Em-URGE-ing Voices

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“Sexual Purity” and STDs

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September 1, 2016




The first time I heard about sex on my college campus was during my freshmen orientation in a session titled “Sex, Drugs, and Rock n’ Roll,” which covered the university’s policies over premarital sex and drugs. It was during that session that students were told about the sexual stewardship section in our student handbook where “all students were expected to maintain a lifestyle of sexual purity” while attending Abilene Christian University.

This lifestyle of sexual purity was enforced by a midnight curfew on the weekdays, male and female-only residence halls, and visitation night where the door had to be open as your RA periodically walked by to ensure students were not sexually tempting one another. If it was discovered that a student was not maintaining a sexually pure lifestyle, the university would remove them from campus.

The university’s refusal to acknowledge premarital sex has created a toxic culture in which students are not informed about contraceptives or STD testing, and abortion is only discussed in our university’s pro-life organization and bible classes. Instead of allocating resources for sexual education courses or condom drives, the university encourages students to seek counseling or pastoral care to combat  sexual temptation.

This toxic culture shames students for being sexually active, and does not create safe spaces for students to converse about their sexual health at our university’s medical clinic. I, along with countless other students, rely on the university’s clinic as my primary health care provider due to its proximity and ability to charge services on my student account paid by financial aid.

During finals week, I saw an unusual bump near my vaginal region and began to worry, even though I had not been sexually active for months. I had never been tested so I went to https://gettested.cdc.gov and found a list of testing clinics (which included a crisis pregnancy center, but that’s a story for another time). I called the clinics, found out they were already filled up for the day, and was told to schedule an appointment with my clinic on campus.

I contacted my university’s clinic to set up an appointment and went in the next day to get tested in between my morning and afternoon classes. As I walked into the clinic, I felt nervous and anxious about getting tested and talking about my sexual experiences in an environment that still has a dress code policy. I went through the exam with a registered nurse who explained every step of the procedure, from the blood being drawn, to looking at my bump. After the exam, she gave me her contact number for any follow questions.

I left my appointment feeling confident in my knowledge and in seeing other students waiting in line to get tested as well. A few days later, I received an email receipt for $265 for my STD testing. I was thankful to have the appropriate amount of financial aid to cover it, but I thought about the first-generation, and low-income students who would be unable to pay the fine due to lack of financial resources. If a student does not pay the fine, they are unable to register for classes,  and have to withdraw from the university.

Students should not have to choose between getting tested and buying books. Universities need to take a holistic approach to students’ sexual health and remove the stigma and finances from getting tested. Before you visit your university’s clinic, ask questions regarding its sexual health policies and ensure they are equitable and just for everyone on campus.

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