The student weekly of St. Olaf College
Manitou Messenger: Sex on the Hill: Final Thoughts

Sex on the Hill: Final Thoughts

By Jennifer Hancock
Contributing Writers
Friday, May 7, 2004

By Shenandoah Sowash

Inevitably, my final column is the most difficult to write. I wish I had something final to offer as I graduate, a sexual ultimatum that would solve our problems. But sex is complicated. And writing a sex column is complicated.

I thought the column would stimulate dialogue. I believe it has, but it has also stimulated anger and frustration. Since the publication of the first column, I've received near-weekly e-mails aand letters from offended students, parents and even President Thomforde. The parent of a prospective student had read Sex on the Hill on a college visit and wrote a concerned letter to the President about the explicit nature of the column. The President responded to the parent's letter and left a copy of the apologetic, disapproving response for the Messenger editors. Clearly, he did not approve, and he wanted us to know it. I also learned that a group of concerned Christian students approached Pastor Benson regarding the moral and religious implications of Sex on the Hill. The column was controversial from the beginning, and will likely remain so.

Some members of the St. Olaf community work under a don't-ask-don't-tell policy regarding sexuality. Take, for example, the staggering amount of time it has taken St. Olaf to install condom machines in the dormitories. The truth is that some St. Olaf students are having sex, and that ought to be acknowledged, if not supported. The conflict between St. Olaf's status as a college of the church and the reality of pre-marital sex is not easily resolved.

But there is much to be learned through discussion of the conflict rather than an illusionary ignorance of its existence. What did I learn about sex when I was at St. Olaf? I learned to keep quiet. I learned that discussions of birth control, sexual fulfillment or technique ought not exist, and if they do, are best limited to dorm whispers.

It's not that anyone told me sex was bad. Graduating from an urban arts high school in the ghetto of Cincinnati, I was simply shocked to see the restraint and abhorrence with which some people addressed sexuality. But it was more than a difference in background.

My first year I saw hateful chalkings following Gay Pride Week. My sophomore year I befriended a woman who bought sex toys for embarrassed friends. My junior year I saw two women live through sexual assaults, both of which occurred on-campus. Something was wrong. Sure, there are sexuality problems in any community. But many of our problems stem from silence, and that's dangerous. Luckily, it's also amendable.

To me, what's missing from a St. Olaf education is a sexual education. We've got issues of artistic, cultural, global, linguistic, literary, mathematical, medical, musical, racial, scientific, sociological, and theological significance covered. What about sexual?

Whatever your point of view, sex ought to be discussed. It is too significant a part of our daily lives to mock or ignore. At the same time, it's important to note that sex isn't entirely ignored here. Organizations and programs like SARN, The Vagina Monologues, GLOW and, occasionally, the Wellness Center address healthy and important sexual realities.

If St. Olaf teaches us to be conscientious citizens of the wider world, it must also teach us to be conscientious citizens of our own world, which includes our sexual world. The support needs to be school-wide.

Administrators, students, staff and faculty must overcome St. Olaf's sex phobia and get real. Sex on the Hill is scheduled to continue next year with a new columnist, which is, for me, the greatest triumph of the whole process. I thank my brave advisor and editors for encouraging me while keeping my reins tight. Most importantly, I thank everyone who read the column and everyone who wrote me. Good luck and keep talking; your community depends on it.

The Manitou Messenger is a student publication of St. Olaf College, Northfield, Minn. It is published weekly during the academic year except during vacations, exam periods and interim. The cost for one year's subscription is $45.00. Postage is paid in Northfield, Minnesota. Manitou Messenger
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