“Don’t have sex because you will get pregnant and die!”
When thinking about sexual education, the quote from the 2004 teen classic “Mean Girls” is often the first thing that comes to mind.
The famous joke has basis in reality. Many students all around Texas received either an abstinence-focused sexual education or no sex ed at all, despite many students engaging in sexual activity. In fact, sexual education is not even mandated in Texas.
The University should consider implementing a sexual education requirement for incoming students at orientation or through their First-Year Interest Groups (FIG). Freshmen need these resources to help navigate college and engage in responsible decisions.
My high school did not provide comprehensive sex ed, and methods of contraception and sex horror stories were shared with me through word of mouth. More than 80% of school districts in Texas teach either abstinence-only or nothing at all when it comes to sex ed.
However, research shows that abstinence-only sexual education is ineffective in preventing students from having sex. Abstinence-only programs, which the state requires, promotes false assumptions, such as the ineffectiveness of condoms, and can perpetuate gender stereotypes.
Fewer Texas high school students are receiving health education because it’s no longer required for graduation. Considering almost 90% of UT students come from Texas schools, the lack of an informative, research based sex ed curriculum is alarming. A 2017 survey on wellness and health reported less than 50% of sexually active students at UT used a method of contraception. There is a clear lack of formalized sexual health awareness among students — an awareness UT can provide.
UT does require Sexual Assault Prevention for Undergraduates (SAPU), but this program focuses on sexual violence, which only covers one aspect of sexual awareness. Freshmen should also be introduced to contraception and the dialogue of sex and gender identity.
A recent article on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report describes an increase of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia cases in the last five years, with half of STD
cases occurring in individuals ages 15 to 24.
Having a sexual education requirement for incoming freshmen as they first enter school could reduce the stigma surrounding sexually transmitted diseases and prevent sexual disease from spreading. Further, it would give first year students the agency to make responsible, informed decisions about their health.
Currently, University Health Services offers resources and information on healthy sexuality on their webpage as well as two free, interactive workshops available upon request. The Sex Talk: Anatomy and Contraception workshop is a 50-minute session covering reproductive anatomy and an overview of different methods of contraception and how they work.
“Our goal with this workshop was to hit a bunch of different areas about safer sex and to provide a fun, interactive, educational workshop for students,” said Katherine Protil, health promotion coordinator at University Health Services. According to Protil, there have been some requests for the workshop from FIGs this semester.
The University should make it a priority for first-year students to have comprehensive and up-to-date sex education. One way students could be exposed to healthy sex education early in their college experience is through the implementation of the already available Sex Talk workshops as part of the requirement during orientation or a mandatory portion of FIGs.
According to Melissa Porch, the manager of communications at New Student Services, programming space for orientation is competitive, but it is constantly being evaluated to meet demand.
“New Student Services continually evaluates its student orientation programming to ensure it’s meeting the needs of new students,” Porch said.
In planning orientation, Porch said they collect feedback from students and orientation advisors and collaborate with campus partners such as University Health Services, the Counseling and Mental Health Center, UTPD and the Sanger Learning Center to create a well-rounded and comprehensive experience.
Many freshmen all around Texas are coming to UT misinformed about sex and sex education, which is an integral part of growing up. Sex happens regardless of how informed students are about the subject. In a new academic environment, students will have to face decisions concerning sexuality, relationships and sexual activity that impact their health and well-being. Providing first-year college students with increased resources would address the ineffectiveness of high school sex education prevalent in Texas.
Dang is a sustainability studies and business honors freshman from Kerrville, Texas.