Princeton Preview has come and gone, and the University is preparing to welcome the Class of 2019 in September. For incoming freshmen, orientation week is a turbulent transition into a new social scene, and residential college advisers serve as guides to University policy and culture, including sexuality on campus. Next fall, RCAs will distribute a copy of “You’re So Sexy When You Aren’t Transmitting STDs,” a comic book meant to provide freshmen with information about consent and safe sex. Additionally, all freshmen will watch the play “The Way You Move,” which addresses campus sexual climate. While presenting this material engagingly is commendable, the University fails to treat the subject matter with the gravity it deserves and to include those who choose abstinence.
Sexual well-being is no joking matter. Sure, people have different views about sex, but a hand-drawn comic book with frivolous characters like “Dick McClean” and “Captain Buzzkill” — not to mention a cover adorned with penises growing on vines — is simply no way to discuss weighty matters like STDs or the psychological effects of sexual intimacy. During freshman week, the University treats other serious subjects — such as academic integrity, alcohol use, mental health and eating disorders — with due sensitivity, respect and gravity. Why not sex? Scrap the tasteless cartoons. A more concise but engaging booklet with simple, medically accurate diagrams would provide all the necessary information in a more dignified manner.
A second problem with the comic book is its complete neglect to mention abstinence, let alone offer any strategies for maintaining abstinence if students so choose. Though the book explicitly addresses those who “have had sex, are having sex, or plan to have sex,” the fact that the book — with a condom taped to it — is mandatory handout material sends a message biased toward facilitating or even encouraging sexual activity. This fails to convey the full range of attitudes toward sex on campus and excludes students committed to or considering abstinence — whether for health reasons, moral reasons or both. Leaving off the gratuitous condom and including a section devoted to abstinence would remedy the problem.
Besides the comic book, the mandatory orientation week play could also be improved. Currently titled “The Way You Move,” the play has been edited to focus increasingly on sexual assault in recent years; in last year’s revision of the play, however, the openly abstinent character was eliminated. Increased discussion of sexual assault in the play is valuable, but it does not require the removal of a character whose message is supportive toward a significant portion of the student body. Restoring this character would reduce the likelihood of alienating abstinent students, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will be receptive to other key messages in the play. Besides simply being more welcoming, both the play and the comic book could steer students who are considering abstinence toward resources like Counseling and Psychological Services, the Office of Religious Life or Peer Health Advising.
Since all freshmen are to receive the informational materials and to attend the play, the University should attend to the various needs of the incoming class, not just those planning to be sexually active. Treating sex seriously and incorporating abstinence into the freshman week curriculum that the University is now preparing would create a better, more inclusive environment for the incoming Tigers of 2019.
Cydney Kim ‘17, Kevin Wong ‘17, and Andrew Tsukamoto ‘15 abstained from the writing of this editorial.
We disagree for three reasons: (1) the objective of sex education is to educate incoming freshmen about sexual health and safety; (2) the programming employed by the University only needs to promote this objective; and (3) given the role of the University, distributing condoms to incoming freshmen is appropriate. Furthermore, we find the arguments made by the majority to be riddled with moral bias and to be devoid of objectivity.
The University offers educational programming about sexual safety and health to promote communal health and well-being. Abstinence is not a matter of sexual health; rather, it is a matter of personal choice and morality. Since the relevant University interest is health, it would be unnecessary for the University to distribute materials related to morality. Condoms are a mechanism to promote sexual health; they facilitate and encourage safe sex on a campus where many students are sexually active.
We recognize that the University must provide programming that is both informative and engaging. We agree that it would be imprudent to create comics about certain campus issues; however, we believe the comic book to which the majority has referred strikes the balance well. The majority fails to offer any reason beyond morality for always presenting sex education in stark medical terms. Would a sheet of statistics distributed in September spur this sort of discussion? We think not.
For these reasons, we respectfully dissent.
Signed by Daniel Elkind ‘17, Mitchell Johnston ‘15, Daphna Le Gall ’15, Jeffrey Leibenhaut ‘16, Carolyn Liziewski ‘18, Sam Mathews ‘17, Connor Pfeiffer ‘18, Aditya Trivedi ‘16 and Jillian Wilkowski ‘15TheEditorial Boardis an independent body and decides its opinions separately from the regular staff and editors of The Daily Princetonian. The Board answers only to its Chair, the Opinion Editor and the Editor-In-Chief.