental spaces, learn how to communicate and lean into safe sex practices.

Herein lies another problem: where is the sex education at Quinnipiac? If everyone’s doing it, why isn’t anyone talking about it?

I’m a transfer student, and at my old school I served as the events chair for Sexual Assault Peer Advocates, an organization that is centered around supporting and advocating for survivors of sexual assault. We cultivated a community through education, prevention, resource connection and thoughtful amplification of voices. My favorite part was fearlessly speaking about masturbation in front of a crowd of 150 peers. It wasn’t easy, but the atmosphere was accepting and receptive.

When I arrived at Quinnipiac, I was glad to find that the university has the Survivor Advocacy Alliance. The group focuses on advocating for gender equality and voicing support for victims of sexual violence. The first meeting I attended was welcoming and I could easily find my place there.

There should be an important distinction made between advocating for survivors of sexual assault and sexual education. However, the two converge in considerable ways and you cannot discuss one without the other.

Students can choose to take classes in the Womens and Gender Studies Department at Quinnipiac that hold conversations regarding human sexuality, sexual violence and queer sexuality. However, what we’re missing is a continued, comprehensive course expanding and elevating what most of us learned in high school.

Young people today are less likely to receive instruction on key sex education topics than they were 25 years ago, per data from the Journal of Adolescent Health. As we grapple with the reversal of Roe v. Wade and the loss of abortion access across the U.S., quality sex education rises to one of the most important matters students are facing today. There are considerable differences between states on whether students receive thorough sex education, but even worse, there are significant racial disparities.

Young men of color are less likely than their white peers to receive instruction on topics like STIs, birth control and pregnancy before the first time they have sex, according to the National Survey of Family Growth.

It is also integral that the conversation includes LGBTQ+ voices, experiences and safe sex practices. High school sex education materials make the mistake of assuming students are heterosexual and cisgender. Curriculum doesn’t mention gender identity or sexual orientation, while some discuss it in a negative way. This results in a climate of exclusion in schools, while gatekeeping information and skills students need to stay healthy.

There is overwhelming research that supports the fact that sex education is effective at reducing high-risk sexual behaviors, promoting safe sex practices and preventing sexually transmitted diseases and pregnancy according to the Journal of Adolescent Health. In the same breath, no high school abstinence-only programs have been proven effective at mitigating the results of unsafe sex or delaying sexual activity.

Teaching sex education is seen as the job of middle and high schools, but college is where students tend to step out of their comfort zone and get intimate with others. We, as young adults, need to feel safe and prepared. Now is the time to act, to get involved and challenge ourselves to speak up.

While I think it could be helpful to have administrative support, I truly believe that it should be students leading the conversation. It’s much easier opening up to a student than opening up to an advisor, and it fosters a community of forward and vulnerable conversation with people who are facing the same challenges as you.

But first, we as students need to take action and make space for these conversations. It doesn’t have to be intense. Picture anatomy memory games, sexuality alphabet games, condom relays or even pictionary.

So Quinnipiac, let’s talk about sex.

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Amanda Riha
Amanda Riha, Design Editor

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    Ta’tayanna SandersNov 29, 2023 at 7:51 am

    Perfectly said!