A Closer Look at a Strange Anti-Condom Rule
Normally, college campuses work hard to give students tools to have sex safely, whether that means education outreach efforts, free STD screenings or confidential hotlines. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that there are about 19 million new sexually-transmitted diseases in the United States each year, and about half of those affect people who are aged 15 to 24, so building awareness seems appropriate. However, Boston College, a Catholic Jesuit University in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts has taken a different tact altogether by seemingly wanting students to practice abstinence or be unsafe in the bedroom. What’s the method? Banning condoms.
Why Free Condoms Are a No-Go
Recently, a campus organization called Boston College Students for Sexual Health came under fire for attempting to freely distribute condoms across campus. Beyond giving students information about being smart in the bedroom, the USA Today newspaper mentioned that the organization operates a series of 18 “Safe Sites,” spread throughout dorm rooms where students can get items such as condoms and lubricants.
Coverage on the CityTownInfo.com website notes that the student organization is not one that’s recognized by Boston College, yet the organization has received a joint letter from the college’s dean of students and the director of residence life, cautioning that if the distribution of condoms continued, anyone responsible would be subject to disciplinary action. The school asserts that such practices are against policy, because of the religious background of the institution. Although the letter did venture towards giving benefit of the doubt by mentioning that perhaps the students were unaware of such a policy, it leaves no doubt about the prohibition of further action.
It didn’t take long for the story to gain national attention, with many people coming out in support of the students instead of the college. New York Magazine reports that other Catholic universities including Georgetown, Holy Cross and Notre Dame stand behind the Boston College students, and an attorney from the American Civil Liberties Union mentions that if the issue isn’t dropped, the college will be subject to a lawsuit.
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An Odd Decision
Over the years, condoms have been banned in parts of Africa, and there has been debate about doing the same in the Philippines but nothing of that extent in America. During the 2012 presidential race, the Huffington Post reported that Republican candidate Rick Santorum did not want to ban condoms or birth control pills at the federal level, but felt that states should have the power to do so if desired. Even that possibility stirred up a flurry of negative comments across the country. Also, in 2010, Pope Benedict XVI admitted that although abstinence is preferred, condoms are a “real and moral solution,” especially in preventing the spread of AIDS. There’s even an organization called Condoms 4 Life that’s specifically geared towards people who follow the Catholic faith and want to practice sex responsibly.
The fact that these resources and opinions exist in the religious world seems to weaken the Boston College argument of the condom ban being based in religion, and suggest that perhaps there is a need to revisit college policy. Last year, the Lifestyles Condoms brand conducted a survey which found that one third of college students reported having sex multiple times per week, and 12% said they did it several times per day. As this data shows, college students are having sex, and making it harder for them to do it safely isn’t likely to change the trends.
Karen Alton writes for health blogs. If you’re sexually active in Denver, get lab work for std risk in Denver.