September 11, 1996 · Cavalier Daily

Sex and Specters

This opinion article responds to the results of a recent poll of University students' sexual practices. It observes that none of the respondents identified as homosexual, and speculates that this is because gay and lesbian students do not feel that their sexuality is accepted at UVA. The writer criticizes the insufficiency of many sexual education programs in schools, and argues that schools must increase sexual education programs, in order to heighten discussion and awareness of different types of sexuality.


1996-09-11 Cavalier Daily Sex and Specters.pdf
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Cavalier Daily
Cavalier Daily
Sex and Specters
Statistics show that many University students get around. They also suggest that gay and lesbian students believe our is not a community in which it is easy to be open about their sexuality. These days, to talk about sex is to conjure up specters that frequently haunt students’ sexual attitudes and behaviors. The names of these ghosts? Death, disease and intolerance.
This week’s Cavalier Daily survey of students’ sexual practices and opinions of sex-related issues produced some intriguing numbers – when asked their sexual preference, not one out of 201 students responded that they were homosexual. When national statistics report that anywhere from five to 15 percent of Americans identify themselves as gay, lesbian, or bisexual, the survey creates question marks.
One explanation for the discrepancy is that many students to not feel that the community accepts those members who are not heterosexuals. Only 27.4 percent of students polled believe that the University community as a whole accepts gay, lesbian and bisexual lifestyles. Yet, nearly 82.6 percent claimed that they themselves accept the sexual preferences of non-heterosexual students. That the majority of students surveyed perceive the University community as an environment intolerant of gays and lesbians certainly dissuades some homosexuals from publicly disclosing their preferences. The same perception also may prevent many heterosexual students from openly supporting the homosexual community. Students must not neglect opportunities to learn from events such as Proud To Be Out Week, otherwise negative perceptions will endure.
The survey also suggests that an alarming number of students (almost one in four) report that they have engaged in casual sex and nearly 30 percent of students claim that they do not use sexual protection all the time. Combine that statistic with the fact that 44 percent of students have had sex under the influence of alcohol and the threat of AIDS seems like a gamble too many students take.
Americans aged 17 to 24 are the second-fastest age group that is contracting the HIV virus. And while certain college campuses may not be high-risk environments, students must remember that they will graduate into more dangerous atmospheres with four years of particular habits and practices behind them.
But the larger issue involved with both sexual orientation and AIDS is education. The fact that conservative school boards and PTAs across the nation are striking sex education programs from public school curricula demands attention. A community in which thousands of sexually active students do not take seriously the threat of AIDS and other disease betrays a breakdown of knowledge and discussion at lower rungs of the educational ladder.
According to information published last year by the National Education Association, 73 percent of high schools fail to provide students with sufficient sex education programs that deal with students’ attitudes and feelings. Virtually none deal specifically with homosexuality. Students may learn how to put on a condom, but may be unsure of anything past the point of taking it off. And that’s no laughing matter, when, according to sex therapist and author Michael Brennan, “the most important sexual organ is the brain.”
Mark Tate, a sex education director for Core Education Programs, said, “the main challenge educators face is how to scare young people enough about the dangers [of sex], without scaring them to death about sex and their sexuality.”
In other words, when alerting young people about the risk of AIDS, educators also must consider the toll such dark, serious messages take on this generation’s conception of sex and sexuality, especially as they relate to physical and mental health. When many students’ own sexuality, an intrinsic part of who they are, causes fear and anxiety, how will a community enable discussions of sex to evolve more comfortably? Sex education, at any level, must balance consideration of emotions with facts and figures.
The metaphysical poets explored the connection between love, sex and death. But today, AIDS, sex and death have a literal correspondence. Students, as future school board members, parents, teachers and voters, must not fail to address the educational need for increased discussion of all those topics Gov. George Allena and his ilk are lassoing out of classrooms. With such dark clouds looming over one of the most sacred of human interactions, sex education cannot afford uninformed guesses.
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Date Added June 11, 2016
Date Modifed December 24, 2017
Collection Cavalier Daily: articles about gender discrimination

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