The Changing Nature of Sexual Health in the 1980s

          Throughout the 1980s, the Emory Wheel published multiple articles about the ignorance of college students in regard to their knowledge about sexual health and their dismissive attitude toward contraceptive pills.  A Gallup Poll conducted in 1986 found that college students either do not know much about birth control, or they pass it up because it is “unromantic.”  A poll taken of more than 600 students at 100 campuses found that 32 percent of those surveyed believed withdrawal would protect women from pregnancy.  The same study also revealed that 60 percent of the students had some sex education in high school, but half said that they could have used more (“Students” 11).  One can infer that a lack of sexual education was leading students to have little inhibitions about having unprotected sex and the consequences that result in doing so were not discouraging many.
            It did not surprise me that in a survey taken of college students approximately 80 percent responded that they have engaged in sexual intercourse, yet only one-third report that they regularly use condoms (Abbey, 469).  It seems logical that researchers would try to find a link between this irresponsible behavior and the use of alcohol.   The American College Health Association in 2005 reported that 16 percent of a national sample of college students reported that they had had sex without a condom when intoxicated during the past school year.  Before even reading it, though, I saw a problem with conducting this study.  I am not sure how this can be an accurate representation of how alcohol and condom use are linked due to the nature of the survey.  Questions would have to be asked after the encounter occurred and there are many other variables that have to be taken into consideration.  One’s personality is a huge contributing factor, where things such as impulsivity and pleasure seeking may cause one to both heavily drink and engage in unprotected sex (Abbey, 469).
            Amongst the industrialized countries, the United States has one of the highest rates of teenage pregnancies. From 1940 to 1957, the teen birth rate increased 78 percent to a record high.  The birth rate dropped fairly steadily from the end of the 1950s through the mid-1980s, but then increased 24 percent between 1986 and 1991.  The U.S. teen birth rate declined 9 percent from 2009 to 2010, reaching a historic low at 34.3 births per 1,000 women aged 15–19; the rate dropped 44 percent from 1991 through 2010 (Hamilton and Ventura, 1).  Through my research in the Emory Wheel, teenage pregnancy was an epidemic that was sweeping the nation in the 1980s.  Before most male students enter into college, nearly half of them are sexually active and nearly one-third of female students are active.  Of these teenage girls who engage in intercourse, only fourteen percent report using any form of contraceptive during their first encounter (“Teenage” 8).  This coupled with an overall lack of sexual education is a dangerous situation for college students to be in.
            It now makes sense that we see a proliferation of birth control and condom ads in the 1980 Emory Wheels.  Not only was the 1980s one of the peaks of teen pregnancy, this is also when AIDS became widely publicized in the US.  The SGA launched a campaign in 1988 to distribute 1,000 free condoms on campus (“SGA”).  There was also a push made for increased sexual education classes in Emory’s curriculum.  The threat of AIDS prompted colleges in 1987 to put condom vending machines on campuses (“AIDS” 1).  College students at the University of Texas were smart to pick up on the contraceptive trend and created a condom delivery service that was available twenty four seven (“University” 8).   The 1980s offers us a glimpse in the transition of contraceptive use in the US.  It is evident that in the beginning of the decade, a lack of knowledge contributed to high teen pregnancy rates and STIs.  It is unfortunate that it took events such as the spread of AIDS and increased pregnancies to motivate college campuses to act in a more responsible manner in their approach toward education and publicity of contraceptive methods.
Abbey, Antonia, Michele Parkhill, Phillip Buck, and Christopher Saenz. “Condom Use With a Casual Partner: What Distinguishes College Students’ Use When Intoxicated.”  Speaking of Sexuality: Interdisciplinary Readings. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. 468-477.
“AIDS Threat Prompts Colleges to Add Condom Vending Machines.” The Emory Wheel 22 September 1987, 1.
Hamilton, Bradly and Stephanie Ventura. “Birth Rates for U.S. Teenagers Reach Historic Lows for All Age and Ethnic Groups.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. April 2012. CDC. 28 October 2012
“Students Shun Birth Control.” The Emory Wheel Atlanta 16 September 1986, 11.
“SGA Talks Condoms, WMRE at Meeting.” The Emory Wheel 18 November 1988.
 “Teenage Pregnancy is Largely Attributed to Ignorance.” The Emory Wheel 12 September 1986, 8.
“University of Texas Condom Company Creates Controversy.” The Emory Wheel Atlant 5 Decemeber 1986, 8.

2 thoughts on “The Changing Nature of Sexual Health in the 1980s

  1. The Block: Great job bringing together so many different references. Remember that if you are citing articles you found in MARBL you should post images of them so your readers can get an understanding of what the whole article was about. You have a bunch here, so if you feel like posting them all would be too much, at least post one or two that would really help us understand the argument the publications are making.

    In your post you say: “Questions would have to be asked after the encounter occurred and there are many other variables that have to be taken into consideration.” Can you be more clear here? What are the other variables that should be taken into consideration?

  2. How do I post pictures, I tried to for this post but could not figure it out….

    other factors:

    One’s personality is a huge contributing factor, where things such as impulsivity and pleasure seeking may cause one to both heavily drink and engage in unprotected sex (Abbey, 469).

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