Imagine this: You show up to your first day of freshman orientation, a little scared, very excited, and feeling somewhat nauseated. After all of the preliminary icebreakers and politely fake introductions to the people you’re going to be stuck with for the next four years, your group finally gets to start talking about something interesting: sex. Not only is there a very real, serious conversation about what constitutes sexual consent, but you are also given a pink sheet full of masturbation tips (for both men and women), and your freshman RA shows you the condom cup that every floor keeps stocked in each first-year communal bathroom. Sounds like a pretty rad orientation, right? These are my personal experiences from my freshman orientation four years ago. The sad thing is, these events did not happen at RMC, but rather at a similarly-sized private college in Washington state, where I began my college career.
When I transferred to RMC and started discussing my experiences at my previous college with my newly made friends, they were shocked, some even appalled. They just couldn’t believe that such open conversations about sex in college were necessary, and they were horrified by the “inappropriateness” of having condoms in plain sight, let alone that they were being freely offered to anybody who needed or wanted one. As I would come to find out, sexual culture at RMC is almost a taboo subject, and one that students, for some reason, are afraid to talk about out loud. Many of us are comfortable talking about sex in an academic setting, like how it’s necessary for our species’ survival; but no one is willing to talk about how much damn fun sex can be just in and of itself.
Why is that?
We live in a world now where casual hookups, which can last from one night with a stranger to months of sex and cuddling with a “friend,” are the norm. I know plenty of people, both my age and younger, who hook up all the time, and some who never hook up at all. We should be able to shout our sexual experiences – or lack thereof – from the rooftops if we want, but we can’t because we are living and going to school on a campus that doesn’t freely or actively encourage conversations about college sex. I, for one, feel smothered by layers of unspoken social taboos that stipulate that my sex life should, for some reason, be buried beneath constrictive labels called “discretion” and “privacy.”
It’s as if by talking about sex, the College will have to acknowledge that it’s happening, and in doing so its reputation as a distinguished institution of higher learning will be tarnished. Parents, donors, important alumni, and administration will all know that RMC students are having sex. We can’t offer easily accessible condoms to students because to do so would be to encourage sex, even though they are already having sex anyway. Even if we did put bowls of condoms out in the SUB, most students would be probably be too scared to grab some anyways for fear of being judged. We won’t openly talk about masturbation – male or female – because to do so would be to acknowledge that not only does it occur among students, but is also a healthy part of becoming an adult. By treating sex as if it’s a sordid, dirty thing to hide, we only hurt students and deny them their right to the sexual freedom that comes with adulthood.
I think it’s fair to say that many students are afraid to talk about sex for fear of being judged. If a woman admits to having lots of sex and loving it, she’s labeled a whore; if she says she’s a virgin and waiting for marriage, she’s a prude and no fun. Men who admit to hooking up a lot become a “stud” and can only be in meaningful relationships if they are “whipped.” Male virgins are viewed as weak or not cool enough for sex. Students should be able to do what they want with their sex lives, and they have a right to be free of judgment. Students are not the only ones who have sex; parents do (that’s how we came about), alums do, donors do, and dare I say it, even professors probably have sex lives. Why is this? Because sex is a natural part of human life. Wanting to have sex is normal. So is deciding to wait for the right person.
I’m the last one to judge a person for their sexual preferences or proclivities; I honestly don’t care what kind of sexual escapades (or lack thereof) people choose to engage in, as long as it’s consensual. Everybody is entitled to their beliefs about intercourse. I’m not saying RMC is failing completely on all fronts – the student health center can write prescriptions for birth control (though they recommend a check-up with a doctor first); there is a support system in place for students who have been sexually as- saulted, along with orientation conversations about consent; and the RMC Gay-Straight Alliance has provided a small forum for student voices. But it’s not enough. RMC needs to start encouraging judgment-free conversations about sex on campus, and bring the topic of sexual intercourse out of the shadows so that students can stop feeling ashamed of being a normal human being.
For more information about RMC student health services, please contact the health center at 406.657.1068.