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Jan 21 2018
by Sophia Johnson-Grimes

How the Sex Positivity Movement Can Benefit College Students

By Sophia Johnson-Grimes - Jan 21 2018
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When you get to college, you may find yourself thinking about a million things: making friends, managing your own schedule and finding your place in the world (or at least, the world within your college). One topic that might be clouding your mind is the idea of sex. Maybe you had sex in high school or maybe the idea of sex has never crossed your mind before. However, in college it seems as though everywhere you go, people are talking about it: at parties, in the dorms and even in the little pamphlets in the health office. Sex can be a scary and uncomfortable topic, but it shouldn't have to be. 

Society has placed such a stigma on the idea of sex that you can't really seem to win, whether or not you've had it. If you haven't had sex, you could seem to some people like a prude or a sad virgin. If you have, you might be considered a slut or a player. You'd think that once you left high school, people would grow up and leave the labels in the past.

However, the stigma against sex is especially prevalent on college campuses. Society needs to change its archaic tune and start to view sex in a better light, and that's where the sex positivity movement comes in. Sex positivity at its core is about breaking down the barriers of slut shaming, rape culture and stigma and promoting safe, consensual sex. It is inclusive of all genders and sexualities and even advocates for those who do not wish to participate in sex (whether they identify as asexual or are waiting until they find the right person or until marriage). Below are three ways in which sex positivity can particularly benefit college students, whether or not they choose to have sex.

1. Sex Positivity Answers Questions and Keeps Students Safe

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Open dialogue erases the shame of sexuality. Sex isn't a bad thing, as long as you are safe and communicative with your partner. However, American society treats sex and nudity as a taboo subject, which creates an air of shame and embarrassment about it. When kids are embarrassed to talk about sex, or their parents/teachers are too afraid to address the subject, many of their questions about it go unanswered, which can be extremely dangerous.

Improper sex education can lead to a rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs), teen pregnancies and anxiety due to guilt around sexuality. The spread of STIs can be especially problematic on college campuses, where hookup culture is very much the norm within the college party scene.

Many schools use sex education courses to teach kids about human sexuality, but the curriculum is often abstinence based and heteronormative. Schools completely skim over LGBTQA+ sex, leaving even more unanswered questions for queer youth, as well as a feeling of ostracism.

In addition, much like drugs and alcohol, society's treatment of sex makes it seem like a "forbidden fruit," which makes it appeal to many teens and even tweens in some cases. If kids grow up thinking of sexuality as a risky, adult pastime, they will be more likely to engage in unsafe sex when in college. Teaching teens about safe, consensual sexuality helps to erase the stigma and keeps college students safe. 

2. Sex Positivity Can Help Erase Rape Culture

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Rape culture runs rampant on college campuses and it's not always inherently obvious. You may hear some of your fellow peers refer to a girl as a slut, or say someone's outfit means they're "asking for it." This kind of talk around campus is what causes many victims of assault to hide their pain and never open up about their trauma out of fear that others will say and do horrible things to hurt and blame them.

An example of this is the recent #MeToo movement, where many celebrities and regular people came forward about their stories of assault. Many were supportive, and the movement was even named to be Time Magazine's Person of the Year. But many criticized the movement, wondering why it took so long for these women to speak up.

The answer is rape culture and these comments further prove the point of why the hashtag and the sex positivity movement are needed. The promotion of safe, consensual sex does many things to erase rape culture, mainly teaching people that slut shaming is harmful and telling rapists and sexual harassers that their behavior will not be tolerated and that there will be consequences for their actions. Victim blaming and rape culture make many college girls afraid to walk alone on campus, afraid to attend parties, afraid to live their lives and enjoy college without fear of a potential attack. Putting sex in a more positive light can help college students to take charge of their own sex lives and make smart decisions, as well as stop potential attacks. Rape is an enormous problem on college campuses, but sex positivity can help to reduce it. 

3. Sex Positivity Helps Those Who Don't Want Sex

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The pressure to have sex in college can also be potentially harmful to those who do not wish to have it. Some college students are on the aromantic-asexual spectrum, are wanting to wait until marriage or are just uninterested in the whole hookup scene. These students often feel pressured by their peers to have sex because it is treated as a passage to adulthood. This can lead to these students being placed within uncomfortable and unwanted situations. Sex positivity isn't just about liberating those who want to have sex, it also gives a voice to those who don't care for it, showing them there's nothing wrong with them. People who do not want to have sex aren't sad or prudish, they just don't like sex. It is really that simple, and people shouldn't be stigmatized by meaningless labels. It's unnecessary to say the least and dangerous to say the most. 

Sex positivity isn't about encouraging college students to behave immorally and irresponsibly; quite the opposite. It doesn't matter how much stigma you place on the subject or how much you avoid talking about it, in the end a good deal of college students are going to have sex. With sex positivity, students are more likely to be responsible with their actions.

As long as its happening, you may as well teach kids how to participate (or not participate) safely and with little to no consequence and how to teach others with respect on all levels, including their sexual practices. Proper education can help make college campuses safer for all students, no matter what they choose to do. 

Lead Image Credit: Matheus Ferrero via Unsplash 

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Sophia Johnson-Grimes - Muhlenberg College

Sophia is a freshman at Muhlenberg College. She plans to major in theatre, but politics have always been a passion of hers. She is also an avid reader and loves Parks and Rec, RuPaul's Drag Race, and Bojack Horseman.

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