Of the many anxieties incoming college students face, like heart attack-inducing syllabi or annoying roommates, one is particularly dreadful: hook-up culture.
The transition from high school to college is marked by increased independence and exposure to new people and experiences. So things get especially complicated when relationships and sex come into play. While that’s not to say that everyone attending college is interested or engaging in uncommitted sex, the amount of sex college students are having does create an environment where sexual education is not only advisable, but imperative.
From freshmen orientation onward, Syracuse University promotes conversations that extend beyond the cringe-inducing PowerPoints of middle school sex ed classes. With mandatory events like Speak About It, a monologue-based performance that highlights both the positives and negatives of sex, students are encouraged to take accountability for their sex lives without being condemned for it.
Michelle Goode, a health promotion specialist at the university’s Office of Health Promotion, said having positive conversations about sex makes students more likely to practice safely, protecting both themselves and their partners.
“Having more conversations about healthy sexuality and sharing accurate information and resources can be empowering, enhance intimate experiences and relationships, and help counter negative perceptions that perpetuate rape culture and gender-based oppression,” she said.
It’s especially important for women entering college to know their rights and find a sense of empowerment in their sex lives. In a male-dominated culture that simultaneously sexualizes women and condemns them for having sex, education is power. But it’s the university’s responsibility to provide the right tools for effective education.
Beyond university-run performances and events, SU Health Services is an essential tool for new students to utilize when it comes to sexual safety and prevention. Reproductive health counseling, STI screenings, birth control refills and condoms and emergency contraceptives are available for students on a regular basis.
“Programs and services that focus on sexual safety and education not only help students learn about the resources available, but also promote sex-positive messaging, which challenges the negative messaging students may encounter in the media and in pop culture,” Goode said.
But let’s face it — school-based sex education still has a bad rep. While SU provides basic resources and programs on sexual safety, clubs like SASSE take it to the next level.
SASSE, or Students Advocating Sexual Safety and Empowerment, promotes empowerment events, such as performances of “The Vagina Monologues” and condom giveaways, to help erase sexual taboos on campus. Taking advantage of these events can help students understand the reality of sexual empowerment in ways university offices simply can’t.
While college isn’t a constant cycle of frat parties and hook-up buddies, casual sex isn’t something to be afraid of or feel ashamed about. Sex is a natural thing to desire and engage in, and your body count is by no means reflective of your character or worth.
By having frank, open conversations about sexual safety, freshmen can breathe a sigh of relief. Know that while your 15-week class syllabi may be fear-inducing, sex should be anything but.
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