Dunbar: Sex Week raises questions about students’ readiness for sex

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Blair Dunbar, Columnist

This week is Sex Week at Northwestern. That means a whole week of fun, sex-related festivities on campus meant to support students’ healthy expression of sexuality. I personally went to see the Wildcat Burlesque show at Jones Residential College on Saturday. It was an hour and a half of dancing combined with stripping. All this sex has gotten me thinking. I can’t help but ask myself: Are we college students actually ready for all this sex stuff?

I do think that the majority of college students are having, or at least thinking about, sex. What else can you expect from a bunch of hormone-driven young adults? But want doesn’t always equal readiness. The majority of the time, we assume college students are ready for sex.

I’ve personally never been someone who thought it was necessary to wait for marriage to have sex. Sex is a personal act, and whether or not people choose to engage in it is entirely up to them. I’ve also assumed that 18 is a perfectly fine age to start having sex. That was until my mom told me, as a college student, that she didn’t think I was ready. My mom’s views about sex are similar to mine; that’s why I was a little taken aback when she told me I wasn’t ready.

Isn’t history full of young couples, though? In ancient Greece and Rome, young boys would often have sexual relationships with older men who had not yet married. Catherine Howard, Henry VIII’s fifth wife, was only 19 when she married, and Catherine the Great of Russia was only 16. Those are just two of many. Of course, these men and women lived hundreds of years ago. Society has changed a great deal. Maybe men and women were ready for sexual relations at an earlier age back then. Were the Greeks and Romans old enough while the youth of today are too young? I don’t think it’s that simple. Most people centuries ago didn’t have a choice, whereas today we do.

The truth is, I don’t think anyone is ever fully prepared for sex, no matter how many articles you read, movies you watch, or people you talk to. There is simply no way to predict how sex will affect you, emotionally and physically. My friend is always cautious, yet he’s continually paranoid that he will get an STD. Another friend is always in pain when she has sex, while yet another friend’s boyfriend doesn’t think any method of birth control is “romantic enough.” Are these friends not ready to have sex? The truth is, STDs are always going to be a potential risk, and even the most reliable birth control methods have some risk of pregnancy. Sex can be painful no matter how old you are, and sometimes partners just don’t get it. More importantly, there is never a way to know or prepare for how a relationship might change as a result of sex.

In the end, I don’t think anyone can tell someone else whether he or she is ready for sex. And if an issue does arise, I don’t necessarily think that’s proof the person wasn’t ready. Problems from sex won’t go away as you we get older; older age might just make us better at dealing with them. At some point, we just have to take the plunge and see the results when we come up for air. Of course, be as prepared as possible but be ready for the unexpected.

Blair Dunbar is a Weinberg sophomore. She can be reached at [email protected] If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]