Written By: Mo Juenger
Opinion Editor Charlie Gstalder recommended last week that we take a safe and healthy course of action to prevent our school from falling victim to COVID-19 closure. For the first time as a writer on his page, I’m prepared to say that he was completely right.
However, one crucial aspect of his writing caught my eye. Sex!
Sex — a COVID-19 conundrum strangely omitted from Xavier’s Community Commitment — has become even more awkward than before for students striving to pop their university cherries. Most of us, myself included, didn’t think that was even possible.
But, as we learn to handle this pandemic together, we aren’t talking about this one thing that quite a few Muskies are doing.
Safe sex is taking on a new meaning beyond what we learned in health class. I, a 19-year-old who successfully completed sex education courses in the eighth grade, no longer know the proper steps to fornicate conscientiously.
That lack of knowledge is terrifying to me, but it’s also natural. We learn about condoms, birth control and other methods of safe-sex practice once for three weeks when we’re 13. The rest we’re expected to get from our parents — which might be effective for some, but is often overwhelmingly awkward and incomplete — or figure out on the job.
In itself, our sex ed is always incomplete. We learn about biology and bodily functions in our classes, but for the sexually-active individual, the learning experience lasts a lifetime.
According to collegestats.org, students reported having an average of five sexual partners during their time in college. Imagine finding a prospective partner, against all odds while following the COVID-19 guidelines against going to bars, parties, restaurants or social gatherings. You don’t feel an emotional connection, but you are interested in having consensual sex with another adult.
A year ago, the only health questions involved were about responsible sex — do you have a condom? Are you comfortable with the amount of previous partners they have had and the level of sexually transmitted infection testing they have had?
At its core, we are simply asking ourselves a question about responsibility: Do you feel you have adequate tools and information to prevent yourself from receiving an STD or becoming pregnant if applicable?
If you answer yes, and you and your partner are still interested, you can have “safe sex.” It was that easy.
Now, there is an additional checklist. Not only must we follow these responsible sex guidelines, but we must follow an unclear, unspoken set of rules which dictate both our own health and the health of every person we come into contact with.
We have to ask ourselves: Do you have a mask? Do you know how many people your partner has been in contact with, and if any of those people have tested positive in the past 14 days? Does your partner wear a mask when you’re not around? Do they attend bars, parties or gatherings, and do they socially distance?
We have to evaluate our comfort with our partners’ adherence to COVID-19 guidelines as well as our comfort with their responsible sex practices. We have to judge how much we trust the people we’re interested in hooking up with, often after knowing them for a short period of time.
These aren’t the only questions we need to ask of ourselves and of our partners. But there is so much uncertainty surrounding this new form of safety that it’s often difficult to discern which questions matter.
As college students, we must be accountable for every element of our social interactions during this pandemic. That’s why we must sexually reeducate ourselves about safe and healthy encounters.
I urge you to research your state’s guidelines for safe sex practices, research your school’s statements of sexual health during the pandemic and research the people you’re interested in having sex with to ensure that your decisions are responsible and safe for the community that surrounds you.