“The kiss and who to tell”

Anna DeBraber, Lode Writer

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Episode 2: Dismantling the shame, taboo, and silences

Standing in front of a room of people, Abi felt anxiety throughout her body. Sweat pricked her armpits as thoughts of what she was about to do flooded her mind. If normal public speaking produces fear, this was full-fledged terror caused by the topic: Sex.

This was Abi’s first presentation at Michigan Tech about that taboo subject, or as she says now, “the thing we all do that no one wants to talk about.”

Now a Senior Health and Wellness peer educator, Abi is part of an effort to combat this taboo at Michigan Tech. Health and Wellness peer educators regularly present “Sex-versations” in a variety of settings, from the stoic classroom to the boisterous residence hall.

Peer educators and their task of disseminating information is a channel through which Michigan Tech directly provides sexual education to students. And in Abi’s opinion, that information is vital. She described Sex-versations as “a good way to create a very level playing field and make sure all students coming in know their options and their resources.” When students come from a wide range of backgrounds and sex education experiences, there is compelling evidence that students need to have the option to educate themselves about sex in a comprehensive way.

Abi came from a private high school where sex education was based in the abstinence-only until marriage approach, where she witnessed firsthand the need for this service. Students at high schools like hers inevitably have sex regardless of their education but do so within a culture of shame and an absence of knowledge. In her experience, this type of environment is directly harmful.

“If you’re not comfortable [with sex], you’re not going to ask questions and you’re putting yourself in danger,” she explained.

A study published in the journal Sexuality Research & Social Policy confirmed her conclusion. Based on a review of 56 separate studies, the authors determined that in comparison to abstinence-only sex education, comprehensive education delayed sexual intercourse in teenagers and increased use of condoms and other contraceptives. This information indicates that comprehensive education encourages better decision- making in teens around their sexual health.

That fact notwithstanding, less American teenagers are being educated about birth control methods now than ten years ago, according to an analysis of studies conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Survey for Family Growth.

This means that there is a wider gap for Michigan Tech and people like Abi to fill. By dismantling the shame, silence, and taboos that have been erected around sex, peer educators and students together will move Tech’s campus to a place where the community feels comfortable asking questions and talking openly about this taboo subject. And the result will be healthier, safer sex.
What are your thoughts about sex culture and education on Michigan Tech’s campus? Do you have a perspective to share? If so, please email [email protected]