Let’s talk about sex and better our Trojan grade
Published: Saturday, November 12, 2011
Updated: Monday, November 14, 2011 11:11
We are a university with more than 56,000 students spread online and across 10 regional campuses. We are the largest university in the state and one of the most dynamic in the country. Despite all of this diversity, there is something that all students at UCF have in common — sex. Whether you are having sex or going to have sex, sex is an important part of life, and according to Trojan Condoms' sexual health report, we're failing miserably at it.
If you read the Central Florida Future last week, then you already have a pretty good idea of what I'm talking about. For those who missed it, here is a quick update: Every year, Trojan Condoms conducts an annual ranking of sexual health resources at American colleges and universities. Last year, UCF ranked at 94 out of 141 colleges. This year, we made meager strides and now sit at No. 91.
Trojan Condoms determines these rankings by analyzing 13 separate health categories including access to anonymous advice, contraceptives and sexual awareness programs. Though UCF did receive 10 out of 10 in the "access to condoms" category, we were given a weak four out of 10 in the "anonymous advice" category and a slightly better six in the area of "walk-in appointments" for our health center.
Flunking Trojan's sexual health report card is definitely not impressive, but this is an issue that goes beyond the UCF community. Instead of blaming UCF Health Services and the like, I would argue that the issue of sexual health awareness is rather one where the American culture is at fault. Despite the sexual nature of our culture's media outlets, sex is a topic of embarrassment for most Americans, and it's that level of sexual shame that is hurting our sexual health.
To illustrate, take into consideration the way other cultures talk, in public and in private, about sex. Dr. Amy Schalet, a Dutch-American sociologist, said that teen sexuality in America is often dramatized as an "overpowering force." Parents commonly refer to their children's hormones as being "out of control" and feel forced to find ways to control it. This fear of youth having sex contributes to the shame about having sex, which is one reason why most children keep having sex a secret from their parents.
This lack of communication that revolves around sex in America is nonexistent in the Netherlands. Here, the Dutch view teen sexuality as being "right" and use the phrase "being ready" when talking about preparing their kids for sex. Less effort is spent on preventing young people from becoming sexually active and more time is being spent on preparing them for when they do. Media ads in Europe reflect this same message, as seen in Germany's "give the gift of love" condom commercial.
Talking about sex at UCF is no less taboo then talking about sex with your parents. As someone who frequently passes out free condoms to students, I am often disappointed by the number of them who sheepishly run past me in an effort to avoid any condom contact. But this sex shame is not stopping students groups from trying to start a dialogue about sexual health.
Just last month, several student organizations including National Organization for Women, Voices for Planned Planned Parenthood and the College Democrats at UCF came together to host a day of action in front of the Student Union for Get Yourself Tested. For a generation accustomed to communicating in shorthand, GYT works to put STD testing in a context that is familiar and relatable to a young people.
Many of us worked hard to bring the message of GYT to campus, but we cannot do it alone. This campus may be failing in its availability of sexual health resources, but it is we who are failing each other. We need to be more open about sex and communicate with our parents, friends and lovers about what it means to be sexually healthy. It's not just about free condoms or STD checks; it's about starting a dialogue that the rest of the world is already having.
Be that first person to start the conversation — you'll be surprised to see how many will join you.