Getting Serious About Sex-Ed

The new policies for behavior at school dances have reignited conversation about the negative impacts of Andover’s “hookup culture.” In creating such policies, the administration sends the message that it is trying to protect us from ourselves and from our impulsive, teenage tendencies. In reality, however, this is not the case. Rules to prevent a sexual atmosphere at dances will not eliminate the sexual atmosphere on campus. Without dances as a place for students to connect and seek out a partner, it is conceivable that the hookup culture could move “underground.” Sexually explicit behavior will continue outside of dances, beyond the faculty’s watchful eyes in more isolated and potentially more dangerous locations, such as the Cochran Bird Sanctuary or in empty academic buildings. In this way, it will become even more difficult for the administration monitor, mitigate and counter the negative effects of the hookup culture. The administration must recognize that Andover students are regular adolescents, and that our continuing physical and emotional development is an undeniable fact. As we mature, we want to explore our newfound sexuality. Romantic relationships, which may now involve physical intimacy, will take on a much more significant role in our lives. As a result, students will hook up, grind, dress ‘inappropriately’ and have sex, regardless of disciplinary consequences and whether such activities are discussed or condoned. The best solution for dealing with this behavior lies not in altogether banning or condemning it, but rather in teaching students about healthy relationships and in providing them with the resources to initiate such relationships and make informed decisions about their own sexual health. Increased dialogue on campus about physical and emotional sexual health and well-being is essential to building a culture of romantically and sexually-educated teens. This is not to imply that all students who ascribe to the hookup culture are not romantically or sexually-educated. It is rather that the hookup culture can push students into relationships they are not prepared for. These students also need to know that faculty members, such as house counselors and advisors, as well as the Graham House Counseling Center and the Isham Health Center, are a student’s primary support system with regards to romantic relationships. Isham in particular is a critical resource for information on sexual health and education. In addition, discussing relationships and sex in dorm talks across campus and Lower Personal And Community Education (PACE) classes will make these topics less taboo. Another crucial solution is to implement a campus-wide sexual education program, ensuring that all students are aware of the consequences of sexual activity, know how to practice safe sex and can comfortably make informed choices about their own sexual activity. The updated dance policies suggest that the administration has already given some thought to concerns about the hookup culture. A simple ban on grinding will not , however, affect the root of the problem because student behavior at dances is just the tip of the iceberg. If the administration truly wants to bring about change, it will have to rethink its entire attitude toward sexual behavior on campus.