February 14, 2023 at 5:00:00 PM
Talia Cutler '23
The seniors have recently taken part in a four-week, X-block seminar advertised as “Healthy Relationships and Sexual Health.” These X-block meetings resemble middle school anatomy class, with basic diagrams of genitalia, mnemonics to remember consent, colorful and outdated charts of what LGBT+ stands for, and a crowd favorite, clipart of unicorns and rainbows.
I like to believe that faculty and staff are not naive and realize that these meetings are subject to ridicule well before the auditorium has cleared. I would also like to believe that faculty and staff realize that these meetings accomplish very little. If the school were concerned with proper sexual health education, they would be giving it to the underclassmen as they start to mature into boarding school life.
Now I realize that as the “COVID class,” seniors have missed what the school referred to as comprehensive sex-ed. However, rather than starting from square one, I believe that these X-block meetings should meet seniors where they are, so to speak. Last year, the Opinion page ran an article expressing concern about the lack of structured conversation around sexual contact on campus. The author said that the limited Wayfinder conversations about contraceptives were not sufficient enough to count as comprehensive or even as a serious discussion surrounding anatomy and sex.
At the first of the “Healthy Relationships and Sexual Health” sessions with eleventh graders and seniors, the lawyers who spoke to us about consent framed sex as transactional. Their “everyone’s a potential liar” perspective is incredibly harmful to adolescent development, undermining the emotional aspect of nearly every scenario they hurled at the student body.
School policy does very little to combat this. Sex is a subject on campus that needs to be handled both sensitively and with care, not lumped into hour-long sessions on the anatomy of a penis. We have to take into account that there is a difference between proactive and reactive, and these sessions feel as if they fall into the latter category. This is a pattern displayed in daily student life. On weekends, couples are nearly hunted down with golf carts and flashlights, making campus into an arena of fear and embarrassment. This is transparently a humiliation tactic. It is not only dangerous but a violation of respect between teens and their school.
While I understand that Mercersburg cannot openly condone sexual contact, their methods of dealing with the reality of campus is frankly embarrassing. They are archaic and patronizing all at once. If there is truly concern about educating the student body on sexual health and healthy relationships, there would be time taken to listen and develop a real curriculum, rather than relying on fear mongering by lawyers and their “gray area” stories, hypotheticals about this-and-that, and vague punishment. Students see through this facade, and we deserve more.