The importance of sexual education in college

By Jamilah Lewis, Staff Reporter

From The Daily Egyptian’s “How Sexy is SIU?” survey published in February, it’s clear that even during the pandemic, students are having fun — but not in the safest ways.

According to the results, only 38.8% of students surveyed use protection during sex.

Only 38 states require a sexual education course with the other states making it optional, so the level of education students have on sexual health varies from person to person.

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According to a Planned Parenthood article, “ Currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education and 34 states mandate HIV education.”

Depending on if it’s an entire course or a unit in one’s health class, many college students might not be as fully educated depending on the state they come from.

Rebecca Gonnering, a confidential advisor victims advocacy specialist at SIU, said it is important for incoming students to have a basic understanding of sexual health so they can properly protect themselves.

“We also know that college students generally between the ages of 18 and 24 are at increased risk for a lot of those things [STIs],” Gonnering said. “Quality sexual health education is really needed to help students have the knowledge and skill that they need to make really important health decisions.”

Gonnering said Wellness and Health Promotion Services distributes a survey every two years to find out a variety of health behavior in students, one of them being their sexual health.

From the survey they distributed in fall 2019, Gonnering said 90% of survey respondents said they never used a barrier method during oral sex, 42% said they never or rarely use a barrier method when engaging in vaginal sex and 50%of survey respondents said they never use a barrier method during anal sex in the past 30 days.

“A lot of that just comes back to basics,” Gonnering said. “ Using barrier methods to prevent sexually transmitted infections, using contraceptives to prevent unintended pregnancy, knowing what your partner’s risk is for COVID-19, and if you don’t know your partner’s risk for COVID-19 or how much they’ve been socially isolating or social distancing, we may consider that selective kissing or not kissing altogether.” 

When meeting up during the pandemic, people have to consider their risk and their partner’s risk for COVID-19 and sexually transmitted infections, Gonnering said. 

According to a Chicago Tribune article published last month about the fight for sex ed in Illinois, Illinois is one of the states that does not have mandates in place for sexual education in public schools.

The Tribune article also states with the importance this generation has put on sexuality and pronouns, students might want to know how they plan to employ that in the classroom and change the conservative ways of learning about sexual health in the classroom.

Dr. Stacey Thompson, a child development specialist at SIU, said there are still people in their 20s who don’t know their bodies or what to expect sexually in their relationships.

“It’s about teaching people about what is sex and what does it mean,” Thompson said. “In the context of a relationship or what it means to them and what they feel with and one of the big things is boundaries.”

The society we live in is conservative but nevertheless finds a way to make a profit from sex in the entertainment industry, Thompson said.

“Pornography displays things in a very different way, and sometimes that’s what people seek out to see what is sex,” Thompson said. “Sometimes just finding a book that talks about it in a healthy way is good. Those resources are out there.”

Thompson said she took a human sexuality class in college and taking classes like that can show how little a person knows about sexual health.

“You think you kind of know a lot about it and then you go ‘oh wow! There’s a lot of things I didn’t know,’” Thompson said. “The more that we teach the context around sex, not just sex but birth control, health realtionship, all of those things.”

Staff reporter Jamilah Lewis can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @jamilahlewis

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