Let’s Talk About Sex

Campus discussion over the past few years has highlighted the need for changes in Andover’s sex culture. It is time for the administration to recognize that students do have sex on campus, and to dispel the reserve and ambiguity with which it has dealt with these issues in the past.

The sensitivity of the subject notwithstanding, Andover students need clearer standards when it comes to sex. Mr. Murphy’s e-mail last Saturday clarifying the school’s expectations at dances was a first step in this direction, even if much of the student body disagrees with it. A next step would be to implement a standard policy for room visits and standard content for room visit talks among dorms.

Current Blue Book rules delineating the purpose of room visits are vague and fail to properly address policies for students who are not heterosexual. The issue is further complicated by the fact that room visit policies and talks vary from dorm to dorm, resulting in a hush-hush attitude that discourages sex as a topic of discussion. To prevent this mindset, all room visit talks should address the same complications and potential risks of sex rather than simply discouraging its existence altogether.

Refusing to address the inevitable existence of sexual activity on our campus is not only unrealistic, but also dangerous. By implementing policies that repress teenage sexuality without first taking steps to encourage us to discuss and reflect them, Andover risks the well-being of its students by eliciting resistance and frustration towards these policies. After all, the potential risks students face when engaging in sexual activity without adequate forethought and preparation far outweigh the benefits of an apparently pristine and sexless campus.

All students, including those who are already sexually active, need to be provided with an atmosphere conducive to their safety. We cannot leave students ill-equipped to handle the potential physical and psychological impacts of their behavior. The pressure and shame that causes some of us to sneak into the Cochran Bird Sanctuary, empty academic buildings or other secluded areas in order to engage in sexual activity poses a serious threat to the welfare of Andover students.

Isham Health Center, in this respect, acts as a model for addressing sexual behavior on campus. Through Isham, various forms of contraception are made available to the student body, and while Isham provides information and resources, students never have to fear judgment or disciplinary action when approaching an Isham staff member.

In that same vein, students should have a faculty member or mentor on campus with whom they feel comfortable discussing appropriate sexual behavior. When the faculty is not comfortable discussing sex, students lose a safe and reliable resource. Students cannot be made to feel ashamed or worry about potential disciplinary consequences or else they won’t want to ask the crucial questions.

Student sexual activity of any form at Andover is a topic worthy of more than a Saturday morning e-mail. In addition to the importance of consent and safety, issues of heteronormativity and the need for sexual exploration during later adolescence should also be addressed. We are not asking for the administration to endorse sex. We are asking for the administration to acknowledge the inevitable existence of student sexual activity, to address all related potential issues openly and rationally and to treat the student body and its collective sexuality with respect.

This editorial represents the views of The Phillipian editorial board CXXXVI.