Like other large universities, one of USC’s pride points is that students come from all walks of life. The boy who grew up on a farm in Idaho takes the same classes as the Fortune 500 CEO’s daughter. College is often the first time young adults experience freedom from their home lives. Inevitably, this freedom comes with greater access to sexual relationships. USC needs to do a better job of educating its students on an important topic: sexual relationships. To bridge this gap, USC should offer a two-unit sex education class to prepare its students for safe and consensual sexual practices.
Just 24 states mandate sex education courses before students enter college, and only 10 of those states require that the education be medically accurate: California is one of those 10. For this reason, a class like this would surely be incredibly popular. According to Jill Anderson, a writer for Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, sex education is often taught with a focus on abstinence, “despite decades of research showing that this approach results in higher teen pregnancy rates and STDs.” Anderson makes it clear that sexual education is a social issue and a public health issue. The nation’s sexual education is failing its students, but USC can rectify those gaps in learning.
Navigating sex as a young person can come with triumphs, but it almost definitely comes with tribulations. Many of these misunderstandings could be mitigated with a thorough sex education. For example, it could help the young man who thought putting two condoms on would make sex extra safe. Or the girl who did not know that antibiotics reduce the effectiveness of birth control. Don’t forget the young men who have no idea how menstruation works. These are all issues a comprehensive sex education course could address.
Planned Parenthood describes comprehensive sex education as that which discusses human development, relationships, personal skills, sexual behaviors, sexual health, society and culture. A two-unit course could easily cover this ground. A room full of adults should be able to learn about sex without judgment. These are not lewd, saucy topics; they are important matters of health and personal relationships.
Consent is an essential part of sex education. Sexual assault has come up again and again on campus — former gynecologist George Tyndall allegedly sexually assaulted hundreds of USC students and former men’s health doctor Dennis Kelly is accused of sexually abusing several gay and bisexual men. The University needs to set the record straight for its students on what consent means.
The rise of the #MeToo movement makes clear this issue isn’t confined to USC — America is failing to teach consent. In the safe haven of a classroom, students can explore the concept of consent and set the record straight. It is important to learn how to give, understand and ask for consent because it can seem awkward and not instinctual. Consent is non-negotiable for a healthy sexual life, and everyone should formally be taught how to navigate it.
USC’s peer institutions have had sex-ed courses become successful. UC Berkeley has a sex-ed course called “Sex 101: Topics in Sexual Health” that students have to apply to because of its popularity. The class was created “to achieve this goal of providing sexual health education and services on campus.”
USC could house this course under the Department of Biological Sciences, Biology department or the Gender and Sexuality Studies department. Sex education is a vital aspect of personal health and well-being, and USC is free from state laws that might prevent them from constructing a comprehensive, genuinely informative sex-ed class. It’s USC’s responsibility to prepare its students for the world, and sex education is an irrefutable part of preparing for a successful adult life.