ANNE STONECIPHER FOR THE HOYA

Every Hoya has had a different experience with sex education in high school.

Ranging from comprehensive high school programs to no sex education at all, these different forms of sex education have shaped students’ opinions on sex and sexuality.

From abstinence-only advocates to pro-abortion rights supporters, Hoyas are constantly voicing their opinions and learning from one another.

According to professor Kathleen Guidroz, who teaches “Sociology of Sexuality,” abstinence-only and non-comprehensive education have not evolved to fit the sexual behaviors of today’s college-age students.

“Abstinence-only education might be cheaper, but it isn’t as effective as comprehensive sex education, and it isn’t what teens ask for. Students want information on starting, maintaining and ending relationships. They want information on emotions,” Guidroz said.

She also said that sex education should adapt to meet the needs of the 21st century student.

“Sex education needs to be more than pregnancy prevention. It should include resources and information on all aspects, even the nonphysical aspects, of relationships. Sex education should evolve as students do to fit the lifestyles of modern college students,” Guidroz said.

Guidroz also challenged norms pertaining to sex.

“Losing one’s virginity no longer fits the variety of sexual behaviors people engage in, nor does it fit for people with the same gender identity or expression,” Guidoz said.

The federal standards for sex education cause many of these problems. The definition of what sex entails is not standardized across states. Additionally, 37 states require that information on abstinence be provided to students, while 19 require instruction on the importance of engaging in sexual activity only within marriage.

“[Being] Abstinence-only until marriage isn’t realistic in terms of sexual behavior in the U.S. The average age of first-time sexual behavior is 17. A majority of states require HIV education, but only 13 states require medically accurate sex information,” Guidroz said.  

Some high schools have already met this need for comprehensive sex education.

Jamie Hood (SFS ’21) had a weekly co-educational human development course during his freshman year of high school in Calabasas, Calif. The course spanned an extensive curriculum, including units on drugs, tolerance, sex education, STIs and contraception such as intrauterine devices, condoms, dental dams, male and female condoms and vaginal rings.

At Hood’s high school, all human development teachers were confidential resources, and teachers from the science department facilitated discussions about sex and helped answer any questions that the students had.

According to Hood, there was an open approach to discussing sex, contraception and even abortion, which is sometimes a taboo subject in sex education courses. Thanks to these open classroom discussions, Hood now feels comfortable discussing sex in a college environment.

“I feel confident in what I know about sex,” Hood said.

Until attending Georgetown, Hood was not aware that not all other high schools  teach sex education in such an open and intense manner.

“I thought that was just what sex education was,” Hood said. He described the sex education culture at Georgetown as regressive in reference to the lack of visibility for H*yas for Choice and other support groups, but he said that he feels confident that if he needed to find a sex education resource, he would be able to do so.

Students who are raised or educated in religious environments are often taught in a more conservative manner, with an emphasis on abstinence. But, despite criticisms of abstinence-only education, some students who receive this style of education feel that it stimulates healthy relationships.

“I can definitely say that my relationships have been more meaningful. Sometimes I feel like relationships can become sort of sex-centered rather than love-centered. … So in my experience, it has prepared me for college,” said Mike Rushka (COL ’20), who attended high school in Indianapolis. “I didn’t feel any pressure or anything.”

No matter their sex education before college, all Hoyas have access to on-campus resources for sexual health.

Health Education Services is free and provides pregnancy tests, university support during and after pregnancy and other forms of counseling. The Student Health Center offers screening, evaluation and treatment for STIs, along with wellness visits for sexual and reproductive health, like annual exams and gynecological care. The Women’s Center and LGBTQ Center offer free support, and students can get involved with sex education groups such as H*yas for Choice and GU Right to Life. Ultimately, regardless of where you stand on issues pertaining to sex education, there is a place on campus for you.

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