Staff Editorial: Expanding on Student Love

This week, we published our 20th edition of Student Love (colloquially known as our “sex edition”). Student Love has been a campus staple since 2005 and has survived almost two decades of evolving conversations on sex. Despite the changing culture, two things have remained in each issue since its initial publication: 1) pictures of naked ultimate frisbee players and 2) our purpose for publishing this special edition.

Student Love was conceived to normalize the conversation around sex in a fun way — and yes, to raise some eyebrows. But normalizing the conversation around sex is about more than cartoon aliens and hookup horror stories. Healthy discourse involves many perspectives and is inclusive of various genders and sexualities.

Healthy discourse around sex also includes students of all experience levels. It can be easy to compare oneself to statistics we publish, but they do not tell the whole story, and neither does a Rice Purity Score, a game of Never Have I Ever, or a late-night conversation with your first-year roommates. If you’re not a part of the 73.19% of Washington University students who have had sex (or the 76.76% of McKelvey students, which we still find hard to believe), Student Love is not an encouragement for you to “catch up,” unless it is on your own terms.

Beyond that, know that the data we publish is limited. Selection bias is a factor, and those who are sexually active are more inclined to fill out our survey. Additionally, male-identifying people tend to overplay their sexual experience, while female-identifying people tend to do the opposite, in alignment with restrictive societal norms. Our data isn’t 100% accurate, and even if it was, it should not change how you feel about yourself.

Talking about sex works toward eliminating stigma and shame around student experiences. Beyond that, it opens doors to important conversations surrounding consent and safe sex, which have far-reaching implications.

While we want Student Love to be a fun, stigma-free discussion on sex, we also want to emphasize the importance of freely given consent. This is a balance that we acknowledge we have not yet reached. 

Informed and freely given consent is essential to every sexual encounter. While we might not spell out “F.R.I.E.S.” within Student Love’s pages (it stands for Freely Given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific, F.Y.I.), we do say that “consent is sexy.” However, saying that alone is not enough of a discussion on consent and is only a part of the broader conversation on sexual violence prevention. 

Washington University has resources for students to receive services and/or make a report following a nonconsensual sexual encounter, including S.A.R.A.H. and the RSVP Center. The University also has resources available to students to make having safe sex easier, including contraceptive methods and STI/STD testing.

In our short issue, we also cannot encapsulate all student experiences, answer all questions, or explore all societal structures in relation to sex, as much as we would like to. Understand Student Love not as a complete informational guide to sex, but rather, as a jumping-off point for further exploration and deeper conversation.

Yes, Student Love is fun. But it’s not about the statistics, the sexy photos, or even the tradition. It’s about creating conversation. And it’s for you.

Staff editorials reflect the opinion of the majority of our editorial board members. The editorial board operates independently of our newsroom and includes members of the senior staff.

Mia Burkholder, Chief of Copy

Amelia Raden, Junior Forum Editor

Reilly Brady, Managing Forum Editor

Sylvie Richards, Senior Forum Editor

Clara Richards, Editor in Chief

Via Poolos, Editor in Chief

Will Rosenblum, Senior Scene Editor

Ian Heft, Senior Sports Editor

Riley Herron, Managing Sports Editor

Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.