Hot Lipps: Zach talks sex

The purpose of this column has been to question the role of Concordia – and higher education more broadly – in the 21st Century. I’ve raised questions regarding Concordia’s place in the community, the discrepancies between majors, and financial aid. This week, we will extend the last theme to a topic all college students are interested in: sex. My essential question is this: given that contemporary students know all of nothing about sex, what’s a college’s role in sex education?

It’s widely known that American sex education is a joke. With no thanks to years of ‘abstinence only’ education, our country is host to a fragmented and ineffective system of sex education – indeed, less than half of our states even require sex education in school.  This has clear effects on our youth. Among young women (15-17) who have had sex, for example, more than 80 percent had no formal sex education of any kind: including conversations about how to say no to sex.  While ‘abstinence only’ proponents claim that talking about sex too soon could encourage sex in younger students, research demonstrates comprehensive sex education encourages students to delay having sex. Even if students receive sex education, there’s very little quality control.

I’ll offer my own experience as an example (Mom and professors that know me, feel free to skip to the bullet points).  I’ll never forget the day of middle school my classmates and I walked into health class and grabbed our copy of the hilariously named The Navigator. For the next several weeks, I persevered through Bush-era sex education. For a pamphlet titled The Navigator, the writers’ only interest seemed to be keeping ships in port. I remember horrifying (and incorrect) statistics about STDs and overzealous warnings about the consequences of internet pornography addiction, but I wanted to remember more about The Navigator. After some research, I learned The Navigator was not specially designed for Catholic school systems: it was a publically funded program also provided in public school systems.

The content of these and other sex education programs were so bad that – when forming a report to address their shortcomings – Congress criticized them just by pulling ridiculous quotes from them.  They found two-thirds – including The Navigator – contained scientific inaccuracies or other fabrications – all well before young Zach received his own copy of The Navigator.  To this day, it should come as no surprise that most of my sex education comes from furtive internet searches, the diagrams on condom boxes, and what we call in mathematics “guess and check.”

Through no fault of our own, contemporary college students are largely misinformed about sex. What can colleges like Concordia do about it? I have some suggestions.

Overall, I think sex should be a less taboo topic – especially in college. Hopefully a mildly embarrassing column can open up some meaningful conversations.

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