One of the defining characteristics of the GW population is its diversity of backgrounds. Students come to Foggy Bottom from all 50 states and numerous nations, enriching campus life and furthering cultural knowledge. However, as evidenced by issues such as sexual education, this unique composition brings unique challenges.
According to Human Sexuality professor Rebecca Fox, who teaches sexual health classes, GW students seem to know the bare essentials about sex. When it comes to more complex sexual health issues, however, they fall short. With no standardized national sexual education policy, 34 percent of high school principals reported abstinence-only education in their schools in 2002, as reported by the Kaiser Family Foundation. The same report indicates that only 58 percent of schools offer comprehensive sex education to high school students. Such numbers indicate that GW freshmen fall all across the spectrum in terms of sexual knowledge – and GW must do more to fill this gap.
The annual Colonial Inauguration is an expensive extravaganza and certainly an entertaining welcoming experience for incoming freshmen. This is also one of the few mandatory University events that presents the opportunity for honest discussion led by peer leaders.
The University would be wise to use this platform to start leveling the sexual education playing field before students move into Thurston Hall. This requires discourse beyond just the traditional light-hearted CI skits that are aimed, again, at entertainment. Perhaps a better approach would be using small group discussion time to specifically educate students on contraception and sex health issues.
The sexual health-related resources that are available on campus are well-intended, but do not resolve the fact that a basic sex health knowledge gap exists. The Residence Hall Association and Student Association provide free condoms, but the condoms in and of themselves are not a sexual health education. Other University resources, such as the University Police Department’s Sexual Assault Crisis Consultation (SACC) Team, are for victims of assault and promoting assault awareness, rather than basic education.
Instead of consulting popular magazines such as Cosmopolitan or Maxim for sexual advice, students should be able to access resources and submit anonymous questions right here on campus. The Student Health Services Web site, under a curiously titled “women’s health” section, provides basic contraceptive information, but does not cover broad topics. Student group Health Outreach Peer Educators also operates a Web site, but it is not the first place the average student would turn with their sex questions. With greater University support, the group could revamp the site and promote its availability to students.
Students arrive at GW with diverse experiences and backgrounds, and a sexual health education that can range from comprehensive to nonexistent. The University must do more to address this knowledge gap by providing a popular, readily available forum for students to access information and ask questions. Sexual health is a serious campus safety issue; it should not be assumed that incoming or current students know the basics, and it should not be an issue that is skirted any longer.