An article titled “Too Much Sex on Campus” from the Jan/Feb 1964 issue of Ladies Home Journal brought to mind my own days at a state university not too long ago. While the University of Arizona campus has a beautiful backdrop, with the Catalina mountains to the north, and the green desert lush with Saguaro cacti in full bloom during the summer, there was something darker inside the buildings, something that has become all too common on college campuses nowadays: a growing number of pregnant girls who are unmarried and not in stable relationships. This may sound like nothing to some people, but the problem is that these girls are in college to supposedly get an education, not have sex with boys. Given the fact that a higher education is far from cheap nowadays, facing the possibility of dropping out of college can be costly, not just in dollar signs, but also in terms of brainpower for many industries and corporations that need the talents of young women who can make such contributions. The fact is, women outnumber men on college campuses, and also major in fields traditionally dominated by men (math and science). But once a young woman who shows promise ends up pregnant by a guy she will never see ever again, well, then there is a serious problem.
During my stay at the University of Arizona I discovered that many girls do not learn the realities about sex. One thing they do learn is that it is “pleasurable” for women (is that why our upstairs neighbor used to scream bloody murder whenever she was visiting her boyfriend, who lived up there?) but as for the reproductive part, well, maybe it is safe to say they didn’t do so well in high school biology, if they took biology at all. One significant story about a pregnant classmate is worth recounting: a young Asian girl who sat next to me in one class, was visibly pregnant during that semester, always seemed to have a worried look on her face. The kind of look that said, “My father is going to kill me when he finds out I am pregnant and my boyfriend just dropped me for another girl.” That thought is scary for any 19 year old women in college. But what made matters worse was this: the woman who sat in front of me (I can only guess she tried to be sympathetic but went about it the wrong way) told the pregnant girl, “How exciting! You’re pregnant! You’re going to have a baby!” as if having a baby was some sort of compensation for the poor girl’s boyfriend deserting her. Of course, the girl could only muster a weak smile and a “You do not know what it is like, my father will kill me.” It is entirely possible the girl had no knowledge of birth control, maybe no access to birth control on the campus, and no access for any other solutions available to her (Planned Parenthood). Again, all I could see was that this poor student who probably had high aspirations in school, evidently wanted to please her family and become successful, now had a monkey wrench tossed into the works: a pregnancy to contend with. Pregnancy is never easy for any young girl, especially those who have fallen victim to negative ideas about men.
What are these negative ideas about men? Thinking that if these girls have sex with their boyfriend, that they are somehow “keeping” the guy (nothing could be further from the truth; once a girl gets pregnant, the guy is not likely to stay with the girl), that they are now the guy’s property (this actually devalues the girl in question), and that having sex with a guy on campus will actually boost their esteem (the opposite happens here: the girl, not having any self respect, ends up with even lower esteem). The Ladies Home Journal article further documents individual cases of young girls who have been in similar situations, but even mentions another risk these girls are taking: being expelled from school. Vasser College was one such school that stated if female students continued to play hanky-panky, they would have to withdraw from school, since Vasser is a school that prided itself on academics for women, not sexual liaisons with male students. Back in the 1960’s when many campuses had co-ed dorms for the first time, problems were bound to arise. Contrary to popular belief that males and females can share co-ed dorms without any sexual tensions rising, the opposite has happened: an increase in sexual behavior, pregnancies, not to mention STD’s and nowadays, AIDS/HIV. But for many of these young girls, pregnancy is only next to the emotional problems of the heartbreak, the “Why did he say I should have sex with him if I loved him, only for him to leave me?” Talk about a lack of emotional support! Young women who have no support from themselves certainly cannot seek support from the young men who try to sweet talk and sooth talk them into having sex. But that is another whole problem in itself which is worthy of attention here: why should these girls fall for such guys, who could easily pass for greasy haired, used car salesmen?
Many girls fall for sweet talking, smooth talking guys due to the low self esteem they were raised with. Taught to think they were not as good as men, therefore their natural dependency upon men, is what leads many young women to seek a man who can raise their esteem. However, a positive sense of self esteem can only come from within, never without. Having sex with a guy in college does nothing for a woman’s esteem in a positive manner, but it does cause her certain problems in the future, not to mention her future relationships with men. The Ladies Home Journal article further states that girls who become sexually active during their educational years will also have difficulty in developing a close, emotional relationship with the man they plan on marrying due to sexual promiscuity. As the article asks, “Can sex before marriage be an act of love? Almost never.” which rings true for so many college girls, and nowadays, high school girls who are sexually active. Young girls who engage in sexual activity do not have the maturity to handle the consequences of their behavior. Things have not changed much since 1964, for even Bristol Palin, the daughter of Sarah Palin, has admitted to being too immature to have sex when she gave birth to her son Tripp. As with other cases, Bristol’s boyfriend did his own “disappearing act” which showed immaturity on his part too, in being sexually active.
Maybe it is time for colleges – and high schools – to have programs not just on the serious consequences of early sexual activity, but also on the self esteem and positive development of girls, teaching girls that not only are they complete human beings unto themselves with no need for male dependency, but also that they have what it takes to succeed in their career without having to “sleep their way to the top.” This would definitely cut down on teen pregnancies for sure, and at the same time repair the social fabric which has deteriorated over the past half century due to the sexually promiscuous behavior of young college and high school students.
“Too Much Sex on Campus”, by Judge Jennie Loitman Barron. Ladies Home Journal, Jan/Feb 1964. p. 48-52.