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Here's What College Students Think About Mandatory Sexual Education Courses

It has been a widely talked-about concept to enforce mandatory courses dedicated to sexual education, including healthy ways to engage in sexual relationships and intercourse. Since this idea is so popularly discussed, it's not unthinkable for some to disapprove of the teaching of sex. Every hot topic incites fiery opinions from all angles, but in order to come to a fair conclusion if a sexual education class should be mandatory, it's only right to ask the general public what their thoughts are.

Many students at the college age, and even some adults, struggle to understand safe, healthy ways to engage in sexual intercourse, or even understand their own body's parts and functions. Courses surrounding this information usually include background on human anatomy, sexual contraception, the act of sex, the consequences of unprotected sex, and what consent is and how to give it properly. 

The United States, similarly to the United Kingdom, does not have federal laws regarding mandatory sexual education. In addition, since the United States is made up of 50 different states, each with unique beliefs, it makes sense that these regulations differ from state to state, begging the question: Should it be mandatory everywhere? According to Planned Parenthood, “currently, 24 states and the District of Columbia mandate sex education and 34 states mandate HIV education.” 25 out of 50 is only half of the United States, meaning that only 50% of students are being educated on sex through the school curriculum. If we consider the fact that the average age of the loss of virginity in the United States is 18, then we must also consider that only 50% percent of these young adults have not been educated on sexual education prior to entering a university. 

On the other hand, people may argue that each teenager learns about sex from different sources like their parents, friends, movies, books, pornography, etc. However, these sources may not accurately depict or educate the youth on healthy and safe-sex practices, especially the term consent, which leaves us with another question: Are these sources enough to educate us properly?

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In films, books, and pornography, consent is not commonly demonstrated directly, it is implied before it is shown, merely deleting the concept of consent from the sexual act as a whole in the eyes of the viewer. The term consent means that there is a mutual, vocal, and physical, agreement between both parties to engage in sexual contact, whether it’s just kissing or going “all the way.” The word consent, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary means, “to give assent or approval” or to “agree”. While the word can be used in a plethora of different contexts, it is imperative to understand the need for consent in all sexual encounters. 

In a 2015 poll from The Washington Post, “18 Percent Of College Students Think Someone Has Consented As Long As They Don't Say 'No'”. Even though the percentage seems fairly low, the percentage should be much lower, dare I say, zero? 

Aside from understanding consent, some young adults do not understand their bodies fully, let alone the other's body. Some may say they do not need to understand the functions of an opposing gender’s body, however, it is extremely important to understand our bodies to understand sex and everything surrounding it. It’s our bodies that are participating, so why shouldn’t we understand them to the full extent? Sexual education courses can, and do, in many countries, teach the youth about their bodies, helping them to explore their own body’s way of working, and how to keep them absent from STIs (Sexually Transmitted Infections) and STDs (Sexually Transmitted Diseases.) 

Now that I’ve explained some of the reasons for enforcing mandatory sexual education courses into the school's curriculum, I went on to ask a number of college students what they think by asking them the question: What do you think about mandatory sexual education courses?

 

Here’s what they had to say: 

 

“I think that It’s not really needed in college; I think that it would be more beneficial in high schools because, for most colleges, you’re going to need a high school degree and when you’re going to college, it’s more important to have that knowledge already so that in college you can put that knowledge to use. So, I don’t think that it’s really necessary for college". 

- Andrew, Freshman

 

“I feel like that’s definitely important for safety because a lot of people still don’t know the complexities of consent and other important things like that". 

- Kie, Freshman

 

“I think it’s important because I think everyone needs to be educated on how to prevent STDs... everyone should be aware, It’s a good idea". 

- Emma, Freshman

 

“I definitely think that it should be mandatory. I think it’s important for teenagers to know about sexual education". 

- Mackenzie, Freshman

 

“Well, I think, in general, the idea of having sex courses, or sexual education courses being mandatory is a very good idea. I think we learn about different aspects of life through our education, so why not learn about something that's so important and vital to our young lives. I think a lot of kids, or a lot of students, otherwise, wouldn’t have access to proper sex education, and I think school is a great place to start for that". 

- Imani, Freshman

 

“By the time people are in college, they should already be equipped with a good base of sexual knowledge so that when one enters college they are safer when experimenting. So, I think it should be mandatory in high school and not college". 

- Jack, Senior

 

“I believe they provide people with the education they need to have safe and consensual sex while understanding the risks involved as well". 

- Bradley, Sophomore

 

“I think that it’s extremely important for children and people that are going through changes to be comfortable with what’s going on with them, and to know their options throughout all of it". 

- Maddison, Junior

 

“I feel that it should be mandatory. I grew up in states in New England (Connecticut and Massachusetts), and sex education was not mandatory in public school systems and, for me, I identify as gay, and I didn’t really have proper sex-ed growing up and the first time I had sex, I didn’t know how to put on a condom. I didn’t know how to do that stuff, and for me, being educated on how... It was more self-education on how to get tested for HIV and how to basically protect myself from not attracting HIV… I think it would benefit a lot of people”.  

- Ryan, Freshman

 

“I think it’s really importantーespecially on college campuses. I mean, obviously, at any school, there’s a big party scene, and alcohol and drugs kind-of go into that. A lot of men and women experience it... I honestly just think it’s very important especially for girls here”. 

- Jack, Freshman  

 

“I kind of had a class like that in high school, but I know not everybody has that kind of opportunity, so I think if it was offered for free through health services, that would be really beneficial". 

- Greg, Junior 

 

“I think that it’s definitely beneficial for students to be exposed to this and have that option because when I was in school we didn’t have that option". 

- Maggie, Junior

 

“I think that would be a great idea because there are a lot of people that are uneducated about the topic, and it could prevent a lot of transmission of STDs and a lot of myths that go on about sex-ed”. 

- Mollie, Freshman 

 

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Some students that I had spoken to believed that it wasn’t important to enforce mandatory sexual education, and some believed that it was at the top of the priority list for the school curriculum. However, what are the consequences of not being taught on sexual matters, specifically in a college campus setting?

 

When we think about how many students are present on a college campus, especially larger college campuses home to over 15,000 students, we need to think about how many of those students actually know a decent amount about sexual health and healthy ways to go about sex. It’s not too common, and the statistics show it. Since only half of the United States population is being taught about sexual education through (high) school curriculum, it’s not uncommon that college students don't have a grasp on proper sexual health. It is up to you whether or not it is a pressing issue, however, we can all agree that students are better safe than sorry when it comes to the consequences of this lack of knowledge on sexual health. 

No matter the age, gender, or sexuality of students attending college, it’s important that we all know about the risks, and perhaps, the benefits of sex. The real question is, will mandatory sexual education be the answer we’re looking for?