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Condom Distribution Stimulates Discussion - Letter to the Heights Editor

We, members of BC Students for Sexual Health, were intrigued by the arguments presented regarding the act of handing out condoms in Monday's editorial (October 5, 2009). It is true: passing quickly by does not necessarily encourage dialogue. But continuing into your article, we felt that your arguments did not address lack of dialogue, but rather themselves disengaged from the underlying philosophy of BCSSH.

Indeed, BC as a private Jesuit university reserves the legal right to withhold certain products from its students on campus. Boston College's views on the sanctity of the body are well understood by the members of our group and are a major facet of many of our personal reasons for joining the cause. That being said, what we observe is a disconnect between the ideals of the Church and the realities of the lives of students. Most of our peers possess at least some basic sexual health knowledge; unfortunately, the task of being sexually healthy—a private choice which exists outside of the governance of our institution—is made more challenging by the lack of access to necessary resources. Just as BC does not concern itself with these private decisions—often deemed taboo by the lack of open discussion and dialogue on campus—BC Students for Sexual Health does not concern itself with Catholic policies that we feel limit the individual choices of our student body.

We have therefore decided to deconstruct this reality of constrained personal choice by providing resources for our peers. As subversive as the act of passing out condoms is made to sound in your article—degraded as the distribution of a "thin piece of Latex"—it lays the foundation for dialogue on campus, removing the shame surrounding a natural facet of humanity. Without us, there is almost no dialogue on sexual health on campus. Your article did not include what we, as distributors, see every week: the students who, condom and fact sheet in hand, turn to their friends and begin to ask questions—why are these materials banned on campus? What are the implications of this ban for my personal sexual health, considering the frightening statistics about STIs? What are the implications for a university which chooses to ignore those facts? Conversations like these were not nearly as apparent before the spring of 2009, when 89.47% of the voting student body called for BC to improve its sexual health policies by allowing distribution of condoms, access to birth control at health services, and free STI testing on campus—as well as to provide for dialogue on these pertinent issues.

But if, after hearing this, you still feel that the conversation initiated by the weekly condom distributions is not enough, allow us to remind you of our previous programming. In April 2009, there were two events to raise dialogue about sexuality; the first, “Sexuality, Intimacy, and the Catholic Tradition,” involved both a panel and Q&A between professors, Jesuits, and students, while the second featured Boston University professor and theologian Donna Freitas discussing her book, Sex and the Soul: Juggling Sexuality, Spirituality, Romance, and Religion on America's College Campuses. Though you now speak of a lack of dialogue, The Heights reported on both of these events (April 2, 2009: “Panel Addresses Sexual Health”; April 24, 2009: “Reconciling Spirituality and Sex”), making it difficult to argue that our organization “relegate[s] [sexual health] to the physical act of intimacy.” We are currently planning similar events for this semester. BCSSH preserves the link between spirituality and sexuality, taking the Jesuit motto “men and women for others” to heart in our efforts to protect our fellow students. It is possible to reconcile Catholic tradition with physical sexuality, as has been done at such Catholic institutions as Georgetown, Loyola University-Chicago, and University of San Francisco. It can also be done here.

In conclusion, we would like to comment on the exceptionally narrow-minded simile used in your article: "Just like someone who helps another student cheat on a homework assignment, this organization is preparing students for a non-reality." Our organization serves our student body with the reality of sexual intercourse in mind. We are highly disturbed by the notion that raising awareness and providing resources is considered akin to helping a friend cheat. Cheating on a test is a dishonest act that undermines personal integrity; if the "test" is an intimate sexual act, then the only cheating or degrading of such an act would be to perform it under unsafe circumstances, without consent or protection. We thus promote safety on campus to help students reflect on their sexuality, their choices, and how to treat both with integrity.