Your Tuition Dollars at Work: How Colleges Promote a Perverse Sexual Ideology

Published June 9, 2014

The Family in America

Are American colleges and universities training up a new generation in a perverse sexual ideology?  Increasingly, the answer is yes.

Last year on,I reported that the University of Oregon Health Center has created a new “health” app for students’ smartphones. [1]  The new app is not a high-tech calorie counter, pedometer, or fitness tool.  Dubbed “SexPositive,”[2] the new app communicates lots of information about sex, sexually transmitted diseases, and safe sex precautions.

But that’s not all it does.

The new app delivers not only “information” but also a particularly warped sexual ideology parading under the “sex-positive” banner.  Proponents of the sex-positive approach throw traditional morality out the window, “eliminate shame,” and embrace sexuality as an experience that offers “the possibility for pleasure, intimacy, joy, and self-discovery, either with another person or by yourself.”[3]  To the adolescent mind, it sounds wonderful—the grown-up equivalent of eating chocolate cake all day and never getting sick or gaining a pound.

The app operates under the guise of offering “judgment-free,” “sex-positive” information about “sexual health.”  The University of Oregon Health Center asserts that its purpose is

to counter the fears, secrecy, misinformation, judgment, and general negativity that currently surround sexuality.  It emphasizes medically accurate sex education and safer sex.  It makes no moral judgments about what forms sexuality does or does not take.  Sex positivity refers to a way of thinking that embraces and promotes all forms of sexuality and consensual sexual experience, placing these values on equal footing with the choice not to engage in sexual activity.[4]

What the app actually introduces, however, is a virtual roulette wheel of sexual behavior, much of which, in any moral society, would be viewed as weird, kinky, or downright wrong.  In the sex-positive world, however, such “judgments” are verboten.

The app’s design is itself a reflection of a basic tenet of the reigning sexual ideology: sex is a depersonalized, genitally-focused activity that aims to achieve maximum personal pleasure.  Forget that retro idea about sex as a loving, intimate encounter between a man and a woman who have committed their lives, and their entire selves, to each other.  Oregon’s sex app conveys the premise of this new sexual ideology perfectly: the user’s focus is quite literally on what goes where, how much pleasure it produces, and what the risks might be.  A sex app user first selects a body part or object from a menu, and then digitally spins a wheel to match his or her selection to another body part or object.  (The list of objects intended for sexual use includes things like “anal plugs” and other “toys” as well as everyday objects that indulge odd sexual fetishes.  Not for the squeamish.)  Once the sexual “tools” are selected, the user navigates the touchscreen to select more information about how and where to use the chosen implements, to learn what “safer sex” precautions are recommended, and to assess the associated risks for sexually transmitted diseases.  The app is adaptable to gay, straight or undeclared folks, and suited for individuals, couples, or multiples—which suggests, of course, that the University of Oregon thinks it is perfectly natural for gender to be undeclared and for sex to be a multi-player game.

The app’s “communication” tips help students broach awkward topics like urging bondage during sex or sharing one’s HIV or herpes status.  Most importantly, the app contains a laundry list of different ways for participants to seek consent at appropriate junctures.  After all, the only “rule” that still matters in a post-moral world is the rule of consent.

The punchline in the University’s promotional video for the SexPositive app?  “Because college teaches you a lot of things.”  Quite a spin on what parents typically want to hear.

At least as shocking as the content of the sex app is the fact that the University invested significant time, money, and credibility in its creation.  Far from being a rogue adventure—perhaps the work of an isolated computer geek with a sex-obsessed mind—the app was a deliberate undertaking by the University of Oregon, involving the sponsorship of eleven campus departments, offices, or programs.[5]  In addition, the University spent $24,000[6] for Christian-bashing[7] sex columnist Dan Savage to launch the product formally with a speech to students.  (His speech, laced with obscenities and graphic descriptions of sex acts such as “fisting,” apparently thrilled the crowd—a sad reflection on Oregon’s student population.)

The University of Oregon seems pleased not only with their promotion of the sex positive approach but also with Savage’s endorsement of the sex app itself.  Keith Van Norman, Marketing Manager for the University Health Center, expressed delight over Savage’s campus presentation: “It’s really important to make his time as rich of an experience as possible and I think this really did that, which was really great.”  He added, “The crowd seemed really stoked to have him.”[8]

Only a generation ago, community standards would have required explicit—and kinky—sexual content to be hidden away in the back room of a seedy adult bookstore.  Today, such content is funded by major universities and promoted on center stage before audiences of cheering college students.  The presumably mature adults in the room—college administrators, educators, and health professionals—either add their voices to the lusty cheers or give silent approval.


Outliers or Mainstream?

Is the University of Oregon an outlier, a liberal university promoting kinky sex to a radical Pacific-Northwest audience?  Or does it reflect mainstream thinking in higher education about sexuality—and about the role of universities in promoting certain attitudes and behaviors regarding sexuality?  In either event, there has been little open debate among taxpayers, alumni, and parents about whether this is a healthy direction for students and society.

In fact, the University of Oregon’s endorsement of the sex-positive ideology, though more enthusiastic than most, hardly stands alone.  I recently explored the websites of a sampling[9] of American colleges and universities, examining the institutional activities and recommended resources of college health centers and wellness programs, LGBT centers, and women’s centers.  These schools offer examples of the ways that American universities have responded to the “shame-free, anything goes” sexual ideology: most seem to have uncritically accepted or embraced it.  For example, the “lead health educator” at the University of California, Berkeley is “Robin, the Sex Goddess,” who provides interested students with four free consultations a year “to discuss personal sexual health issues, sexuality concerns, and more.”  The University distributes contraceptives to its students and maintains a resource list full of advocates for the sex-positive agenda.  Similarly, the Bates College (ME)Health Center offers students emergency contraception, birth control,and safer sex paraphernalia. Its policy statement on diversity rejects “homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, and heterosexism in all of their manifestations,” andsupports the sex-positive, create-your-own gender mindset through its “Queer Peer Mentor” program. [10]

A glance at the long list of colleges[11] where “sex educators” have presented their programs suggests that many, if not most, mainstream American universities and colleges[12] fully endorse the ascendant sexual ideology.  (Faith-based schools that cultivate a serious Christian identity typically renounce, either implicitly or explicitly, the current sexual ideology and offer their own faith-based teachings on sexuality. [13]  Other secular colleges or universities here or there also may reject the current sexual agenda, but I did not encounter any—I suspect they are few.)

It used to be that parents of college students would worry that their offspring might yield to sexual peer pressure heightened by the heady mix of hormones and unsupervised dorm life.  Today’s parents must worry that the University Health Center will tweet a link to the latest post by “Robin, the Sex Goddess,” or that the University will hire the “Princess of Pleasure” to teach students about “Orchestrating Orgasms” and then allow her to offer students free vibrators, “restraints,” and other kinky sexual props.  (The University of New Hampshire did exactly that and received nary a complaint. [14])  And parents still need to be wary of peer influence, but in its new form—the peer educator who makes house calls.  At the University of Chicago, “Peer Health Advocates” deliver “Condom Czar” presentations in student residences, so every student has the opportunity to learn “safer sex practices” and stock up on free condoms.[15]

In reality, I suspect many parents have little sense of the extent to which their son or daughter’s university promotes this sexual ideology—it’s not the kind of information included in university admissions packets or fact sheets. [16]


Sexual Ideology, Sexual Anarchy[17]

To understand the ways America’s universities and colleges promote the “sex-positive” ideology, it is important to grasp the ideology’s central tenets.  Since the Kinsey experiments in the late 1940s and 1950s, through the Sexual Revolution, up to the present day, America has been steadily refashioning its standards of sexual morality.[18]  According to Gallup’s survey of American “Values and Beliefs,” premarital sex, once widely frowned upon, is accepted even by the majority (56 percent) of older Americans.  Younger people, 18-34, overwhelmingly approve (72 percent) of pre-marital sex.  Gay and lesbian sexual relations also earn the moral approval of the majority of Americans 35 and older and of most (74 percent) younger Americans, 18-34.[19]

The prevailing sexual ideology, however, is more comprehensive than support for pre-marital sex and LGBT sexual relations.  This ideology sees the human person in terms fundamentally opposed to Christian anthropology, for example, and rejects the “gender binary” (male and female) in favor of gender fluidity.  Iowa State hosts a “Fluidity Gathering Group,” for example, which addresses “the spectrum of gender identity and gender expression.” [20]  Similarly, the LGBT Student Services Office at Western Michigan University offers a “First Year Pride Alliance” for first year students, featuring talks such as, “Binaries v. Spectrums: Where Do We Lie?”[21]  The Michigan LGBT office’s definition of gender identity falls in line with the liberal sexual ideology:

Gender identity is the way that we identify ourselves in terms of being men or women.  Some individuals reject these categories and identify as a third gender, or sometimes as “genderQueer.”  For a lot of people, their gender identity matches up with their biological sex.  Some individuals, however, do not match up in one way or another.  Someone who is transgendered is someone whose gender identity (ie. A man) is opposite of their biological sex (ie., female).  Gender expression may be separate from both gender identity and biological sex and refers more to the way in which individuals express their gender identity, usually in terms of masculinity and femininity.[22]

The sex-positive ideology frames fulfillment in terms of individual pleasure rather than the mutual self-giving of two persons.  It abhors the constraints of traditional sexual morality, normalizes nearly every imaginable sexual act (as long as it occurs between freely consenting adults), and strips sexual activity of any meaning deeper than pleasure.  Perhaps the most important aspect of the sexual ideology promoted by today’s universities is captured in three words: “No judgments allowed.”  Moral relativism has created a wide-open field in which to play sexual games, “without guilt, fear or shame,” as Colorado College tells its students.  After all, no less an authority than the World Health Organization has defined “sexual health” as a “positive and respectful approach to sexuality and sexual relationships” that includes the possibility of “pleasurable and safe sexual experiences, free of coercion, discrimination, and violence.”[23]

Consequently, colleges and universities effectively declare a morality-free, judgment-free zone around “all forms of sexuality and consensual sexual experience,” placing them all on “equal footing.”[24]  “Right” and “Wrong” have been banished from discussions about sexuality, at least on college campuses.  In many places, “male” and “female” are suspect terms as well.  One Georgetown University LGBT student, in conversation with me, protested the hetero-normative mindset, saying simply: “No assumptions, no judgments.”  In the world of create-your-own gender identity, institutions and individuals need to avoid the “hetero-normative” trap that assumes a person is straight, not gay, and that an apparent male is actually a male (rather than a transgender male or some other self-defined variation).

Rachel illustrates the point.  A “Queer Peer Mentor” at Bates College, Rachel serves as a role model and personal confidante for “queer and questioning” Bates students.  Rachel describes herself as “queer, pansexual, or lesbian depending on the day and the person who asks.”  As a “queer peer,” Rachel wants other students to know that “there’s no right way to be queer.”[25]  That’s the sex-positive approach, personified.  It extends to sexual activity as well, “celebrat[ing] sexual diversity, differing desires and relationship structures, and individual choices based on consent.” [26]  Nothing is off limits—as long as consent is given—because every person has the right to “be free to find a sex life that delights and empowers them.”  The result is what Judith Reisman, Ph.D., an expert on human sexuality, has called “sexual anarchy”—sex with no limits, no transcendence, no purpose other than personal pleasure.[27]

The University of Oregon’s sex app captures it perfectly.

As a practical matter, the prevailing sexual ideology is gay-normed.  As the current sexual ideology motivates selection of sex-themed campus speakers and events, the largely heterosexual student population on college campuses experiences speakers and events that popularize particular sexual practices of the LGBT community, in spite of the fact that the percentage of students in college who identify as LGBT remains disproportionately small.[28]  If it is normal to be gay, however, then what gays do is normal (and good) for everyone.  Texas A&M, for example, is often described as a relatively conservative school. [29]  In 2011, however, the University’s GLBT [sic] Resource Center sponsored its fourth “Safe and Fun Sex” Seminar, presented by the “fabulous” sex therapist Cay Crow and open to all students (suggested ages 18 and up).[30]  The topic?  “Butt play.”

A student video of the presentation stirred conservative students to action.  The Texas Aggie Conservatives, a student organization that receives no funds from the University, worked with the Student Senate to pass a resolution allowing students to opt-out, for religious reasons, from paying student activity fees that support programs, including the campus GLBT Resource Center, that offend their religious beliefs.[31] Although the measure passed the Student Senate, it was vetoed by the Student Body President, on the grounds that Texas A&M is a “welcoming” place and the resolution caused “hurt” to the Aggie community, particularly LGBT students.[32]

The Student Senate resolution unfortunately drowned out a more pointed question: why would Texas A&M provide a platform for Cay Crow’s anal sex demonstration at all?

Because to the sex-positive crowd, Ms. Crow’s presentation was completely on message, promoting the sexual ideology of “it’s all good”—that is, any sex is good sex, no matter how deviant or unhealthy.  It could be that Texas A&M administrators and board members, like their peers at other universities and colleges, are afraid to push back against any initiatives proposed by the LGBT campus community.  Or it could be that they are more supportive of this sexual ideology than they would like their alumni to realize.  The University community—faculty, students, parents, alumni—certainly has not had an open discussion about whether the University ought to promote this sexual ideology—a situation that seems typical on college campuses. With little fanfare, the sex-positive ideology has become the ‘official’ view of sexuality promoted by colleges and universities across the country. No board votes, no campus debates, no disclosure to alumni, faculty, and students about the ideological slant of sexuality ‘experts’ or recommended resources[33].The ‘sex-positive’ activists have captured university territory with little or no resistance.

My research found that the sex-positive ideology tends to be embedded in—and delivered to students through—the activities of university health centers, counseling centers, wellness programs, peer education programs, LGBT centers, and women’s centers on campus. [34]  In addition, ideology factors heavily into the selection of community partners (like Planned Parenthood and local LGBT-related non-profits) and online resources that the university promotes to its students.  As a result, campus messages about sex tend to sound remarkably similar, whether they come from a nurse practitioner at the health center, a peer educator in a dormitory presentation, an administrator in the front office, or a director at the campus LGBT center.  These voices of authority on campus all speak the same language about sex and gender, drive home consistent messages about what is acceptable (everything, with consent), and what is not acceptable (unsafe sex, homophobia, and trans-phobia).

Not surprisingly, the endorsed sexual ideology has a formative impact.  Like the steady drip from a leaking faucet, campus sexual messages that seem insignificant when considered separately quickly accumulate to saturate an entire space—or heart.  The absence of competing voices on many campuses leaves the reigning ideology unchallenged and denies students exposure to alternative viewpoints within the campus community.


The “Health” Rationale

Universities often justify their support for contraceptive giveaways and sexually explicit programs, speakers, and resources by categorizing them as “health and wellness” initiatives.  In their eagerness to couch sex-positive initiatives in the language of health care, universities even risk sounding paternalistic.  For example, the University of Western Michigan, like many of its peer institutions, introduces its programs under the rubric “Sexual Health” (subtitled: “Love. Sex. Safely).”  The University’s sexual health page opens in the solicitous tones of a kindergarten teacher explaining basic hygiene to wide-eyed children: “Caring for one’s body is one of the most important lessons college-aged adults can learn. Sexual health is part of this process.”[35]  Similarly, at Haverford College (PA), Student Health Services claims a lofty mission to encourage students to make healthy life style choices and “to promote the personal and intellectual growth of students by encouraging self-care and wellness.”[36]  But the “Self Care Cold Center and Condom Center” tops the list of Haverford’s health services.[37]  At Haverford, at least, it appears that “personal and intellectual growth” means sex, facilitated by easy access to condoms.  “Just in case” something goes wrong, Haverford’s health center rides to the rescue, offering both men and women emergency contraception.[38]

Speakers on sexually explicit topics also may be sponsored by academic departments or professors and justified on the grounds of academic freedom and free speech.  At Northwestern University, for example, Professor John Michael Bailey’s class on human sexuality included a guest speaker who performed an explicit demonstration showing students how to use sex toys.  Professor Bailey defended his decision, saying, “I had talked about the attempts to silence sex research, and how this largely reflected sex negativity . . . I did not wish, and I do not wish, to surrender to sex negativity and fear.” [39]

Such self-serving descriptions of “health and wellness” services and even of academic freedom are undercut, however, by the behavior those initiatives encourage.  At Haverford College, for example, the Student Health Service aims to promote “healthy lifestyles” among students through its “free condom distribution program” and emphasis on STD testing.  But Haverford’s reference to promoting healthy student lifestyles rings hollow: the Health Services never urges students to stop hooking up, or to have fewer partners—strategies that are essential for reducing the spread of STIs and HIV.[40]  Quite the opposite.  In October 2013, the school hosted sex columnist Dan Savage for an explicit talk promoting “sexual exploration and relationships based on mutual satisfaction.”[41]  (He means promiscuity.)  Quaker roots notwithstanding, Haverford seems to welcome Savage’s sexual ideology.

And in this respect, Haverford seems fairly typical.  In university after university across the country, student health centers promote contraceptive use and STD testing under the banner of sexual health.  Student health center websites prioritize information about where students can pick up free condoms or obtain emergency contraception.  Iowa State, for instance, boasts that it distributes “60,000 free condoms on campus every year as a way to make Iowa State a safer place for our students.”[42]  New York University offers Administrators and Staff a list of suggestions to help support students’ sexual health.  (e.g., “Offer free safe sex supplies in communal areas.”)[43]

This outsized focus on “sexual health” (understood as condoms, contraceptives, and STI testing and treatment) in university health centers and related campus outreaches amounts to an institutional blessing on casual, meaningless, and high-risk sex—behavior that is anything but healthy.


The STD Reality

STD rates in the U.S. continue to climb, driven heavily by the behavior of young people and men who have sex with men (MSM).[44]  The latest (2012) figures released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control highlight the vulnerability of young adults and paint a sobering picture of the ramifications of unrestrained sexual activity:

  • Approximately 10 million new infections occur each year among young people (15–24).
  • A staggering number of young women—24,000, according to the CDC—become infertile every year because of undiagnosed STDs.
  • Homosexual behavior (men having sex with men) drastically increases the risk that a young man will contract the most serious STDs (syphilis, gonorrhea, and HIV).
  • The CDC data “captures only a fraction of the true burden of STDs” because so many cases go “undiagnosed and unreported.”[45]

Although the CDC data does not assess the personal, emotional, and psychological costs of casual sex or multiple sex partners, those effects are well-documented elsewhere.[46]

University health services across the country make it easy for college students to obtain birth control, condoms, dental dams, and other “safe-sex” paraphernalia.  They practically nag students to get tested for sexually transmitted infections.  LGBT and Women’s Centers sound the same notes.  But these groups almost universally fail to address what the CDC report calls “higher-level factors (e.g., peer norms and media influences) that may also influence behaviors.”[47]  The CDC warns that traditional interventions will continue to fail until the “underlying aspects of the social and cultural conditions that affect sexual risk-taking behaviors” are addressed.[48]  Similarly, Professor Stephen J. Genuis of the University of Albert urges clinicians to avoid “political correctness and ideological interests” in favor of sound science:

Promoting condoms as “the” answer disregards the complex nature of human sexuality and fails to tackle the underlying social and emotional needs of young people, who are often trapped in high risk sexual behaviour as a consequence of difficult life circumstances.  Innumerable adolescents saturated with condom focused sex education fail to have their fundamental human needs met and end up contracting sexually transmitted infections.[49]

Put differently, if American universities and colleges were truly interested in protecting their students’ health—especially the health of young women and of men who have sex with men—they would address the factors that encourage students to be sexually active and to engage in risky behavior.

Even within their “safer sex” paradigm, there is much that begs for change: university messages ought to place greater emphasis on the risks of sexual activity with multiple partners, either serially or simultaneously, and strive to create a campus climate that frowns on multiple sexual partners.  Even serial monogamy does not reduce risk as previously thought.  New research shows that the average length of time between the end of one sexual relationship and the start of a new one is 14 days for men and 21 days for women, creating a “high potential” for transmitting sexual infections even in serial relationships.[50]  Further, research shows that young women often stop using condoms or taking precautions against STIs when they are engaged in a sexual relationship with a “boyfriend” (versus a casual partner), even if that relationship does not last long.  Non-use of condoms becomes an often-unwarranted statement of trust in the relationship.[51]  Universities need to recognize these realities and try something “new”: to encourage non-sexual explorations of friendship within committed relationships.  This “new” approach not only will encourage young people to build deeper, lasting relationships, but also will help them avoid the consequences of premature intimacy.

For now, students who look to the health centers as their authorities on “sexual health” will be let down.  The “fun and sexy” message that latex and after-the-fact-STD-testing will guarantee “health” is simply not true.

“Safer sex” is not safe.


Peer Educators—Fun, Fun, Fun

College students hear one-sided messages not only from university health centers, but also from their own peers.  Over the past several decades, peer education has been a growing vehicle for delivering “sexual health” messages on college campuses.  Most state-run universities and many private colleges offer “sexual health” peer educators, although they vary in kind.  Typical examples of peer education programs that cover sexual health include volunteer positions at Yale; non-credit programs at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign; internships at the University of Alabama; stipends for Peer Health Advocates at the University of Chicago; and for-credit opportunities at the University of Oregon.

The use of peer educators to deliver “safer sex” messages is premised on the view that young people are more receptive to information about sex, and are more likely to follow safer sex practices, if peers deliver that advice.  However, it is far from clear that even a strong “safer sex” message will result in changed sexual behavior.  A recent meta-analysis of studies related to STD-reduction strategies among European youth, for example, found that while young people prefer to learn sexual information from peer-led interventions, increased information may not lead to behavioral change. [52]  STIs continue to increase, in spite of peer interventions.

Perhaps STDs increase, in part, because the message underscored by peer sexual educators is all about “fun.”  Even “safe sex” is fun.[53]  (Apparently appeals to virtue, self-restraint, and self-respect fail to resonate with today’s college students.)  The University of Alabama asks its sexual health “ambassadors” to use “interactive games and activities” to educate students about STI transmission and safer sex. [54] Princeton offers “Safer Sex Jeopardy” as a teaching tool for its peer educators. [55]  Cal Berkeley takes “fun” to new levels during Sexual Health Awareness Week, National Condom Day, and other sexual health events: peer educators walk the university plaza dressed up as genitalia (both young women and men can wear men’s genitalia costumes, of course), organize games, provide realistic sexual genitalia props for students to play with, and offer “safer sex” prizes.[56]

But promoting “safer sex” promotes sex.  The peer education concept contributes to the mainstreaming of the sex-positive ideology in other ways as well.  The trend towards peer education on college campuses has spawned organizations that “certify” sexual peer educators, offering a presumed level of credibility and professionalism.[57]  In reality, these expert consultants influence peer education programs on hundreds of college campuses and integrate the sex-positive ideology pretty much across the board.  Universities discover quickly that hiring outside consultants for their sexuality programs puts a professional gloss on their efforts to promote this sexual ideology.

The Bacchus Network, for example, delivers peer education through an extensive network of “more than 32,000 student leaders and advisors impacting over 8 million peers on more than 320 member campuses throughout North America.”  Its state coordinators hail from schools as diverse as the University of Alabama, James Madison University, the University of Cincinnati, Boise State, and Notre Dame.[58]  Originally focused on alcohol abuse, the Bacchus Network has expanded its focus to include “sexual health.”  It hosts, described as the “premier site for sexual health information for college students,” and offers “comprehensive information on relationships, birth control, STDs HIV, and more.”

Quite simply, promotes sex, albeit “safer and smarter sex.”  Although the Bacchus mission statement claims that covers “abstinence,” the website’s entry on virginity contains the odd statement, “There are plenty of other ways to be sexually intimate and not have sex.  Virgins can have orgasms just like non-virgins.”[59] (Elsewhere, promotes masturbation for its “health benefits.”)  An entry for “Abstinence and Oral Sex” contains nothing about abstinence and everything about “safer” oral sex.  And lists “disadvantages” of abstinence that presume abstinence is neither possible nor wise, e.g., If “you change your mind in the ‘heat of the moment,’ you might not have birth control readily available to you . . . [and] Even without vaginal or anal penetration, other sexual activity such as oral sex can expose you to STIs.”[60]  Even the supposedly pro-abstinence statement smacks of sexual ideology, promoting abstinence as nothing more than one expression of personal choice, “just like choosing to use a condom or hormonal contraceptive.  It’s about what you want for you, your body and your life.”[61]


Resources and Referrals

Besides promoting a destructive sexual ideology through campus health centers, peer educators, and sponsored events, universities effectively deliver the same message through surrogatesthe outside “expert” resources that the schools promote to its students.

A number of universities and colleges, for example, sign their students up for independently-produced resources that cover a variety of health-related topics, including sex.  Student Health 101, for example, is a monthly magazine delivered by email to students at subscribing universities.[62]  Published by College Health Services, the magazine’s medical director and some members of its medical advisory board have extensive experience with sex-positive health services at a variety of institutions—and Student Health 101 delivers the same ideological perspective.[63]

A recent article, “Safer Sex and Fun Sex: They Can Be the Same Thing,” begins with this sex-positive statement: “Sex can be just about the best thing ever . . . ”[64]  The article goes on to outline the risks of specific types of sexual activity, but reassures students that sex can be “fun and safer too” with a few tricks like flavored condoms and flavored lube.  The article intermingles photos of straight and gay couples and affirms the non-judgmental, anything-with-anyone approach to sexuality.

Most university health centers, LGBT centers, and women’s centers also provide resource lists for students.  These lists typically refer students to external health resources such as local non-profits and “expert” websites on sexuality and LGBT health concerns.  The “experts” that typically appear are some of the most strident advocates of the sex-positive approach.[65]  Planned Parenthood appears on numerous resource lists, including universities as diverse as the Arizona State University and the University of Alabama.[66] Some universities, like Case-Western Reserve University (OH) also include links to policy organizations, such as the Guttmacher Institute and SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States).[67]

On the whole, the lists I examined were devoid of ideological balance; they contained organizations that would have been more at home at a reproductive rights rally than anywhere else.


The Need for Transparency and Open Debate

University administrators seem unwilling to use their bully pulpits to promote a healthier lifestyle to their studentsone that might put them on the road to true happiness, not fleeting pleasure.  Even if a school never formally supports or embraces the sex-positive ideology, but puts its imprimatur on sex-positive resources and sex-positive brick-and-mortar community partners, it sends an unmistakable message to students.  America’s universities and colleges have indeed become training grounds in service to a perverse sexual ideology.  That reality is troubling, to be sure.

But what is most remarkable is that the sex-positive ideology has become embedded in campus cultures across the country with nary a shot fired.  There has been little consultation of or debate among parents, alumni, administrators, and (for public universities) among taxpayers about whether the apostles of meaningless sex ought to be evangelizing America’s university students.  Instead, driven by the proponents of the sex-positive ideology, the transition has occurred without transparency, scrutiny, or debate, silencing the voices of traditional morality on many a campus.

But this transition has indeed occurred, and it matters deeply.  America’s new sexual ideology is not an abstract concept; it has personal relevance in the lives of most young people.  Its beliefs, behaviors, and consequences will shape not only their ideas about what it means to be a man or a woman, but also their expectations of intimacy, sexuality, and reproduction.  The ideology will habituate relational patterns that will diminish an affected young person’s capacity and will to cherish another person as a gift, to consider another person’s needs in a selfless way, and to love with a deep, lifelong commitment.  The consequences of this ideology will last for generations.

Not even a sex app can fix that.


Mary Rice Hasson is a Fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center.


[1] Mary Hasson, “University’s Sex App Promotes Kinky Sex,”, Sept. 24, 2013, Web.

[2] The University of Oregon Health Center describes the app as a “shame-free sex education smartphone app.”  The app is endorsed by sex columnist Dan Savage, who describes it as an “amazing, fun, and completely addictive sex app,” and by Mary Gossart of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Oregon, who says, “This is not your mother’s sex education.  It’s real, practical, and very fun. Sexual health…right at your fingertips.”  See“SexPositive: a Shame-Free Sex Education Smartphone App from the University of Oregon Health Center,” University of Oregon Health Center, December 19, 2013, Web.

[3] This description of the sex positive approach comes from the University of Chicago-sponsored sexuality education outreach, “Tea Time and Sex Chats.”  Cf., accessed January 14, 2014.

[4] “SexPositive: a Shame-Free Sex Education Smartphone App from the University of Oregon Health Center,” University of Oregon Health Center.

[5] The University Health Center website lists the following campus partners in creating and promoting the Sex App: Division of Student Affairs, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Education & Support Services, UO Sexual Violence Prevention & Education, Office of the Dean of Students, Department of Human Physiology, Department of Biology, Infographics Lab, Office of Strategic Communications, University Counseling and Testing Center, Peer Health Education Internship Program, Sexual Wellness Advocacy Team.

[6]  Jennifer Kabbay, “Gay Sex Pundit Paid $24k to Talk Fisting, Gorilla-Suite Fetishes with Students,” The Campus Fix, November 4, 2013,Web.

[7] “Dan Savage Bullies Christian Teens in Speech at Anti-Bullying Conference, Says to Ignore ‘Bull****’ in the Bible,” Fox News Insider, April 30, 2013, Web.

[8] Savannah Wasserman, “Sex Columnist Dan Savage Visits OU,” The Daily Emerald, University of Oregon, Oct. 16, 2013, Web.

[9] I looked at a sampling of universities and colleges, 30 in all, drawn from several lists, including U.S. News and World Report rankings of the top national universities, the top liberal arts colleges, and top public universities, as well as a number of non-ranked institutions.  My research on particular universities and colleges focused on actions by official departments and offices, which, by their nature, would function as “delivery vehicles” for the ideological beliefs at issue.  I did not assess courses or specific academic offerings on campus; even if academic courses or lectures tend to promote a specific sexual ideology, they do so in the name of academic freedom—a different justification from a university health center which sponsors a “how to” demonstration of sex toys, based on the ideological viewpoint that sexual “play” supports student wellness.  In particular, I explored initiatives by the student health services, wellness programs, peer health education efforts, LGBT programs or centers, and women’s centers or programs, including their sponsored events and recommended resources.  My research, though not a statistically representative sampling of all U.S. colleges and universities, covered a wide variety of institutions, from top tier Ivy League schools to state schools to private schools, both prestigious and less so.  My analysis is meant to offer qualitative insights on the kinds of support for the new sexual ideology offered by particular university or college administrative departments or programs; it is not a quantitative analysis of how prevalent this ideology is on American university and college campuses.

[10]Bates Health Center, “Sexual Health Services,” Web, accessed January 23, 2014, and “Queer Peer Mentors,” Office of Intercultural Education Website, Bates College, Web, accessed January 14, 2014. See also Bates Office of Equity and Diversity, Web, accessed January 23, 2014.

[11] For example, the group “Sex Discussed Here!” lists over two hundred fifty colleges that have hosted their presentations on everything from safer sex to female orgasm to LGBT sexuality.   Cf.

[12] I did not explore the extent to which community colleges, for-profit colleges, or distance learning programs exhibited support for the reigning sexual ideology.

[13] Schools which declare a serious, Christian identity include Messiah College (PA), Wheaton College (IL), Pepperdine University (CA), Ave Marie University (FL) and others.  Not all religiously identified schools, however, reject the new sexual ideology.  Georgetown University recently approved changes to its insurance to include contraception coverage making contraception available to its students, allows a student group to distribute condoms on campus, and Georgetown’s LGBTQ Resource Center also refuses clearly to reject same-sex sexual activity, even though the Catechism of the Catholic Church prohibits such activity.  Georgetown hosted performances by “trans-man” Buck Angel during “OUTober 2013,” a month-long celebration of the gay and lesbian community, and a presentation on “Queer love, Intimacy, and Relationships.”  Cf. “OUTober 2013,” LGBTQ Resource Center, Georgetown University, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[14] Ken Johnson, “Orchestrating Open-Minded Education, Discussion,” The New Hampshire, October 4, 2013, Web.

[15] “Sexual Health” homepage, Health Promotion and Wellness, University of Chicago, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[16] Several conservative-leaning groups offer reviews of universities and colleges that include a focus on the campus environment, often incorporating information about the presence of a liberal sexual orthodoxy on campus.  See The College Guide, published by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and The Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College, published by the Cardinal Newman Society. Cf.  and

[17] “Sexual anarchy” is how Dr. Judith A. Reisman, PhD. describes today’s sexualized culture, which she blames on the discredited work of Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, author of the famous Kinsey Reports on sexuality.  See Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D., and Mary E. McAlister, Esq.,“Sexual Anarchy: The Kinsey Legacy,” LifeSiteNews, Aug. 24, 2011, Web.

[18] For an excellent short summary of the legacy of Dr. Alfred Kinsey, see Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D., and Mary E. McAlister, Esq.,“Sexual Anarchy: The Kinsey Legacy.”  For a longer treatment, seeDr. Judith Reisman, Sexual Sabotage: How One Mad Scientist Unleashed a Plague of Corruption and Contagion on America, WND Books (Washington, D.C.: 2010).

[19] Joy Wilke and Lydia Saad, “Older Americans’ Moral Attitudes Changing: Moral Acceptance of Teenage Sex Among the Biggest Generational Divides,” Gallup, June 3, 2013, Web.

[20] Cf. “Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender,” Iowa State University, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[21] “First Year Pride Alliance,” Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay & Transgender Student Services, Western Michigan University, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.   See

[22] “Resources for Trans Students,” Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay & Transgender Student Services, Western Michigan University, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[23] “Healthy Sexuality and Relationships,” Sexual Assault Response & Prevention Office, Colorado College, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[24] “SexPositive: a Shame-Free Sex Education Smartphone App from the University of Oregon Health Center,” University of Oregon Health Center, quoting in part from comments by Carol Queen, UO Class of 1985, Phi Beta Kappa, founding director of the Center for Sex and Culture and fromThe Foundation and Center for Sex Positive Culture.

[25] Office of Intercultural Education, Profile, Rachel Spence, Queer Peer Mentor, Bates College, Web, accessed January 14, 2014

[26] “SexPositive: a Shame-Free Sex Education Smartphone App from the University of Oregon Health Center,” University of Oregon Health Center.

[27] Judith A. Reisman, Ph.D., and Mary E. McAlister, Esq.,“Sexual Anarchy: The Kinsey Legacy,”

[28] M. Eisenberg and H. Wechsler, “Substance Use Behaviors Among College Students With Same-Sex and Opposite-Sex Experience: Results from a National Study,” Addictive Behaviors 28.5 (2003): 899-913.

[29] See, “College Rankings, Most Conservative Schools in Texas,” Niche College Prowler, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[30] The conservative student group, Aggie Conservatives, through a Freedom of Information Act request, obtained copies of 2011 correspondence between sex therapist Cay Crow and officers of the Texas A & M GLBT Resource Center, as well as internal GLBT planning documents for its annual GLBT Health Week Event.  The documents confirmed that the 2011 event was Ms. Crow’s fourth presentation at A & M, specified payment details, and specifications for her presentation (show that “safe sex can be fun sex too!”).  The other major event for  2011 “Health Week” was “Free rapid HIV and Syphilis testing in the GLBT Resource Center.” See,%20Facebook.pdf.

[31] According to the Aggies, the annual budget of the campus GLBT Resource Center, which sponsored the “Seminar,” was more than $100,000, with half coming from students’ activity fees.  See “Help Us End Texas A&M GLBT Funding Bias!”, accessed January 14, 2014.

[32] Allen Reed, “Texas A&M Student Body President to Veto ‘Religious Funding Exemption Bill,’” The Eagle, April 5, 2013, Web.

[33]  For example, the sex education website “Scarleteen” is a common “sexual health” resource promoted by colleges and universities. Scarleteen’s Founder and Executive Director is Heather Corinna.  Corinna isa former counselor at a Washington state abortion clinic, was a Board Member of NARAL Pro-Choice Washington, and writes sexuality columns for radical feminist websites such as RHRealityCheck. Scarleteen, accessed January 23, 2014.

[34] This paper considers only the influence of non-academic departments or offices and does not take into account the considerable campus influence wielded by professors who teach radical feminism, queer theory, or gender studies.

[35] “Sexual Health,”  Sindecuse Health Center, University of Western Michigan, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[36] “Health Services: About Us,” Health Services Office, Haverford College, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[37] Health Services: Services,” Health Services Office, Haverford College, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[38] “Services: Reproductive Health,” Health Services Office, Haverford College, Web, accessed January 14, 2014.

[39] Joshua Rhett Miller, “Northwestern University Professor Defends Explicit Sex Toy Demonstration After Class,” Fox News, March 3, 2011, Web.

[40] Cf. Marcus Steiner and Willard Cates, “Are Condoms the Answer to Rising Rates of Non-HIV Sexually Transmitted Infections?  Yes.” BMJ.2008; 336:184. doi: 10.1136/bmj.39402.488727.AD, and Stephen J. Genuis, “Are Condoms the Answer to Rising Rates of Non-HIV Sexually Ttransmitted Infection? No. BMJ. 2008;336:185. doi: 10.1136/bmj.39402.527766.AD.

[41] Violet Baron, “Tri-Co Students Protest Dan Savage at Haverford,” The Bi-College News, October 22, 2013, Web.

[42] “Condom Distribution,” Thielen Student Health Center, Iowa State University, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[43] “Sexual Health,” University Life, New York University, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[44] “ 2012 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance: STDs in Adolescents and Young Adults,” Centers for Disease Control, January 7, 2014, Web.

[45] “Reported STDs in the United States” 2012 National Date for Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, and Syphilis,” Centers for Disease Control Fact Sheet, released January 2014, Web.

[46] In her book Unprotected (Sentinel Trade, 2007), Dr. Miriam Grossman, a former university-based psychologist, sounded the alarm over the mental and emotional damage inflicted by the hook-up culture on college campuses.  The wounds inflicted by casual sex are compounded by the refusal of responsible campus authorities to admit the harm done.

[47] “2012 Sexually Transmitted Diseases Surveillance: STDs in Adolescents and Young Adults,” Centers for Disease Control, January 7, 2014, Web.

[48] Ibid.

[49]Stephen J. Genuis, “Are Condoms the Answer . . . ?”

[50] C.H. Mercer et al., “Serial Monogamy and Biologic Concurrency: Measurement of the Gaps Between Sexual Partners to Inform Targeted Strategies,” American Journal of Epidemiology 178.2 (2013): 249-59.

[51]  W.A. Gebhardt, L. Kuyper, and G. Greunsven, “Need for Intimacy in Relationships and Motives for Sex as Determinants of Adolescent Condom Use,” Journal of Adolescent Health 33.3 (2003): 154-64.

[52]  Jeffrey V. Lazarus et al., “Systematic Review of Interventions to Prevent Spread of Sexually Transmitted Infections, Including HIV, Among Young People in Europe,” Croatian Medical Journal 51.1 (2010) 74-84.

[53] Sex educators, such as the group Sex Discussed Here!, are chockfull of ways for colleges to promote sex talks and generate a high turnout, including free giveaways of t-shirts and buttons that proclaim, “I like Female Orgasm.”  Sex Discussed Here! offers brochures that shout, “most importantly, SEX IS FUN.”  (See  But safe sex appears about as romantic as getting a root canal, requiring “tools” like “condoms, dental dams, gloves, lube, and other safer sex supplies.”

[54] “Healthy Relationships & Sexual Health Team,” Health Ambassadors, Student Health Center, University of Alabama, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[55] “Peer Health Advisors,” University Health Services, Princeton University, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[56] “SHEP Special Events,” University Health Services Tang Center, University of California at Berkeley, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[57] The Bacchus Network, for example, offers information and “certification” programs for peer educators    on topics such as sexual health, tobacco and alcohol education, and mental health awareness.  See “Student Leadership Empowerment Training for All Peer Educators,” The Bachuus Network, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[58] “Mission Statement” and “Campus Directory,” The Bacchus Network, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[59] “Virginity,”, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[60] “Abstinence: Advantages & Disadvantages,”, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[61] “Abstinence,”, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[62] “Student Health 101,” Hartwick College, see  Accessed January 15, 2014.

[63] See the biography of the magazine’s medical director, P. Davis Smith, M.D., at  Accessed January 15, 2014.

[64] Laurin Wolf and Joleen M. Nevers, “Safer Sex and Fun Sex: They Can Be the Same Thing,” Student Health 101, April 2012, available at  Accessed January 15, 2014.

[65] See, for example, resource lists of the following universities: Case-Western Reserve University of Ohio, available at; University of California, Berkely, available at; Harvard University, available at; and Arizona State University, available at  Accessed January 15, 2014.

[66] “Women’s Health,” the Student Health Center, University of Alabama, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.

[67] “Contraception and Disease Prevention Resources,” Sexual Conduct at Case: Resources, Case Western Reserve University, Web, accessed January 15, 2014.


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