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Universities shouldn’t be in the sexuality business

Higher ed is not the place to learn about ‘healthy sex’

Syracuse University is apparently the latest institution of higher education to force its students to attend sex training. The program, which is mandatory for all first-year and transfer students, will teach attendees about, among other things, “healthy sex and sexuality.”

This type of symposium has become common enough on campuses across the country that we are apt to forget just how profoundly weird it is: how universities nationwide have taken it upon themselves to instruct their students in the specifics of sexual activity, not just in terms of “safe sex” but in terms of sexuality, which is a much more fraught and intimate subject. If just a few short decades ago you had proposed that an elite private university should mandate that its charges attend a bizarre kind of sex workshop in order to “promote healthy sexuality and relationships,” you probably would have been laughed at. These days you’d probably be promoted to dean of students.

This type of discussion—important, awkward, deeply personal—is best left to mothers and fathers, who know their children far better than any well-meaning college administrator possibly could and who are in a much better place to teach these types of things. In any event, even if a young man or woman has not received adequate education on this topic at home, the idea that a silly theater troupe could possibly teach it in a couple of hours is faintly ludicrous.

Yet, increasingly, college administrators seem to think this is a necessary and critical part of the college experience. Part of this conviction is surely driven by the campus rape myth, the persistent fable that college campuses are beset by a mind-blowingly high rate of sexual assault; faced with such an assertion and with intense public pressure to go along with it, many college officials are scrambling to “do something” about it, even if “something” looks like a goofy and superfluous sex theater troupe.

There is one thing many college officials could do to mitigate the licentious, oversexed environment on their campuses: implement and enforce strict rules regarding co-mingling of the sexes in dormitory spaces. There is a strong case to be made for single-sex living spaces on college campuses. Putting such rules in place would be a Herculean task, no doubt—there would surely be serious outrage and pushback from students. But university administrators are supposed to be largely immune to such political pressures. Putting rules in place that make students unhappy is not the most pleasant of things, but it is surely, in the long run, better for the students themselves than any nonsense sexuality theater performance possibly could be.

MORE: The case for single-sex environments on campus

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