The sad state of sexual health on our campus

So, we’re on a Catholic, Jesuit campus. As students, we don’t have access to contraceptives. While I love Xavier for all it is, this is clearly an area that irks me. But I am wise enough to know that taking on the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, the Board of Trustees and Fr. Graham for a bowl of condoms at McGrath is, quite frankly, not worth the reward.

That doesn’t mean there are not other areas of campus health — specifically with regard to sexual health — that can’t be improved. The conversation around sexual healthcare has largely been closed off, hidden and shamed.

Sexual health is our ability to embrace and enjoy our sexuality throughout our lives. To be a sexually healthy person means understanding that sexuality is a normal part of life, recognizing and respecting all people’s sexual rights, having access to sexual health education, making an effort to prevent STIs and unintended pregnancy, seeking treatment when necessary, being able to experience sexual pleasure and clearly communicate about this laundry list of items.

I ask myself, and others, where do we see sexual health disparities on campus? The best answer is to ask an upperclassman the last time they had formal education about sexual health. If it happened at all, it was during Manresa. The utter lack of conversation and education about sexual health on campus has made myself and my peers feel left behind.
Sexual health disparities happen every day for students, whether asking McGrath for a pregnancy test and feeling judged by the employee at the check-in, or making the walk of shame from McGrath to TriHealth to get a prescription for birth control, or writing off an STI symptom because you’re too worried a lab test will come up on your parent’s insurance.

How can we change the culture on campus? Let’s get real with ourselves, those around us and those at this school who can make changes. We must move past the possibility of RAs giving out condoms as seen on other campuses and instead look toward more realistic solutions.

Xavier promises us, and our families, that it will care for us during our time here. Mentally, physically, socially and emotionally, Xavier promises to care, house, feed and educate us. Needless to say, the university has a lot on its plate. But what is missing is the recognition that the members of this community are sexual beings. That is a fact that continues to be ignored. Personally, the lack of open conversation about student sexual well-being makes me rethink our commitment to the Jesuit ideal of cura personalis, care for the whole person.

Where do we go from here? Push the envelope and bring up conversations about sexual health. Talk about consent in the caf at dinner. Ask your club presidents and advisers about realistic programming focused on sexual health. Gather your own information and statistics, or find me and I will share my wealth of knowledge. Visit Planned Parenthood’s website and look at their information. Take condoms in your purse or wallet when you go out, for you or someone else. See the spaces that you have access to and use your voice.

The sexual health climate on campus is far from perfect, but we are at a critical moment to make the changes we want to see for our community. You can change how that check in employee at McGrath gives you the side eye about an STI test. Just because our community isn’t perfect does not mean there is nowhere to go.

And please, don’t overlook your own sexual health, because it is not the university’s top priority, yet.

Ellen Rakowski is a first-year Private Interest and the Public Good masters student and a senior Philosophy, Politcs and the Public major. She is a guest writer for the Newswire from Chicago.