SPU: Let’s talk about sex

Charlie Lahud-Zahner


A famous section from Seattle Pacific University’s Student Standards of Conduct reads:

“Behaviors for which students or student organizations are subject to disciplinary action include, but are not limited to, the following: … Sexual activity outside of a married relationship. Cohabitation between two persons in an amorous relationship who are not married to each other is also prohibited.”

This section is better known as SPU’s “lifestyle expectations.” The “no sex” rule has been, rightfully, the subject of debate and criticism amongst the student body.

Enforcement of the rule seems nebulous and poorly defined, and actual discovery of offenders seems impossible. For more on this policy, consider reading Bella Tollestrup-Wimbish’s “Restricting sex on/off campus.”

I am not as focused on exposing the absurdity of these sections within the Student Standards of Conduct. I am more interested in exploring how it encourages an unhealthy relationship with sexual intercourse and cohabitation.

SPU should realize that they have no business interfering in the personal lives of students. The lifestyle expectations position sex as a four-letter word. It implicitly labels sex as profane, sinful and as something that if we don’t talk about, it will presumably cease to exist.

According to the National Survey of Family Growth (NSFG), the average age for losing one’s virginity in the United States is 17. Meanwhile, SPU (and a large portion of the Christian church) pretends that there are no faithful Christian, adult college students who choose to be sexually active.

Although premarital sex is likely less common at SPU than other colleges, it is clear that sex still exists amongst the student body at a school that appears vehemently opposed to it.

The existence of sex at SPU was most prominently revealed by the Stranger article, “The Secret Sex Lives of SPU Students,” published in 2011. The article featured testimonies of students who admitted to having sex in Crawford Music Hall, a bathroom in Otto Miller Hall, the prayer room located on each floor of every dorm, and being physically intimate within the airy confines of the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery just north of the Ashton Lot, among other locations.

So yes. Sex happens on and off-campus. So why should SPU be in the business of creating a stigma for Christian students to engage in a personal act that is both healthy and affects no one but themselves and their partner?

“Sexual activity out of a married relationship,” is a global reality. Controlling premarital sex through using guilt as a tool should not be our response. SPU’s feeble attempt to police the sex lives of students teaches that while administrators may not catch you in the act, students should know to feel shame about having (or thinking about) sex.

Alex Kibbie, a junior economics major, shared a similar sentiment about how he was taught about sex growing up. “I always felt like it [sex] was evil, like all these desires were evil. I still feel ashamed of it. But I shouldn’t, because I was born to have these desires.”

Kibbie emphasized a similar sentiment that was shared through the testimonies given in the Stranger: Why should we feel bad about feeling sexual if we were made in God’s image?

SPU’s lifestyle expectations oppress students’ sexuality and has the potential to stunt development of sexual identity for SPU students.

Sexual health and sexual expression should not be topics to hide or to ban. Sex, in the midst of its potential for pleasure or pain, needs to be understood more fully if we are to overcome the moral panic that has surrounding premarital sex.

To avoid understanding sex and sexuality is to avoid understanding a significant portion of one’s identity. Pretending that sex is unhealthy and nonexistent creates an irrational fear of our sexual selves and encourages judgment of those who are sexually active.

It is in the best interest of its students if SPU removed their insulting ban on cohabitation and sex on/off campus, and replaced it with education, something a university should be inherently interested in.  

I would suggest taking “Human Sexuality” to learn more about sexual identity, but that is not a course offered at SPU.

Clearly, there are several steps that must be taken in order for our university to fully embrace the identities of their students, and support them in a way that creates a space for them to flourish.