This week, a collaboration between peer health educators, the Yale College Council, and University Health Services has brought condoms to our doorsteps. Or, nearly to our doorsteps. Peer health educators announced Sunday that they would be putting condoms in all the residential college entryways, expanding the previous condom distribution plan that provided them in all freshmen entryways. For years, freshmen have had access to condoms in their dorms, where freshmen counselors make available the free condoms UHS provides for that purpose. But for upperclassmen living in their colleges, prophylactics were harder to come by. Students could go to a peer health educator, if they knew any, make the trek to UHS, or actually buy their own.
But it’s about time that all students had access to the same conveniences freshmen are given by rote. We wonder what the logic was that prompted condoms to be placed only in freshmen entryways to begin with, since it seems like upperclassmen are even more likely to be having sex. The decision to put condoms only in the entryways of freshmen was likely spurred by the reasoning that upperclassmen could be responsible enough to get their own condoms. And largely, we are. But there’s no reason that condoms shouldn’t be even more accessible. Since UHS said the new condom distribution won’t cost any more than providing them at UHS did, there seems no reason not to make them equally available to all students. Unless you believe, as the U.S. government does, that just living in the immediate proximity of condoms is likely to release an unstoppable tide of sexual activity.
Indeed, it seems like an unlikely time for making sex even more visible. As President George W. Bush advocates abstinence-only education, Yale is making a concerted effort to provide its students with all the facts and resources they need — rather than just selected ones. Abstinence-only programs have been shown to not only be ineffective at reducing sexual activity, but have also been linked to increasing rates of sexually transmitted diseases and unintended pregnancies. There may be concern that having condoms so visible and accessible may make abstinent students feel uncomfortable. But students are still capable of making their own choices, just as they were before condoms appeared in the entryways, and making sexuality more transparent can only be a positive change.
Of course, as the very careful administration has said, we’re neither endorsing nor condemning sex itself. But given the realities of living on a college campus, it makes sense to make condoms more available. Having condoms so close at hand will eliminate excuses and, because they will be in all students’ entryways, it will make it difficult to place the responsibility for sexual protection solely on one partner.
The new condom distribution plan is typical of a university that makes sexual issues visible and dialogue comfortable. Sex Week, Sexual Health Week, Take Back the Night, and the new Transgender Week all force students to address sexual matters rather than ignore them. This is an institution of higher learning. We should learn how to handle sexuality — not deny it.