Dixie State University has taken its first step towards openly conversing about sexual health and what it means to be sexually healthy.
Sarah Bell, an assistant psychology professor who spoke at a sexual awareness workshop on Feb. 5, said, “I think that all universities should be prepared to address sexual health on their campuses given that sexuality is something that is a core aspect of many people’s lives, regardless of age, but perhaps especially for young adults who are having relationships, dating, marrying and planning families.”
Whether young adults are choosing to wait to have sex or may already be having it, the reality is they need to understand what health and wellness means for their own sexual life, Bell said.
“Given that Dixie is a university located in Utah makes this sexual wellness workshop even more notable because of Utah’s abstinence only sex education in K-12 public schools,” Bell said. “Many young adults in Utah have received no formal sex education and have had no real way to access accurate sex information from an authority/educational figure.”
Nathan Meng, an assistant psychology professor who also spoke at the workshop, said he thinks the wellness workshops are a good place for people to go to ask questions in a safe space where their questions won’t be confronted.
“I think [sex is] not often talked about and I think people assume that it’s okay or assume that they will just figure it out,” Meng said. “That’s not actually the case; there are a lot of areas of concern that don’t get addressed very often.”
The sexual wellness workshops provides students the ability to ask anonymous questions to people who have the knowledge to answer them adequately and give them more information about other places they could get information such as going to their doctor or talking to their parents.
“Right now our culture is very confrontational,” Meng said. “If somebody posts a belief they are criticized almost immediately; I think that’s the problem. I think people are afraid because they don’t want to say anything because they are afraid that they are going to be confronted.”
The most important benefit of an open discussion about sex is giving people the knowledge to make better-informed decisions when it comes to sexual wellness, Meng said. Other benefits include improving relationships between partners, reducing sexual harm, and discussing sexually transmitted diseases.
Daniella Centeno, a sophomore media studies major from Riverside, California, said: “I think it was really informative. I feel like especially in this state a lot of kids don’t have guidance when it comes to sex.”
Bell said she has felt the university and her department have welcomed her expertise and research. She said her perception has been that the university supports providing opportunities such as this workshop available to students.
“A lot of students don’t ever receive any real factual sex education information,” Bell said. “This might actually be their first encounter with talking or getting information about sexual health from an actual educator. I think it is important to have it accessible to college students.”
Bell said she ideally wants more sexual wellness workshops to cover a variety of topics, but the reality is that the topic of sexuality is so broad that it could take a long time to cover.
“The key is that we need to have more frequent and varied types of opportunities for such conversations to take place,” Bell said.
Bell said she sometimes teaches human sexuality in a diverse society, PSY-2800, that is open to any student who wants to take it.
There are currently no plans to hold another sexual wellness workshop, but other wellness workshops are still being held. Bell said she would be happy to work with anyone wanting to collaborate on another workshop.
If you would like more information about wellness workshops visit https://wellness.dixie.edu.