Now Reading
What Sexual Standards Policy?

What Sexual Standards Policy?

Responses from Students Suggest that WWU’s Prohibition of Premarital Sex Further Encourages Taboo of The Topic 

By Annaliese Grellmann 

When students come to Walla Walla University, they agree to abide by the student code of conduct which includes a prohibition on academic dishonesty, destruction of property, possession of firearms, aggressive behavior, and having sex. [1] 

According to the WWU Student Handbook, the “Sexual Standards Policy” is a reflection of the Adventist Church’s conviction that marriage is “a lifelong union between a man and a woman.” The handbook states that “in keeping with this conviction, we expect students to refrain from premarital and extramarital sexual relationships.” [2] 

Dave Thomas, professor of practical theology and apologetics, explained in an interview that “Christians have believed that God created human sexuality for two main purposes: one was for procreation… and the other is to create a bond between a husband and a wife.” He pointed out that “sexual activity outside of marriage does harm to both of those main purposes.” [3] 

The majority of what is prohibited by the student code of conduct is behavior that causes outward chaos and harm. When asked why premarital sex was included in this list of prohibitions, Thomas said, “I suspect it’s merely an attempt to prescribe behaviors that have been traditionally Christian. To me, this whole idea of prohibiting things is a very interesting idea because for must human beings, when you prohibit something, you produce rebellion.” [4] 

He went on to say that “the real question to me is, how do you gain the willing compliance of an audience? Because willing compliance means that a person will not engage in activity in x, y, or z, but they will do it by their own choice, not because they’re afraid of penalty.” [5] 

Does this policy have any effect on students’ behavior? According to a poll on The Collegian Instagram account, of the 105 respondents, 29 said they were sexually active. [6] When asked if they were aware of the University’s “Sexual Standards Policy,” 75 of the 135 respondents said they were, yet only 12 of 92 respondents said that this policy affects their decision making. [7] 

Although the students interviewed for this article were willing to go on the record, due to the University’s policy and the social stigma surrounding the nature of this topic, The Collegian chose to omit the students’ names. 

Anonymous student one said that the policy makes him selective about who is and is not aware of his choice to be sexually active. [8] He said, “I choose who knows about it carefully because a lot of people are going to look at my choices and my experience and be like, ‘Alright, this person sucks because they chose to have sex,’ instead of being like, ‘They can do what they want because it’s their choice.’”  

The importance of individual choice surrounding the decision to be sexually active was affirmed by anonymous student two, who said, “Your decision to become sexually active is your own. You should not feel ashamed to stay a virgin until marriage and you should not feel ashamed to hook up with seven different guys a week. Your choice is your own and that should not be interfered with.” [9]  

Anonymous student two grew up in an Adventist home and said that she was taught “Abstinence, abstinence, abstinence.” [10] Now, she views sex as a way to gain confidence and embrace her sexuality. She said, “When I have sex, I am embracing the fact that I am a woman and I am capable of making my own decisions.” She explained that there is confidence that comes from hookup culture through learning how to create boundaries and communicating with a partner what you are and are not comfortable with. She acknowledged, however, that “if pursued for a long time it can become toxic.”  

Professor Thomas warned of the damage that can be caused by “uncommitted and disconnected sex.” He said, “There is a mysteriousness to sexuality that we ignore. We pretend it doesn’t exist. I would almost call it a transcendent element to a person’s sex. You see this mostly when a person has been misused sexually and you see the damage they suffer. Many people struggle for a long time to recover from a sexual experience that was done against their will or in adverse circumstances. That’s the backside of the mysterious nature of sexuality.” [11] 

Anonymous student three said that being “a little bit sexually involved” in high school reaffirmed what he was taught about sex growing up: that it was something wonderful and intimate that bonds you to another person. [12] He said, “It’s one thing to be actually told something and it’s another thing to experience what you are taught. Then you go, ‘Oh, that’s actually correct advice.’”  

See Also

Why are people so afraid to talk about sex? Thomas said, “If you look across human society, there are all kinds of taboos associated with sexual behavior… I’m not sure people can explain why those rules exist other than that everybody knows that there’s this mysterious element to sexuality that needs to be protected.” [13] He went on to say, “In almost every case they are protecting something significant in society, even though the rationale behind the taboo may no longer exist.”  

Despite the spectrum of beliefs regarding sexuality, in every interview, each person spoke about the damage that comes from society’s inability to have comfortable conversations about sex.  

 “The evidence of social damage is huge,” Thomas said, “it’s a remarkable thing that we never look at what happens to the lower strata of society when there’s no prohibition on drugs or on promiscuity. They’re the ones who pay the biggest price because if you’re rich you can give your child up for adoption, you can have an abortion and nobody will know… technologies can limit the damage, but the poor people pay a very high price.” [14] 

Anonymous student two believes that the lack of sexual education, how to have sex safely, and even what sex is, leaves people, especially in the Adventist community, at a disadvantage. [15] Sex “should never be a taboo topic because without any knowledge on it, it can be the most dangerous topic. People who don’t know what they’re talking about when it comes down to sex usually pervert what it’s intended to be.” 

Taboos shut down conversation, and without conversation, everyone suffers. Without conversation, rationale is lost, and Christians become unable to defend their sexual ethic, which Thomas noted has ultimately led to a breakdown of a uniform Christian sexual ethic. [16] For everyone, a taboo surrounding sex results in greater consequences: more unplanned pregnancies, STIs, emotional abuse, and physical violence. Taboos also cause shame, which further discourages conversation, entrenching society deeper in this damaging cycle.  

When it comes to sex, everyone benefits when we remember what anonymous student three said, which is that sex is “a very important part of being human and anything that is an important part of being human should be discussed.” [17] 

References: 

  1. Walla Walla University. (2020). Student Code of Conduct. https://bit.ly/2NmvYt2.    
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Interview with Dave Thomas. 2/16/21. 
  1. Ibid. 
  1. Ibid 
  1. Instagram poll conducted by @aswwucollegian, 2/17/21. 
  1. Ibid 
  1. Interview with anonymous student one. 2/18/21. 
  1. Interview with anonymous student two. 2/18/21. 
  1. Ibid.  
  1. Interview with Dave Thomas. 2/16/21. 
  1. Interview with anonymous student three. 2/19/21. 
  1. Interview with Dave Thomas. 2/16/21. 
  1. Ibid.  
  1. Interview with anonymous student two. 2/18/21. 
  1. Interview with Dave Thomas. 2/16/21. 
  1. Interview with anonymous student three. 2/19/21. 
View Comments (0)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll To Top