Isham Holds First Session of Optional Sexual Education

“Hook Up with Us before You Hook Up with Them,” the first session of the optional sexual education classes given by the Isham Health Center, was held with an audience of just three students in the Freeman Room of the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library (OWHL) this Tuesday. “These optional sessions grew out of a desire to provide [Andover] students with access to non-judgmental, credible, interesting information about their body and about intimacy. We think it’s important that students are knowledgeable about healthy relationships, intimacy and sexual health care access,” said Andrea Orben, Health Educator. Although only three students showed up for the pilot session, this is not a reflection of student interest in a sexual education program, but rather an indication that students are not fully aware of the program yet, according to Orben. “If more students start getting exposed to the program and experience it, then I think word of mouth will spread that people actually learned something from the sessions and that it is a good atmosphere to learn and discuss sexual health,” said Orben. The reason so few students showed up may have been due to a stigma attached to attending a talk regarding sexual health, which she hopes will dissipate as more students attend the sessions, according to Orben. According to Sarah Robinson, Nurse Practitioner, the sessions were planned in response to feedback from students, house counselors and the Sexual Education Working Group­ — a group of faculty members who are working to provide more sex education opportunities for students. “Students told us that they wanted more opportunities with trained adults to learn about sexual health issues. We are excited that the Strategic Plan mentioned improving educational efforts in health and wellness issues, including sexual education topics,” said Robinson. “However, until that becomes formalized, we wanted to offer optional sessions to the student body to learn more about developing healthy relationships, understanding consent and protecting themselves and partners against potential risks,” she continued. The program will address important issues of sexual health in the coming weeks, including birth control and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). According to Orben, one in every two sexually active youths in the United States contracts an STD by the time they reach age 25. “We may think that because of our demographic here at [Andover], those numbers don’t apply to us. But the truth is that, although we might fare a little better than national statistics, we would be remiss to think that our students are immune to STDs or pregnancies.” Currently, Andover’s sexual education program involves a mandatory 75-minute session incorporated into the Physical Education curriculum. There has been acknowledgement among both faculty and students that Andover needs to provide more comprehensive sexual education on campus, according to Orben. “We wanted to provide more comprehensive sessions until [sexual education] was officially incorporated into a program, but the assumption is that sex ed will be required for all students to some degree,” Orben continued. The sessions were designed by Orben, in consultation with Amy Patel, Medical Director, and Robinson.