Let them have sex

SPU’s standards of conduct create an unhealthy environment for students

Aubrey Rhoadarmer, Staff Writer


Illustration by Gabrialla Cockerell

Seattle Pacific University’s Student Standards of Conduct include the infamous “lifestyle expectations;” two short sentences that feel a little outdated and a lot like a violation of student’s privacy.

These lifestyle expectations prohibit “sexual activity outside of a married relationship” and “cohabitation between two persons in an amorous relationship who are not married to each other.”

It is not the business of a university who their students live with or if they’re having sex.

According to Seattle Pacific University, these standards of conduct are “intended to provide a positive learning environment, promote the intellectual, social, spiritual, and physical well-being of students, and facilitate character formation.”

This statement is a slap in the face to the student body. If Seattle Pacific really wanted to promote their students’ “well-being” they would remove these rules from the code of conduct and encourage students to love the bodies God has given them. 

Being able to seek treatment for sexually transmitted diseases on campus without fear of repercussions would promote students’ physical well-being. Learning how to have healthy relationships through experience would promote their social well-being. Embracing their bodies and everything God made them do would promote their spiritual well-being.

Primarily, these rules create an incredibly sex-negative environment. As a university that is heavily connected with the First Free Methodist Church, there is a strong Christian influence on campus. Unfortunately, the Christian church isn’t exactly known for promoting sexual health. Pushing “abstinence only” is the hallmark of the Christian community, as can be seen through SPU’s code of conduct.

Preaching abstinence can have dire mental effects on developing brains. Dr. Tina Schermer Sellers, a former professor at SPU, has been researching the Christian purity movement for years. Sellers found that students who grew up in this abstinence-only culture exhibit negative psychological effects. They experience shame about sex and fear around the human body. These feelings can affect future relationships, and lead to other mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety.

Is this what SPU wants for its students?

Aside from the sex-negative environment created by these restrictions, they also create an awkward relationship between Resident Advisors and their residents. No RA wants to have to knock on their resident’s door and ask them to “stop getting it on, please.”

The sexual lives of students’ have nothing to do with their ability to learn, and their ability to be positive members of the SPU community.

The second half of the lifestyle expectations prohibits the “cohabitation between two persons in an amorous relationship who are not married to each other.” In other words, people in romantic relationships with one another are not allowed to live together.

Clearly, this rule assumes that living together equals sex, which isn’t necessarily true. Living together, especially with a partner with whom you are in a romantic relationship, can build character. And SPU is all about facilitating “character formation”, at least according to their code of conduct. 

Learning compromise and fiscal responsibility are important parts of life and can be taught through the experience of living with another person. Living with a significant other can also help students learn how to approach conflict in a healthy and relationship-building way.

Especially during a pandemic when many students can not live on campus, living off-campus with a significant other may be safer for them than living at home with a parent. SPU’s code of conduct assumes that every student has a safe place to live, which is naive and irresponsible.

And if students don’t follow the rules, they will be subject to so-called disciplinary action, which can potentially include a fine. Threatening students concerning their personal lives, which have nothing to do with SPU, is not the way to create a loving and inclusive environment.

God did not create humans to be ashamed. He created us to love, and to learn, and to live. But these lifestyle expectations are promoting the complete opposite: distrust and humiliation. Do better, SPU.