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February 10 2005

Sex (Ms.) Education

Carrie L. Lukas

This paper explores some of the messages college women receive about sex, love, and relationships from entry level women's studies courses -- as well as from the popular culture. It further highlights the research that too often is left out of these discussions.

The freshman who arrived on campus this fall already knows that university life is about more than books and classes. College is a time of transition from being a kid to a young adult. For many freshmen, it is their first time away from home. They are forming friendships that will last a lifetime. Many will have their first serious romantic relationship.

During the school year, a young college woman will receive information about sex, dating and relationships from a variety of sources -- professors, campus organizations, friends, the media and the prevailing culture.

Unfortunately, much of the information young women receive will come from a skewed perspective. They might hear that sexual liberation is synonymous with women's liberation; that the instinct to associate sex with love is old-fashioned and stems from a patriarchal structure designed to oppress women; and that marriage is a prison women are tricked into pursuing.

Many young college women will be handed condoms as they enter their dorms, and be lectured on safe sex and the dangers of date rape. They will be led to expect that sex is simply a part of college, that "everyone is doing it."

There is another side to this story. Young women deserve to know that not everyone is doing it, and that many sexually active teens have reported that they wish they had waited longer. Research suggests that women have a more difficult time divorcing sex from emotional attachment.

Marriage is not just a tool of patriarchy -- it is an institution that generally brings higher levels of happiness, health and financial well being. Feminists celebrate the sexual revolution for having brought greater awareness of human sexuality, created greater acceptance of premarital sex, and broken the silence that surrounded sex in much of society. Today, however, it seems the pendulum has swung to the other side, and a new ethic of silence surrounds the problems associated with casual sex and the benefits of reserving sex for committed, monogamous relationships.

This paper explores some of the messages college women receive about sex, love, and relationships from entry level women's studies courses -- as well as from the popular culture. It further highlights the research that too often is left out of these discussions.

More than eight in 10 college women say that "being married" is an important goal for them. The purpose of this paper is to reassure those young women that their hopes and desires for a stable, loving marriage does not just result from an oppressive society, but is a sensible aim consistent with long-term happiness. If women view sex as an emotional exchange and want their partners to respond with commitment and support, they are not weak prudes bowing to unfair social pressures. They are normal young people who instinctively resist conforming to a novel feminist definition of what "liberation" means. Young women should know the facts about sex and love so that they can make informed decisions about how to achieve their own long-term happiness.

Independent Women’s Forum’s mission is to improve the lives of Americans by increasing the number of women who value free markets and personal liberty. Sister organization of Independent Women’s Voice.
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