Sex education in college: too much or not enough?

Five teams competed at the Students for Choice Condom Fashion Show on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. in the Gore Auditorium for a $200 surprise. The event aimed to raise awareness for safe sexual practices. Photo by Blake Bekken

Five teams competed at the Students for Choice Condom Fashion Show on Nov. 17 at 6 p.m. in the Gore Auditorium for a $200 surprise. The event aimed to raise awareness for safe sexual practices. Photo by Blake Bekken

Members of the Students for Choice leadership team asked trivia questions in between speakers and catwalks. Students who answered trivia questions correctly received safe sex kits. Photo by Blake Bekken

Members of the Students for Choice leadership team asked trivia questions in between speakers and catwalks. Students who answered trivia questions correctly received safe sex kits. Photo by Blake Bekken

Students in college use condoms. Some use them rarely, others more often, and then there’s a few who use them a lot.

“Do you know how long it took me to use a thousand condoms?” asked Taylor Parkinson, senior. “Twenty hours. It was really fun.”

I know what you’re wondering—and the answer is 50 times an hour—but that’s asking the wrong question. Yes, those condoms were worn, just not how you’re thinking.

Parkinson is one of five students who competed in the Condom Fashion Show, a sort of prophylactic Project Runway, where teams construct high-fashion outfits from nothing but condoms for a chance to win $200.  

Students sashayed down the steps in Victorian-inspired gowns and 1950s A-line dresses glimmering with a bubblegum hue as a full Gore audience catcalled and cheered. The event, however, was much more concerned with function than fashion.

“The fashion part is just a fun way to get students engaged in the discussion about safe sex,” said Ryan LaRe, vice president of Students for Choice—a Planned Parenthood affiliate—which hosted the event with the goal of raising awareness of safe sexual practices.

After wining the Condom Fashion Show, the team named the 'Balloon Animals' stands with their $200 check. Points were given based on performance, creativity and craftsmanship, among other qualifications. Photo courtesy Students for Choice

After wining the Condom Fashion Show, the team named the 'Balloon Animals' stands with their $200 check. Points were given based on performance, creativity and craftsmanship, among other qualifications. Photo courtesy Students for Choice

“There’s a lot of misconceptions about sex,” LaRe said. “I had a student tell me she thought putting Mountain Dew in her vagina was a spermicide. That’s why we need more sex education on campus.”

Educators at the event covered the nuts and bolts, so to speak, of STDs and STIs and how to prevent them, including how to repurpose a latex glove for protection when in a pinch. But much of the information was calibrated for a college-aged crowd. For instance, students were told where to find that mysterious and ever-elusive “G-spot.”

“You hit that spot exactly, and you’re going to be, like, ‘Oh yeah, that’s what we’re doing from now on,’” said professor Kristjane Nordmeyer, who used a velvet vulva hand puppet to better demonstrate “all the beautiful pieces and parts of your wonderful vulva.”

Students grimaced at times or burst into laughter, and more than once fell awkwardly silent. In these ways, sex education doesn’t seem to have changed much since junior high. Yet, there is a growing number of voices who say it’s changed too much.

The Condom Fashion Show dovetails with a larger movement on college campuses where the public discussion on sex has enlarged to an extent that’s caused many to get their knickers in a twist.

Students at Harvard, for instance, who’ve become the unofficial spearhead for progressive sex ed in college, evoked admonition in November for events illuminating BDSM (bondage, dominance/submission and sadomasochism) and anal sex, despite (or because of) their popularity.  

“The anal sex workshop has been super popular,” said Julia Lee, student director of Harvard’s Sex Week to the Huffington Post. “There are a lot of things people want to explore, and that’s part of why we need this education…so they can explore it safely.”

The University of Tennessee defunded its student-run Sex Week in the face of community uproar. The University of Utah’s inaugural Sex Week last spring was met with protests from the group Right to Life, which argued the event “gives horny students an opportunity to become even hornier… and encourages students to look at one another as sex objects.”

Indeed, there is much fuss over what’s being called “hookup culture,” the millennial tendency toward unsavory standards abetted by technology where sex is a swipe away. However, recent studies indicate the so-called hookup culture is hooking up less than previous generations.

“Everyone thinks they’ve discovered sex, but it’s been around since the dawn of time,” said Austin Forsling, computer science major and attendee at the Condom Fashion Show, who then referenced one of the events’ fun-facts: “Ancient Egyptians were using animal intestines as prophylactics—and it’s still too taboo to talk about today?”

Meanwhile, the stakes are rising.

“The incidence of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis are going up, and college-age students are statistically the most vulnerable,” said Han Kim, professor of public health who spoke at the Condom Fashion Show. “The data also show that 50 percent of you will have an STD or STI before you turn 25, and that African Americans and women are particularly at risk. These are scary numbers.”

How much sex ed is needed in college is still debated, but studies show that comprehensive sex education reduces unwanted pregnancy and disease transmission in communities. With transmission rates trending higher, the case for more sex education on college campuses is strengthening. Yet, some still fear Westminster’s not doing enough.

“The school is required to do one sex ed event for incoming students,” said LaRe, Students for Choice vice president. “It basically says, ‘Don’t rape anybody, don’t get raped, and here are some condoms.’ That’s just not enough.”

Taylor Parkinson, public health major and Utah native, said she didn’t have much sex education before coming to college.

“I didn’t know what a dental dam was before this [event]. [First-year students] are hiding in the shadows about their sexuality but still want to experiment because they’ve got hormones. We shouldn’t be shaming ourselves. This is information that everybody should know.”

Students who need more information about sexual protection, sexually transmitted diseases prevention  and testing can visit the Student Health Services Center located in the basement of Shaw or the local Planned Parenthood at 654 South 900 E.