Let’s talk about sex

How WU’s sex-themed events promote our health

| Staff Columnist

Wash. U. must have had sex on the brain last week.

First, there was Sex in the Dark—a question-and-answer session with a doctor about everything from birth control to orgasms to masturbation, complete with mood lighting and capped off with a raffle of lubricant, vibrators and furry handcuffs. The next morning, my Introduction to Women and Gender Studies class hosted Diane Merritt, a professor of gynecology from the medical school, to answer questions about sexual practices and menstrual health.

Maybe it was because the events occurred so close to each other, but suddenly the many complex and confusing issues relating to sex seemed to come to the forefront—the truths mired in myth, the questions with half-answers and the questions nobody wants to ask. Wednesday night’s Sex in the Dark presentation was less groundbreaking than eye-opening. Most of the information was typical high school health class information—how to put on a condom, how STIs are spread and how you should “get to know your partner” before having sex.

Other parts were less teen-friendly and more “Welcome to college, now things have changed”—how sometimes people forget condoms, how sometimes people don’t admit when they have an STI, and how it is pretty hard to get to know your partner when you’ve just met them at the frat that night.

There weren’t many new actual facts to be learned at the event, but Sex in the Dark removed a sense of taboo in discussing many topics relating to sex and sexual health. The doctor’s matter-of-fact approach was refreshing in a blunt, honest, this-is-not-a-test type of way.

Though free of the special effects and prizes, Dr. Merritt’s discussion mirrored Sex in the Dark with its candid approach. In the exclusively female class, there was no shame in acknowledging something all girls know: menstruation is inconvenient, uncomfortable and messy. Yet somehow, the discussion transcended the annoyance of our monthly curse. “I see menstruation as a sign of health,” Dr. Merritt explained. It is part sexual vitality, part biological necessity and part womanhood. It is part being biologically ready to have a baby and part being absolutely and unequivocally not ready in every other way. It is part being able to tell the difference.

So Sex in the Dark showed us that sex is here on campus, as in the real world. STI’s will enter the Wash. U. bubble. Condoms can break inside the bubble. Sometimes Plan B is needed in the bubble. Sex should be private and special, but there is no need for taboo or myth. For a community as sophisticated as Wash. U., there is no reason we should have lingering questions about issues as basic as reliable birth control. The school should continue to sponsor events that promote healthy sexual practices.

Kate is a freshman in Arts & Sciences. She can be reached via e-mail at [email protected].

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