Expanding university sex education would fill in gaps, help students

Julia Zaksek

You have an embarrassing question. A question about sex. You can’t ask anyone so, cringing, you type it into your web browser. Some magazine articles pop up — bright pages with breezy advice but no answer to your question. You try a more practical approach. You know UT has information about sexual health online. You modify your search and scroll through the healthy sexuality page to find out more about STDs, contraception, relationship advice. No answer.

Students are coming to UT with unanswered questions and misconceptions about sex — something college students are expected to already know quite a bit about.

 If UT’s sexual health program is expanded to include practical information about sexual anatomy and address frequently asked questions about sex, UT students will have a reliable source when they have difficult questions.

UT offers great information about STD prevention and sexual safety, but students need online resources that candidly address common misconceptions about sex and discuss sexual anatomy — how sex works, how it doesn’t and how it can be enjoyable. 

Health promotion coordinator for UT’s Healthy Sexuality program Katherine Protil said UT’s sex education services are predominantly prevention based. 

“We have information on everything from STDs to information about contraception,” Protil said.

 But students aren’t expected to just know about birth control and STDs when they arrive on campus.  

“When you get to college, you’re expected to know how sex works and be good at sex, and if you don’t know anything about it, it can be very isolating,” said Kendall Dunn, a Plan II and biology freshman.

 Almost 90 percent of UT students are Texas residents, and Texas has one of the worst sex education programs in the country. Sixty percent of Texas public school districts teach abstinence only sex education and 25 percent have no sex education programs at all, according to a study from the Texas Freedom Network. This means a lot of UT students enter college without formal sex education.

“We had someone come talk to us in middle school about STDs and abstinence,” Dunn said. “The gist was that, if you have sex, you will get cervical cancer, you will get pregnant and then you will die.”

A lack of intensive and realistic sex education in middle and high school leaves college students with questions a simple Google search can’t remedy. The glamorized, unrealistic articles available online only further embarrass and alienate students.

“A lot of online sources are written by professional, confident people who have a lot of knowledge about sex, and it’s not written in an educational way,” Dunn said. 

Several universities have extensive sex education programs — even in Texas. Trinity University has an online sex education guide that includes Q&As with local sex specialists and provides direction to other reliable resources. Stephen F. Austin State University has a self-help page with links to information about sexuality and “Ask the Sexperts,” a website where anyone can submit questions to sex specialists. 

Other universities in Texas provide students with information about sexual health beyond prevention. University Health Services must expand their online resources to incorporate information about sexual anatomy and allow students to ask difficult questions. Their link to this information isn’t currently working.

UT can improve its sex education in a variety of ways. The University can expand its sexual health index to incorporate sexual anatomy information, include a forum for asking sex questions like Stephen F. Austin or create a video series about sex ed topics — UHS already has one about contraception. Enhancing the Healthy Sexuality program at UT can make students feel informed, confident and less alone. 

Zaksek is a Plan II and women and gender studies freshman from Allen.