A response to Rottman’s opposition to an openness about sex

Being open about sexual experiences does not contribute to rape culture

In his piece “Openness about sex has gone too far,” Dominic Rottman seems to have asked himself all the right questions regarding sex on campus. But, he came up with the wrong answers. He asks, “Am I projecting the ethics and norms under which I was raised on others?” I would argue that the answer is yes. This sentiment is key to dismantling Dominic’s harmful argument. The norms under which he was raised describe a situation where a sexualized lifestyle is not to be desired. This is a norm that contributes to sexual assaults and harassments in the U.S. The “ethics” that Rottman was raised under perpetuate this harmful norm.

A closed sexual culture doesn’t allow people to address how they feel about sex. Additionally, it doesn’t allow us to talk about what sex is supposed to be like. This creates a problem. If no one tells you what consensual sex is supposed to be like, then how would you know what it looks like? You wouldn’t. This problem extends to romance. If you don’t know what you or your partner likes, how can you be fulfilled in a sexual relationship? You can’t. If we don’t talk about sex and instead create a community where sex is something to be done shamefully in the dark, then we’re keeping a vital part of ourselves bottled up.

But not only does this idea of sexual repression contribute to higher sexual assault counts, it also leads to another unnecessary evil: abstinence-only sex ed. States that mandate abstinence-only sex ed have more teen pregnancies than states that have a comprehensive sex ed program. The bottling up of sexual experience is the result of a type of education that causes more harm than good.

The fact that the students at Vanderbilt are finally talking about sex is commendable. Being open about sex is something this country and this university has a hard time doing as it is. We’ve finally hit a point where we can start to normalize sex on campus. That’s a huge milestone; one that will lead to reduced sexual assault. We need to drop the harmful idea that having sexual experiences makes you less professional and less deserving of respect than someone who doesn’t seek out sexual experiences.

Courtney Sanders is a first-year in the College of Arts and Science. She can be reached at courtney.b.sanders@vanderbilt.edu.