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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Going beyond abstinence on campus

    From Bristol Palin to Jamie Lynn Spears, the omnipresence of sex is undeniable in the United States, but it is still a taboo conversation piece. Among such political hot-button issues as abortion, sex education is one topic that tends to get opinionated Americans’ blood boiling. Here in the formerly abstinence-only education state of Arizona, one UA organization is trying to hold a conversation about sex and how to have it safely – partisan politics aside.

    The Associated Students of the University of Arizona Women’s Resource Center is offering medically comprehensive sex education classes with the goal of blowing away misconceptions and informing students about safe sex – especially students coming from in-state high schools. Although Gov. Janet Napolitano rejected federal funding for abstinence-only sex education programs in January, many students entering college are graduates of the abstinence-only curriculum.

    “”I remember puberty-ed,”” said Rachel Alter, a linguistics senior. “”I don’t remember a lot of sex ed other than really black-and-white ‘this is where babies come from.'””

    Despite her lack of exposure to comprehensive sex ed, the Phoenix native said she understands how important it is.

    “”I think that abstinence-only education does not eliminate the possibility of young people having sex,”” Alter said. “”I only think it lessens their knowledge of how to go about it safely and what the risks are.””

    Alter added that she remembers hearing debates when she was in high school about whether or not condoms should be available in high schools.

    “”I remember hearing people say, ‘Well, if condoms are available, then all students will start having sex,’ and I remember thinking that is ludicrous – that if condoms are available, then the students having sex will be more likely to use condoms, and the students who aren’t having sex might blow them up as balloons if anything at all.””

    Another Phoenix native, business senior Jon Levin, explained his experiences with Arizona sex ed.

    “”We had basic sex ed where we learned to wear deodorant, and they told us how our bodies were changing,”” Levin said. “”Later on in high school, in biology class, they split up the boys and the girls, and they preached abstinence as the only 100-percent way to not get pregnant or contract an STD.””

    Although Levin had sex ed before the abstinence-only policy was put in place in 2002, he found there was still a lack of proper sex education.

    “”They showed us outdated videos about the reproductive organs and what they do,”” Levin said. “”They basically taught us to stay away from sex because you’ll get the clap, or don’t do it because you’ll get gonorrhea. They couldn’t preach only abstinence, but they only gave us a little bit of information – they put us on the path to information, but they didn’t go full in-depth at all.””

    Alyssa Padilla, a marketing senior and sexual health intern at the Women’s Resource Center, is part of the sex ed program, which officially began in 2007.

    “”What we have is sex ed college-style in the Women’s Resource Center. What we offer is peer-to-peer sexual health education on the U of A campus,”” the Tucson native said, adding that college can be perilous when it comes to exploring sexuality for students who receive little information about sex in grade school.

    “”A lot of students come in with previous education, but when it comes down to really knowing birth control methods and touching and feeling a lot of the different items that are out on the market right now, that’s what were offering,”” Padilla said as she sat near a table covered with every type of condom, lube and birth control available and diagrams of male and female reproductive organs.

    The center’s sex-ed courses, which are the result of a collaboration with ASUA, Planned Parenthood and Campus Health, are offered by request and the students who teach the courses are trained to do so.

    “”When it comes down to the comprehensive sex education, we’re really trying to focus on everything that has to do with sexual health including the responsibility that comes with having sex, that abstinence is the only 100-percent way to not get pregnant and not get an STI, and you have to be responsible for your own body and there are ways out there to protect yourself,”” Padilla said.

    But not everyone on campus believes abstinence-only education is a bad idea.

    Alex Roberson, an astronomy freshman from the Phoenix area, said he doesn’t think comprehensive sex ed is necessary.

    “”I don’t think we should be teaching kids about sex,”” Roberson said. “”It’s not something I agree with. I’d prefer we teach abstinence-only because that’s the better option in my opinion. Parents should be responsible for that type of information.””

    Many students think the debate between abstinence-only education and comprehensive sex ed boils down to politics.

    “”I think partisan issues put a spin on sex in general, making it seem that Republicans believe in abstinence and Democrats believe in sex, which I don’t necessarily think is the case,”” Alter said. “”Republicans have sex, too.””

    Levin echoed Alter’s opinion and zeroed in on Republicans as the key force behind abstinence-only education.

    “”I think typically Republicans, or historically, have an approach towards abstinence by standing on a high moral platform or moral ground,”” Levin said. “”They seem to be more about Christian values … and lack of sex education at any age.””

    Nicole Hunt, a linguistics senior from Worcester, Mass., saw the debate as a purely American issue. Hunt recently learned about the health care system in France and noted how different their approach to sex education is from the overall American approach.

    “”They treat sex as a public health issue, not a moral one, and because of that there is a lot lower rate of abortion, teen pregnancies, all types of STDs – and it’s because it’s not treated as a moral issue,”” Hunt said. “”It’s a right. It’s a right for people to know, even abortion and things like that. It’s interesting.””

    Padilla said the issue boils down to more than politics or personal opinion.

    “”Sex is a human issue,”” she said. “”When it comes down to it, both sides need to work out some side of collaboration and figure out what’s best for students … When it comes down to political parties I feel like they need to realize this is a human issue. People have sex. Whether it’s at a very young age, an older age, if it’s consensual or it’s forced – people need to learn how to deal with it.””

    Padilla said the center has many events scheduled this semester to promote their mission, such as a talk by someone from Planned Parenthood and Sex Day.

    Regardless of the kind of sex ed offered, many UA students still believe abstinence won’t win out.

    “”Saying ‘don’t have sex’ is like saying ‘don’t go into the forbidden mystery closet,'”” Levin said. “”Kids are going to be curious and they are going to want to find out, and they are going to do it wrong or do it unprotected – and they will (have sex) at 14 or 15 and get pregnant and then what?””

    Levin added that if students made sure to know their partners, got tested for STDs and used protection, STDs and unwanted pregnancies could greatly be avoided.

    “”With things in the news like Jamie Lynn Spears getting pregnant, possibly twice, what does that show?”” Levin said. “”With your head in the sand you aren’t going to know anything. You will be ignorant and you will get pregnant. Ignorance is not bliss.””

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