Pure lives, pure ignorance: students seek health education

Every parent dreads talking about sex with their kids for the first time, but how many actually do it?

According to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, comprehensive sex education “includes age-appropriate, medically accurate information on a broad set of topics related to sexuality including human development, relationships, decision-making, abstinence, contraception, and disease prevention.”

Andre Broquard, Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life, said he sees this relational stagnancy among JBU students.“It would be a shame for someone to graduate from JBU and not have had the opportunity to know how to interact with the opposite sex in a healthy way,” Broquard said.

The uncomfortable nature of the topic can arguably be attributed to the attitude of the Christian church based on the biblical interpretation of the topic of sexuality. The Bible is filled with warnings against sexual immorality scattered in both the New Testament and the Old Testament.

However, today Christians may find themselves stuck in a culture of purity to the point of ignorance. Christianity Today writer Liuan Huska wonders “if our focus on avoiding intercourse is too narrow—especially as today’s youth face a barrage of messaging related to their bodies, appearance, and sexuality.”

“Young people stumble into sex-conscious adolescence seemingly earlier than ever, thanks to a lucrative media industry bent on marketing sexiness to teens, tweens, and even children,” Huska says.

Allie Welsh is a senior Business and Graphic Design major who has spent a good portion of her time at JBU working as a Resident Assistant in the dorms. She says that not talking about sex actually does more harm than good.

“It inhibits and changes the way we interact with our sexual nature,” Welsh said. “Sex was designed to be very natural.” Welsh said that there is a harmful mentality in Christian circles that if you talk about sex, you end up having sex.

Welsh described instances of talking to her residents less about the anatomy of a sexual encounter, but more about the lack of forethought dedicated to it (going to a gynecologist, dealing with a potential pregnancy or STI).

Milly Rogers Thornton is a senior Marketing major, and she spent her first couple of years at JBU surrounded by self-described “anti-purity culture” friends. Essentially, friends who want to take a different approach when talking about sex and how God made us as sexual beings in a healthy way.

Thornton has experienced what it is like to be dating, engaged and now married all while attending JBU. “Just like any subject we could talk about on this campus, it could be taken to an inappropriate level or taken out of proportion, or can lead to sin or temptation,” Thornton said. “But it’s not just sex and sexuality.”

So, where do you go when you can’t ask your parents? 

“You can’t go to your friends because often times they are in the same boat you are and they have no idea,” Thornton said. “There are things that you don’t know how to ask or bring up because we’ve talked about them in such a shameful way that we feel bad to ask: ‘what is this part of my body and why do I feel like this?’”

Thornton said that often times, she resorted to Googling questions about sex because it was discrete and easily accessible.

“It becomes very sexy because we don’t talk about it.” Thornton said. “If we just addressed it, having that conversation very plainly, I think it would help the issues that we have with pornography and lust which are also … prominent on this campus.”

On a campus crawling with young adults who fit this criterion, how does this knowledge or ignorance of sex affect students?

According to the 2017 Student Relationships Assessment (SRA) that surveys incoming and current JBU students every year, only 28.1% of students said they “strongly agreed” to knowing where to “draw the line” sexually in a dating relationship.

Along with going to class, writing papers, and cramming for tests, 31% of students also though it was “fairly important or extremely important” to find a spouse while attending college. Whether from parents or from friends, 51% of students shared that they felt pressure to conform to “ring by spring” and find a partner before graduating. 

In addition to this, when asked “how far is too far” when it comes to physical expressions of love outside marriage, 70% of students think they should stop at kissing, however, only 28% said they actually do.

There is a fundamental desire to understand everything your body is experiencing when it comes to our human sexual nature, and while many have been kept in the dark, there are outlets even at JBU to help with this kind of learning.

Geoff Reddick is an Assistant Professor in the Family and Human Services department. He is currently teaching a course called Human Sexuality. Reddick says the class is a requirement for Family and Human Services majors, however they only make up half of the class this semester. 

Human Sexuality as a course, in a nutshell, is designed to discuss the basics of sex and the complexities of sexual identity. It caters to students with a variety of experiences with the topic, including students who are married, engaged, single, sexually active and sexually abstaining. It is offered every semester due to the high demand from JBU students.

Reddick said that with regard to ignorance on sexual subject matter, he likes to assure students that “its not [their] fault, and that’s why we are talking about it now.” 

He explained that students often come in with a lot of anxiety and nervousness when it comes to discussion. “Just because something is uncomfortable doesn’t mean we don’t talk about it,” Reddick said.

“I think a lot of people on this campus would benefit from a legitimate sex ed class,” Thornton said. “We need that. Someone that talks about it very plainly in a way that’s not shameful but in a way that says, ‘how cool that God created all of these things and that it works like it does?’” 

JBU is already a place of learning where students are encouraged to dig into the questions that are raised while they are enagage in undergraduate studies. Faculty, staff and Residence Life are set up to be resources for student’s questions, and the topic of sex and sexuality is treated no differently.

Broquard encourages students in their questioning. “JBU is a place where that can be done well,” he said.