Despite having grown up learning little to no sex education in school, Marissa Mariner is now well-versed in the topic.
“I really could not tell you what our sex education was. I think I remember something from like seventh grade, when we went to the health center and they were like, ‘Here’s what sperm is. Here’s what an egg is,’ and that was about it,” Mariner said.
Mariner, a fourth-year in criminology and women’s gender and sexuality studies, is the vice president of Student Advocates for Sexual Health Awareness, a student organization dedicated to informing college students about sexual health in all capacities that hosted an educational Sex Week the past two years. Mariner is familiar with the K-12 sex education in the state of Ohio.
Ohio is one of 30 states, including the District of Columbia, that does require some form of sex education, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health research and policy organization. Ohio does not require its sex education to be medically accurate or include any information on forms of contraception aside from abstinence — a topic on which Ohio legally mandates a significant emphasis, according to the institute’s website.
SASHA aims to spread aspects of sex education across Ohio State’s campus that Mariner said school health classes may have skimmed over.
The organization employs many different tactics when it comes to reaching its target demographic of college students, from planning an entire week annually dedicated to sex education, to speaking with curious students one-on-one, Emma King, a fourth-year in psychology and political science and the president of SASHA, said.
Teaching college students about sex education is different from teaching high school students due to a difference in culture. King defined college’s hookup culture as people having casual sex with “no strings attached.”
King said as a student herself, she believes hookup culture is prevalent at Ohio State and most universities.
“Hookups, along with all forms of sex, are not talked about very much. You don’t have to be hooking up with people to have sex ed, but if you are, you should,” King said.
For students who weren’t taught enough about safe sex in high school, King said being immersed in an environment that places an emphasis on casual sex can lead to a plethora of issues both physically and mentally.
Those issues include the spread of sexually transmitted infections, a consequence of unsafe sex. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, adolescents and young adults ages 15-24 account for half of all new STIs.
Mariner said that feeling pressure from one’s environment to partake in casual sex is rather common when there is a lack of proper sex education.
“The best-case scenario would be people knowing what they want and how to get it, learning what they want out of a sexual experience and being able to communicate that with your partner,” Mariner said. “Worst case scenario is that people may feel pressured to do something that they’re not ready for. People could also end up hooking up when they might actually need or want a deeper connection; and if hookups are already the prescribed behavior of everyone, you as an individual, wanting a deeper connection, may not get that.”
SASHA tries to give college students the knowledge and resources they need to safely navigate college hookup culture, King said.
“Our mission stems from a lot of people that just aren’t receiving proper or comprehensive sex ed in high school,” King said. “And so they come to college and just don’t know what’s going on, which certainly can be dangerous if you’re partaking in a lot of hookup culture. But I wouldn’t say a lack of education and hookup culture have to coexist.”
Learn more about SASHA here.