These days, it seems like sex is everywhere. It’s on televsion, in books, in movies and in music. And, at a progressive campus like Portland State, sex is even in the classroom.
Yet, despite sex’s prevalence, it’s hard to ever know what students’ attitudes towards sex really are. When it comes down to it, sex is always a matter of personal choice and value.
Aimee Shattuck, coordinator for the Women’s Resource Center (WRC), feels that PSU is open-minded about sex.
"People are aware that there are different ways to express their sexuality," she said. When students come to PSU, they either have a lot of sexual experience, or they grew up never talking about sex because it wasn’t appropriate.
Queers & Allies Coordinator Morgan Stimson noted that it’s even more recent that talking about sex among the GLBTQ community has become more acceptable.
Even now, he said, "If you do talk about it [sex] you have to be careful who you talk to."
Shattuck emphasizes the importance of having a safe place to talk about sex – something she strives to offer at the Women’s Resource Center. They put an emphasis on communicating and getting women’s needs met, which for women, Shattuck noted, "is a relatively new phenomenon."
The WRC is a "sex-positive" place where the emphasis is on staying healthy and happy, but also having sexual gratification.
The feel she has gotten from the PSU community is that most students value being educated about sex, whether or not they have an active sex life.
Stimson said it’s a similar situation for members of Queers & Allies, especially regarding safe sex.
"It’s become so commonplace to say, ‘We’re sexual people,’ so if you’re going to do it, do it safely," he said. "You don’t want to wind up with HIV or AIDS. It’s scary stuff."
For the gay community, he added, it’s been a fight to put down the stereotype of rampant AIDS among gay males.
"In this community," Stimson added, "it’s common to ask, ‘Have you been tested?’ or ‘Are you clean?’ Because we need to perpetuate that things are clean and safe."
But for some students, sex has nothing to do with safety or gratification. Monica Lauritsen, a 20-year-old communications major, has heard lots of tales from her friends on-campus about random hook-ups and casual encounters at parties.
"I think that sex is a natural part of life," she said. "It’s a great thing. But for me, personally, I’m going to wait until I get married."
Lauritsen doesn’t remember being told explicitly to wait until marriage; she just knows that she has always felt that way.
"It’s part of my Christian values and a value my mom instilled in me at an early age." Lauritsen mentioned that her mom had sex when she was young and felt it was a mistake – something she didn’t want her daughter to repeat.
Despite her decision to save sex for marriage, Lauritsen has never had anyone react negatively when she shared her decision with them. "People have definitely respected it," she said.
Lauritsen added, later, that if Jesus returns to earth and the world ends, it had better happen after she gets married – and after she’s had sex.