Princeton recently obtained another trophy to place right next to its rank as the No. 1 college in the country: top honors in Trojan’s 2013 Sexual Health Report Card. Trojan evaluated the student health centers of 140 colleges and universities across the country in 11 categories: hours of operation, availability of contraception, STD testing, HIV testing, availability of condoms, ease of student scheduling, quality of resources and information online, sexual education outreach programs, sexual assault programs, website usability and “extra credit.”
Between our SHARE counselors, Sexual Health Advisors, hallway envelopes of contraceptives, the ease of scheduling a next-day appointment at McCosh Health Center and the LGBT Center in Frist, it’s definitely true that Princeton’s doing pretty well in the sexual health department. What does surprise me, however, is that Princeton beat out the likes of Brown and Columbia.
I think that the student body as a whole was a little surprised when we saw that Princeton took top honors. Maybe it’s the severe, ivy-laced gothic buildings and pastel button-ups as far as the eye can see, but there’s something about Princeton that seems to scream a reluctance to talk about sex openly. Despite this, Trojan seems to think we have a good system set up already. However, I think it’s important to realize that there’s still more that can be done.
The reason I compare Princeton to Columbia and Brown is that I think they have a lot in the category of “extra credit” that we simply don’t. Take Sex Week, for example: Almost every other Ivy has one, while we don’t. It takes different forms: at Yale, the approach is multidisciplinary. Coordinators invite a range of people — company executives, sex therapists, professors, clergy, adult film stars — to give talks throughout a week-long event that is held once every two years. Harvard had its first Sex Week last year, offering workshops and talks on everything from gender identity to sexuality in the context of faith. Princeton’s club Let’s Talk Sex has been hoping to put together a Sex Week here at the school for quite a few years now, but nothing has come to fruition yet.
What a Sex Week would allow for is a decreased taboo on speaking openly and freely about the subject. It would also allow for all sorts of opinions to be voiced. Even those in support of abstinence and abstinence education could hold lectures, though one wouldn’t automatically associate conservative viewpoints with such a liberal-sounding event. Though it would arguably be difficult to quantify, I also think the candidness of sex speech should be a factor Trojan takes into account on its next report card. That, above any of the other factors, is indicative of the general mood of a campus with regard to sexual health and sex education.
Other forms of “extra credit” could come in the form of a sex column, like Columbia’s Go Ask Alice! While we do have the Sexpert, a column published weekly by the 'Prince' that answers a specific submitted question, it’s not nearly as user-friendly or helpful as Columbia’s version. This is mainly because Columbia’s sex column is an extensive website with searchable, sortable archives and an easy way to submit anonymous questions. The website spans topics from general health to specifically sexual questions, and it has questions dating back to 1993. The submitted questions are answered by health care professionals as well. We’re certainly on the right track by having a sex column at all, but its format and usability could be made better.
Princeton is doing well in the sexual health and education department — well enough to win top honors in Trojan’s annual survey. However, we can still do better. The main problem at Princeton is a sense of taboo surrounding open talk about sex. This could be alleviated in part by a Sex Week, which would increase dialogue about the topic and create an open forum in which all types of views could be aired. We should also expand our sex column to give students a more convenient resource for embarrassing questions that can be moderated anonymously. In true Princeton fashion, we got the A, but we should be looking for the A+.
Shruthi Deivasigamani is a sophomore from Cresskill, N.J. She can be reached at email@example.com.