Friday, April 30, 2010

Student Opinions & Awkwardness on Sexuality at Rhodes

Today I did an URCAS presentation regarding my internship with Planned Parenthood last semester. The other intern and I created video podcasts for PPGMR (greater Memphis region) and talked about our experiences. Many people refused to speak to us about sexuality. We asked a variety of questions and it was mainly about birth control, but questions regarding sexuality were included. Most people (all Rhodes students by the way) said no, but some that did agree to be interviewed asked us to either blur their face out or only film their hands as they attempted to put a condom on a banana. 50% of the people that put condoms on bananas by the way did it incorrectly which I don’t think bode very well for Rhodes. While Rhodes does have a relatively active Gay Straight Alliance and an almost brand new VOX Chapter, many people seem completely uncomfortable with talking about sexuality in any way. Some guys I talked to (and yes honestly I stereotyped them because they were in a frat which I shouldn’t have done) didn’t want to talk about sex at all which totally surprised me. The general lack of misinformation and myth that we encountered here was quite unexpected and slightly depressing. As I think about it, I feel like there are plenty of factors that contribute to the discomfort of Rhodes students. Being part of the Bible belt doesn’t help us, I think. I also think that a lack of understanding and sex education in high school is another reason so many people were so awkward. In many states, abstinence-only is the only form of sex education taught. Not only do I disagree with that, I find that these programs reinforce heteronormativity. Many of the programs are no-sex-till-marriage classes and as LGBTIQ people cannot marry, lots of information and questions they have are not addressed. Does anyone else have any opinions on why Rhodes is so awkward about sex and sexuality in general?


  1. I think a lot of awkwardness about sexuality does stem from the lack of comprehensive sexuality education in schools. Students have been taught that sex is something that they should not talk about. Students don't have safe places where they can go to ask questions or even learn the truth. (Many abstinence-only programs provide inaccurate information). When we can start teaching students in the classrooms that sex is something normal for them to talk about, sexuality won't be as awkward to talk about.

  2. Liz and Ciara, you both make valid points, and I see no grounds to refute them.

    Liz, perhaps the "awkwardness" displayed by so many participants in your study was due to the inherent design of the research. Perhaps a limitation of this type of project is the lack of social distance between interview subjects and the researcher. I imagine students would have felt less "awkward" about speaking to an anonymous, non-Rhodes-affiliated interviewer. Do you think this might have had an effect?

    I am not criticizing your project, only pointing out that your proximity to your research subjects might have produced some subconscious, unavoidable feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness.


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