Last week, Baylor University took a significant step forward by initiating the conversation on sex. The series, which is hosted by the Title IX “It’s On Us” Student Advisory Council, breaks down different aspects of sexual intimacy in four lectures and comes just in time to kick off Sexual Assault Awareness Month.
The first lecture to take place was an obvious choice and, frankly, an important one for Baylor. Last Thursday, Dr. Ryan Richardson, associate chaplain and director of worship and chapel spoke at the lecture titled “Let’s Talk About God & Sex,” where he called sexual assault “a cancer brought on by the brokenness in society.” While the lecture put the issue of sex within a biblical framework, the other three discussions will focus on sex and science, sex and society and a final summary panel.
The way this series is divided is indicative of just how complex of an issue sex can be and how an individual’s decisions are influenced by a variety of outside factors. Nevertheless, discussing sex in a way that doesn’t limit it to one lens is key to talking about how it can be abused.
Earlier this month, student body presidential candidate and Old River Winfree junior Joel Polvado said the university needs to acknowledge that its students have sex, and to an extent, he was right. Discussing premarital sex for the purpose of increasing awareness and understanding is not the same as encouraging that type of behavior. Baylor University can still keep to its Christian identity and use discussions about sex as learning opportunities for students. This can only be done if the university remains at the forefront of tough discussions and uses student voices to craft its responses.
The fact that these panels were made a reality also shows that the university is starting to pay close attention to students calling for change. The university’s Title IX “Its on Us” Student Advisory Council helped organize and spread the word out about the event. One of the group’s goals, according to Baylor’s website, is “reducing the stigma around discussing and reporting sexual assault and interpersonal violence.” Part of addressing the stigma of sexual assault is creating an environment that students feel is judgement free and avoids victim blaming based off an individual’s actions. By providing information on issues regarding sex — such as its relationship to science, society and religion — the university will empower its students to set their own boundaries and report abuse when these boundaries are broken.
These types of conversations were a long time coming for the university, which has been slammed by allegations claiming a lack of transparency and poor handling of sexual assault cases. Our hope is that open and honest discussions like these will be an effective step toward ending the cycle of abuse that plagues Baylor and college campuses across the nation. We encourage students to show up to the Thursday panels and engage, ask questions and use the issues discussed as catalysts for change.