Chelsea Asplund/The AS Review
When students first enter college, they come with their own idea of what it’s supposed to be like. For some, it might mean endless all-nighters, meeting new people or wreaking havoc in the dorms. But for others, it might be closer to a depiction of the movies “Animal House” or “Van Wilder”: raging house parties, outrageous rivalries, and of course, the unlimited sexual encounters that high school could not provide.
Associated Students Sexual Awareness Center Coordinator Shawna Leader said that abstinence is a relevant topic for college students, even if many students believe the misconception that everyone has sex in college.
“It’s another state of sexuality. Even though you’re not having sex, it’s still a choice related to sexual decisions,” she said. “It’s very important because our office is for all topics related to sex, and we want to make sure that we provide resources and safe spaces for everyone, not just for people who are having sex.”
Thirty percent of Western students do not engage in either oral or vaginal sex, according to a 2008 study done at Western by the National College Health Assessment.
Wellness Outreach Center Coordinator Catharine Vader agreed that many students buy into the misconception that none of their peers practice abstinence.
“Students tend to think that everyone is having sex, and that is not the case,” she said.
On Nov. 4, ASP Civil Controversy teamed up with the SAC to host “It’s My Choice: Abstinence and Sex in College Relationships,” a dialogue session for students to discuss abstinence. The event offered students a chance to openly discuss the topic, explore its definition and ask questions.
Calen Winn, coordinator of Civil Controversy, said he chose this topic because it does not always receive equal treatment in discussions about sex.
“We are at an age and in an environment where hormones, romance, hook-ups and everything else sexual are daily facts of life, but often there isn’t a lot of information out there,” he said. “Sexual activity or abstinence is an important personal decision, and I think the best decision-making happens when we can look at all angles and bounce ideas off of each other.”
Leader said events like the dialogue are important because the SAC deals with more topics than just sex and the people who have it. She said sometimes the center may give the wrong reputation to students who have other beliefs about sex.
“It’s such a good reason to have the event, because you need to think about who isn’t coming here and their needs,” she said.
According to a 2006 NCHA survey, college students believe people in their age group have more than three sexual partners over the course of a year, when in reality, most students only have one.
Besides the misconception of how many people are having sex, another component to the issue is that it is difficult to find an accurate definition for what abstinence is, Leader said. For some people, being abstinent only includes vaginal sex, and for others, it means anything even remotely physical. Since it is so unclear and oftentimes not even thought to be discussed in a college setting, Leader said it is very important for students to discuss the issue.