The stigma of sex: Baylor students weigh morality, reputation

Sex stigma
Sex Stigma
Sex Stigma

By Emily Ballard

Baylor students have mixed reactions to the increasingly open sex culture of America. As students at a Christian university, their school expects them to behave in ways that reflect Baylor’s Christian principles which maintain that sexuality is a gift from God and that temptations to deviate from this include heterosexual sex outside of marriage and homosexual activity.

Through Baylor policy, students are encouraged to behave and dress modestly. While some students maintain the same identity on and off campus, others have a more lax approach to behavior — especially when it comes to sex.

The prevailing stereotype is that men can enjoy more sexual freedom than women without gaining a bad reputation.

The social learning theory helps explain this double standard by stating men receive admiration or popularity for promiscuity while women are punished or isolated for similar behavior, according to a study in The Journal of Sex Research.

“Men can have sex and have no stigma assigned to them,” said a female junior at Baylor who wished to remain anonymous in describing the sex culture at Baylor.

Growing up in a small town outside Houston and attending public schools until college, she said even though people gossiped about sex, most people — once in high school — accepted it as a normal activity. While she expected an even broader “norm” for sexual behavior in college, she said she was surprised the subject was off limits.

“Everyone here has a naïve approach to sex in terms of what the real world looks like,” she said.
Male and female Baylor students disagree about which gender is hurt more when women feel they must conceal or lie about their sex lives.

“If men end up successful, it’s the woman’s fault since she is supposed to be the gatekeeper, so the blame is put on her,” the female student said.

Coppell freshman Daniel Day agrees there seems to be a double standard for female Baylor students in terms of openness about sexuality.

“You hear a lot more guys talk about girls hooking up with guys than girls talking about guys doing the same thing,” he said. “It seems flip-flopped around.”

An anonymous junior male Baylor student said he sees the perceived double standard as more potentially harmful for men, but sexual assault or rape may be not brought up simply because the victim would have to admit that sex was involved.

“If sex happens and the girl ‘regrets’ it, her friends will single out the guy,” he said. “In today’s society, men are blamed more.”

This student transferred to Baylor from a state university in Texas in fall 2012.

He said he sees an obvious disconnect between Christian values represented by the school and the behind-the- scenes behavior of students.

“Sex is very prevalent,” he said. “However, unlike other places, it is considered taboo.”

Day made a similar observation about Baylor’s sex culture.

“Quite a few more people here are sexually active than I thought there’d be,” he said. “But there are still lots of people here who don’t have sex.”

Female Baylor students have deceived him in regard to their sexual history, which has caused him heartache and relationship issues, he said.

“I’ve been in a few instances in which I felt the girl was less sexually involved in previous relationships,” he said. “When the truth came out about how many partners she’s had, it caused problems.”

In another instance, he was talking to a girl who portrayed herself as goody-two-shoes, he said, and then heard she had been kissing another guy the same night.

The nature of women’s sexuality at Baylor frustrates the female student.

“I am completely autonomous and satisfied with my decisions, but just to be able to keep face with other girls here, I have to cover up what I truly believe,” she said.

Even as a member of a sorority and living with four other girls she considers some of her best friends, she says there is a disconnect between what she and her friends say they do and what they actually do behind closed doors with guys.

“To be accepted by girls, I can’t have the attitude a man has because I’d be looked at as an anomaly,” she said.

Day said he has not felt pressured to portray his romantic life differently to certain groups of people out of fear of judgment.

He takes a neutral stance on how students should or should not display their sexuality off campus.
“I’m okay with it either way,” he said. “It’s their decision.”

Both unnamed female and male students said they would like to see sex become a subject more open to discussion.

“Women and men need to understand that a natural sexual expression is paramount for healthy sexual attitudes and behaviors,” said Brittany Plothow in an article for Utah Valley University Review.

The female Baylor student said she does not think Baylor students’ openness and truthfulness with their sexual conduct will change in the near future, but if it does, their attitude toward sex must also change.

“I think people at Baylor need to change from the commodity model of sexuality where it can be given and taken for a certain value to a performance model where sex is viewed as not tangible,” she said.

She said the number of sexual partners someone has had should not be the only factor determining the value or lack of value he or she places on sex.

“You do it or you don’t,” she said. “A human cannot be compared to a piece of gum that loses flavor the more it’s chewed.”

“If you’re going to do something, do it,” the male junior Baylor student said. “Don’t try to cover it up. Be open.”

But with honest and open talk about sex, students open themselves up to criticism from students who have differing values and beliefs. This student said people’s differences should be accepted in the learning environment of a university.

“On the other end, not passing judgment would help,” he said.