Emerald Ridge High School’s student newspaper, the JagWire, recently published a set of featured articles centering on oral sex, and now the newspaper is under fire. Having read the four pages of material, I feel the students attempted to shed light on a topic, a potentially life-threatening topic, which no one else wanted to mention. A journalist’s job is to initiate conversation and to bring to light issues often left in the dark. The JagWire writers did just this.
One article detailed how more than 1/3 of the students at Emerald Ridge have engaged in oral sex activities. This information came from a survey of more than 600 students, which leads me to believe that more than the 34% who admitted their activities may have also engaged in these acts since students are often known to hide their behaviors even in anonymity.
This article also noted that the sexual education classes provided do not adequately explain, and often do not mention, oral sex and how to protect oneself when engaged in this intimate act. Students seemed to indicate that oral sex did not count as sex in general; if intercourse did not occur, then the students did not count it as sex (possibly not even as sexual contact). The students surveyed additionally did not seem to connect sexually transmitted diseases with oral sex, a dangerous disconnection in my mind.
Another article explained the psychological effects of sexual activity, specifically oral sex, on the individuals involved. Following this article was one detailing the physiological effects occurring during sexual activity. The pervasiveness of sex on television is mentioned, noting that 64% of television programs contain sexual content of one type or another. Additionally, two students composed a “yes” and “no” counterpoint piece arguing whether oral sex should or should not be a part of a student’s relationship. The student reporters obviously conducted quite a bit of research and attempted to use scientific and statistical data to support their articles.
However, my suspicion is that all of this would have probably received less attention had not specific quotations from identified students been used. Students, mentioned by name, admitted their engagement in these activities, which puts a face to the stories. The stories are not about anonymous statistics and nameless numbers. Readers can literally point out a small number of students who admit their activities. Although the reporters obtained consent and tried to ensure only students 18 years of age were identified, I would venture a guess that parents and community members don’t feel comfortable seeing their “innocent” children’s faces attached to admissions.
I remember reading a statistic a few years ago stating that heterosexual women between 16 and 35 were the most at-risk group for contracting AIDS and other STDs, specifically because of oral sex. Not associating the diseases with these acts seems highly alarming to me.
At my high school this is also an issue and one which seems to be swept under the rug, dismissed as indecent to discuss. Still, students are engaging in these activities and often do not understand the possible ramifications.
I applaud the JagWire for its efforts and intentions, and I hope that the administration, school board, and community do not overreact and place heavy sanctions or restrictions on their abilities to report on the news and issues in their school. Their intent was valiant. The JagWire is a nationally recognized student newspaper, and I look forward to seeing these students continue their award-winning work unimpeded.