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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

A missing part of our education

The need for more open conversations about sex

The Trump administration recently rescinded the federal mandate that required most employers to cover birth control in their insurance policies on Oct. 6. Although this decision is meant to support the religious freedom of employers, it now means that some may lose accessible birth control coverage. The University of Notre Dame announced on Nov. 3 that it would end its coverage of birth control for students, faculty and staff, becoming one of the first employers to take advantage of the administration’s decision.

Despite the religious liberty argument, the rollback of the birth control mandate ignores the reality of sexual health issues that exist in our society.

Regardless of your opinion on the use of birth control, it’s simply respectful to allow women to make such decisions for themselves, free from judgement. Removing the mandate limits women’s ability to make such decisions, since many may not be able to afford birth control on their own.

A large part of this problem is that we, as Americans in general, are not willing to have open conversations about sex. As millennials especially, we’ve engaged in conversations regarding the LGBTQ community, racial inequality, drug addiction and mental health awareness here at St. Joe’s. Yet, conversations about sex are hushed. If anything is mentioned, it likely involves abstinence or teaching people to be shameful about sex. The discussion gets hidden away, also disguising the need for reliable information and resources.

Conversations about sex and sexual health are taboo in American society. Just because these discussions can be “awkward” or “inappropriate” does not mean that abstinence is the reality. Among U.S. high school students surveyed in 2015, 41 percent had had sexual intercourse at least once in their lifetime, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Teenage girls between the ages of 15 and 19 also gave birth to 230,000 babies in the United States in 2015.

Additionally, half of the 20 million new sexually transmitted diseases reported were within the 15 to 24 age group. An abstinence-only education is not informative enough considering the millions of youth and young adults affected by STDs and unplanned pregnancies every year. It’s been proven that teens who received a comprehensive sex education are 50 percent less likely to experience pregnancy than those who only learn about abstinence. Clearly, our traditions may not be as effective as we may think.

This lack of information and education around sexual health is a pervasive cultural problem.

While we acknowledge the general Catholic tradition and attitudes toward premarital sex, it’s also our responsibility as Jesuits to remain open-minded and compassionate towards everyone. Some students may choose to have sexual intercourse only after marriage, but some will not. That does not mean we can turn a blind eye to problems that arise from a lack of knowledge and availability of contraception.

St. Joe’s does not necessarily need to change its sexual intercourse policies in order to acknowledge the diversity of choices on campus and educate students more thoroughly about how to always remain safe.

Even though drinking under the age of 21 is illegal, St. Joe’s mandates courses about alcohol and the resources available in case of emergencies. During summer Orientation, incoming freshmen have to attend a training called “A Successful Start at SJU,” which covers how to consume alcohol at safe levels in safe environments, in addition to an online course called “Think About It” about alcohol and drug safety.

If we can recognize that students break federal law and offer resources to ensure alcohol-related safety, why do we still shy away from discussions about how to practice safe sex?

A small first step is simply to provide more information to students. If we can recognize that not every student on campus is practicing abstinence, then we can become more prepared to assist those around us. As it stands right now, many of us are missing this key aspect of our education. As Jesuits, we constantly stress the need for a comprehensive education in order to better understand the world around us. However, this shouldn’t exclude more thorough and inclusive sexual education purely because premarital sex violates Catholic doctrine as it stands now. Tolerance is one of the characteristics we ought to practice as Jesuits.

Most importantly though, sexual experience, or inexperience, is not degrading. It is not a measure of someone’s worth. It does not define who someone is.

Ensuring that we cultivate a respectful culture is a first step in changing the negative attitude around a sexual culture. Ignoring the reality will only alienate people.

This discussion is about more than just providing information to students—it’s about encouraging the inclusive and compassionate culture we claim to strive for. If campus is a safe place for everyone, then we should be more accepting of different sexual behaviors, even if they deviate from our own beliefs.

– The Hawk Staff

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