Lets talk about sex (and the resources offered at the UA)
College can be a time of discovery for students, whether it’s what major to declare, what being on a budget feels like or sex.
Being sexually active in college is not unusual, according to collegestats.org, a site that uses freely available data collected by the U.S. Department of Education. After a recent study, the site said, “on average, students will have sex with close to five partners during their two or four years enrolled in postsecondary education.”
The University of Arizona offers several resources for students looking to gain more knowledge about sex, other sexual activites or protection. These resources range from the Campus Health Center’s weekly campus events, like Free Condom Friday, to a Sex, Health and AIDS course.
Lee Ann Hamilton, a health educator and sexual health specialist at Campus Health, said sex education is required in only some states, and Arizona is not one of them.
Before college, students could have either had sex-education classes, been taught abstinence or even had no education when it comes to sex, Hamilton explained. Through resources available at UA, students have new ways to become more educated about forms of protection, STDs and ways to have safer sex.
“Even just discussion about relationships, how your body works and how to protect yourself is important,” Hamilton said. “So is just talking about what you are looking for in sex and what you’re looking for in a partner.”
Reem Alruwaih, a sophomore at the UA majoring in business, and Shahad Albustan, a freshman at UA majoring in engineering, are both from Kuwait, where, they said, they received no sex education due to the cultural and religious normalities of their country.
They said besides learning about the scientific part of sex in a biology class, it is not normal to have sex education or talk about sex in Kuwait.
“It’s not really talked about until you get married,” Albustan said.
They also said when one finally does reach that moment of marriage, the sex education source is one of the married couple’s mother.
Araceli Benitez, a sophomore at UA studying veterinary sciences, is from Tucson and said she wasn’t taught about sex, just about abstinence, in school prior to college.
“I don’t even think I’ve been taught a sex-education class. Maybe in middle school we talked about it, but it’s just about abstinence, then you’re good,” Benitez said.
Justin Sabia-Tanis, professor of the Sex, Health and AIDS course taught at UA, said some states lie about sex when teaching students in public schools.
Sabia-Tanis said some programs, for instance, compare sexuality to chewing gum, saying the more someone chews gum, the less valuable it is. The same rules apply to sex, because the more sex someone has, the less value they have.
Sabia-Tanis said lies such as these are unhealthy messages to people, and it is important to become better educated about sex and forms of protection through resources like classes or Campus Health.
Campus Health, located in the Highland commons, is a place where students can talk to health professionals about sex, get more information about contraceptives and learn how to be sexually safe and smart. Students and other individuals can also get STD testing at the health center.
“We’ve seen a reduction in condom use in the past few years, which can be kind of scary,” Hamilton said.
Statistics from 2018 show only 59.8 percent of sexually active students at UA were using condoms, according to the health center.
Hamilton explained since there are now more effective birth controls, people think it’s okay to not use condoms during sex.
“Condoms are for STD protection. The IUD and other long-active reversible contraceptives does nothing to protect you against getting chlamydia or syphilis or HIV or herpes or anything like that,” Hamilton said.
According to Hamilton, learning about STDs and their symptoms, and even those which don’t always cause symptoms, is important when a sexually active individual is deciding if they should to get tested or not. There are some health issues that can develop if someone has an STD and never gets treated.
“The most common [STD] we see here is chlamydia, which can lead to fertility problems, pelvic inflammatory disease,” Hamilton said. “This is especially when people don’t know they have it, so if someone has an untreated/untested case of chlamydia, it can lead to serious problems.”
How often someone should get tested changes from person to person, Hamilton explained. She said if someone has many new sexual partners, they should get tested more frequently than someone who has very few or a single partner.
The Sex, Health and AIDS course at UA, cross-listed in the departments of Mexican-American studies and gender and women’s studies, is another resource open to students. This course discusses various STDs, specifically HIV, and aims to educate students on the possible outcomes of contracting an STD.
The course covers topics like the history of sex, sex statistics and what puts someone at a high or low risk for contracting an STD.
“The class is focused on HIV and AIDS. We look at the history of HIV and AIDS and the way it impacted our world. It changed many things about how we approach healthcare,” Sabia-Tanis said.
Sabia-Tanis said aside from educating students on HIV and AIDS in class, they also talk about STDs, condoms, birth control and other things students may need for their sexual health.
Hamilton said even if students are not currently having sex, it’s good to get educated, because everyone knows someone who has sex. However, not everybody is having sex, so even if you’re waiting, you’re not alone.
“I think everyone should take a human sexuality class, because we’re sexual beings,” Hamilton said. “Sex is an important part of being a human. It includes relationships; it’s not all about sex, but talking about love and relationships. That’s something everybody could use.”
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