Critical dialogues and discussions amongst our student body have showcased an astounding lack of knowledge regarding sexual health among college students. We believe the cause of this discrepancy can be attributed to different state and local curriculum mandates, as well as our society’s desire to refrain from these conversations at home and in the community. The varying levels of knowledge and experience from student to student can often cause apprehension around communicating sexual preferences, needs, and levels of comfort.
The inconsistency in sexual education manifests in a variety of harmful ways. Firstly, stereotypes are perpetuated by misinformation and a lack of inclusivity; most primary and secondary school sexual health classes are heteronormative and have a limited scope. Secondly, students lacking awareness about bodily autonomy struggle to give and receive consent, likely contributing to an increase in sexual assault. Thirdly, this inconsistency manifests in the pleasure gap between men and women, further perpetuating our society’s patriarchal viewpoint. The US’s lack of emphasis on sex ed not only has an effect on us physically, but can have an impact on our mental health, especially with the prevalence of scare tactics used to limit conversations about sex.
To decide how this problem may be ameliorated here at Union, we investigated national and state sexual education mandates and curriculums to understand their content and how they differ, as well as the history of sexual education in the United States. Additionally, through a survey of over 100 Union Students, we collected information on current students’ sex ed experiences prior to starting college.
Our solution became a 10 week course for first year students, designated SEX-101-01: U & ME, Understanding Our Bodies, based on the fundamentals of sex and sexuality. The material, which covers anatomy, gender, sexuality, pleasure, consent, sex positivity and more, will go beyond the walls of general sex education, and the curriculum will examine these topics with the goal of normalizing sex and exploration. The more we talk and teach about sex, we will do away with old stereotypes and misinformations, and hopefully even work to reduce the levels of sexual assault on campus. We hope our course will bring all Union College students to the same level of sexual knowledge and open the door to more healthy conversations