Let’s talk about sex. Or not.
Baylor is really great at starting conversations. There’s endless discourse about serving God, engaging the community, pursuing academic excellence and finding one’s purpose. But we’re only really good at talking about things that don’t challenge the traditional Christian mission.
When it comes to the topic of sex, it’s like the university reverts to an awkward teen fumbling to have an honest discussion about what sex is while avoiding words that are too anatomically correct`. Sex is almost never mentioned out in the open, and finding on-campus resources about healthy sexual habits is kind of hard.
This isn’t about what takes place in individual classrooms. Sure, there are science, sociology and family studies classes that tackle sex from an educational standpoint, but the wider narrative of the university is that sex doesn’t exist for college-aged people.
It’s difficult to discuss this issue without acknowledging the university’s official stance of sex. “Christian churches across the ages and around the world have affirmed purity in singleness and fidelity in marriage between a man and a woman as the biblical norm,” according to Baylor’s statement on human sexuality. Baylor is a Baptist institution that holds traditional Christian principles at the core of its guiding policies. The expectation is that students attending the university understand this and are submitting to the same standards for their own lives.
But in reality, students are having sex. Whether it’s biblical or not, it’s happening, and Baylor shouldn’t pretend otherwise. A study led by Sandra Caron, Ph.D., a professor of family relations and human sexuality at the University of Maine, that was performed on nearly 6,000 college students found that 51 percent of students have had a one-night stand, 92 percent approve of oral sex and the average student has had three to four sexual partners.
In the middle of all this is a golden opportunity. Baylor has the chance to talk to students about healthy relationships and, just as importantly, healthy sex. Some students come from traditional families that never discussed sex, leaving them clueless and shameful about the topic. Other students may choose to have sex, but are ignorant of appropriate steps to take after making that decision, such as using birth control or regularly testing for sexually transmitted infections.
Baylor doesn’t need a sex-ed class — most students have already had that. What it needs it do is spark conversation about what healthy sex looks like. That could mean allowing the Health Center to set up information booths during random times in the semester and pass out pamphlets about birth control and STIs. It could also mean having someone speak in Chapel about their own experience in an unhealthy sexual relationship, considering that studies show women from religious backgrounds are more likely to experience and less likely to resist spousal abuse and spousal rape.
At a time when Baylor is working so hard to combat interpersonal violence, this conversation is more important than ever. Fostering an environment where pre-marital sex is shameful may cause rape victims to be ashamed of reporting sexual violence. Why not take the conversation beyond consent and also talk about healthy sex so that victims of sexual violence can be confident that shame will only lie with the perpetrator?
There’s a fine line between encouraging behavior that contradicts Christian principles and encouraging healthy behaviors. The university should by no means abandon its traditional values, but there should also be some concern for the sexual health of Baylor students. Baylor has the opportunity to teach students what healthy relationships and sex look like, and that’s something worth talking about.