XU Talks Discusses Sex and Relationships for Sexual Health Awareness Month

By Skylar Stephens

On average, about 1.7 million sexually transmitted infections will be acquired by Americans in September, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. September is also Sexual Health Awareness Month, where experts spread awareness about well-being in relation to sexuality. During September, many colleges take the time to educate students about sexual health on campus. College students often partake in sexual activity without knowledge about sexual health, putting themselves at risk. A 2021 study by The Journal of Sex Research has found that high sex drive in college students is directly linked to mental health issues.

“Your mental and social status influence your sexual activity. If you’re not in a good mental or social space, you might let anyone in,” said Tyra Toston Gross, an assistant professor of public health sciences at Xavier University of Louisiana.

Tyra Toston Gross, Syria Jackson, and Dr. Courtney Washington talk to Xavier students about sex and relationships.

Gross joined other speakers for XU Talks on Sexual Health to discuss sex and relationships. Violence Prevention Education and Advocacy, the Office of Inclusion and Social Justice, and Title IX hosted this event in Xavier’s Civic Center on Sept. 16. Students were provided with informational pamphlets, contraceptives, and direction about sexual advocacy.

Some sexual health issues, such as transmission of infection, can be avoided by having discussions beforehand. According to a 2020 survey by Durex, about one third of adults that have sex regularly don’t like to discuss the subject with their partners. Young adults misperceive their susceptibility to STIs which influences unhealthy decisions pertaining to sexual behavior, like the decision to not have a conversation with a partner. According to a 2021 Title IX investigation at the University of North Georgia, most college students said they have a hard time identifying unhealthy behaviors in a relationship.

“We know what a healthy relationship looks like from the outside but when we’re in one, it’s hard to identify,” Gross said.

Kerri Alexander, Title IX Coordinator, speaks at the discussion during Sexual Health Awareness Month

College students are at an emerging adulthood stage where they have more responsibilities than before college but fewer responsibilities than what they will have postgraduation. This is an identity forming period of students’ lives and changing personalities and moods play a role in why students have trouble maintaining healthy relationships.

“If you’re not whole in every aspect of your life, how could you be an asset to someone else?” asked Syria Jackson, a public health prevention specialist and counselor.

During the discussion, the speakers emphasized how unhealthy relationships and poor sexual health are direct results of one another. They encouraged students to become comfortable with themselves so they can form healthy relationships and create the safest sexual environment that they can for themselves.

“Once you understand what your values are, no one can force you into something that you’re not comfortable with,” said family medicine physician, Dr. Courtney Washington.

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