A new route for sex dialogue

JULIANNE STRIBIAK | Staff Reporter

Do you have a sex-related question you may be uncomfortable asking?

Butler University students can ask sex-related questions to the BrdsNBz text service to receive an answer from a trained educator.

Monique Hensley is the program manager of Health Care Education and Training, which offers the text service, and said that BrdsNBz was started after talking to parents and youth about their discussions concerning sexual health, or lack thereof.

The BrdsNBz text service provides an outlet to ask such questions, especially if students do not have a trusted adult in their lives or any way of getting factual information.

Junior Hannah Webster said she is wary about talking about sex-related questions with certain people, but is completely comfortable talking to her friends.

“One-hundred percent comfortable. There’s no filter about sex with my friends,” Webster said.

Webster said she does not feel the same about talking to a doctor or school nurse.

“Hell no, because there’s too many students who work all in the school,” Webster said. “Especially at the HRC, and I don’t want them to ever see my file.”

Dr. Maria Fletcher of Student Health Services said she has different view.

“In my experience, most students, after they have established a caring relationship with their healthcare provider, are not embarrassed to talk about sexual health or other sex-related questions,” Fletcher said. “I think the most important job I have working at Butler University is to allow the students to feel open to ask me anything, and hopefully they will feel that I do not judge their choices or the sexual circumstances they find themselves facing.”

Junior Ashley Garrett said she agrees with Webster’s line of thought.

“I do have many sex questions that I would be uncomfortable asking most people,” Garrett said. “I don’t feel comfortable talking to the school nurse because I feel a little awkward.”

Hensley said the text service is anonymous and allows an infinite number of questions.

“The response through text messaging might not take into account the moral values of the student, and it can be less personal,” Fletcher said. “I think it’s important that the information or advice (students) get is non-judgmental, but at the same time it is also encouraging healthy sexual habits and maintenance of a safe sexual environment.”

A question proposed on the BrdsNBz text service is what is done if a question is submitted indicating a young person in crisis or some type of sexual abuse.

“We do have a measure in place called our red flag protocol,” Hensley said. ”If we see there’s a person in crisis or they’re reporting an illegal activity, then the people who are actually running the service on the back end identify that person and then contact the appropriate people in that person’s community.”

Hensley said there have been no such reported cases so far.

Webster said it is important to talk about sexual health, and young people should not have sex until they can understand all the risks but also all the pleasure that come along with it.

“This is the time that you realize that you are indeed a sexual being with sexual thoughts and desires, and the opportunities to experience yourself sexually is available to you,” Fletcher said. “This is the most important time to know what pleases you sexually and how you behave sexually with another person.

“You are in contact with other students who have different opinions and experiences about sexuality and you can then decide for yourself who you are sexually and how you are going to experience sex for yourself safely,” Fletcher said.

In regard to students practicing safe sex on campus, Webster and Garrett both said they believe few students actually do.

“A lot of people here feel that they’re above everything, so bad things can’t happen to them,” Webster said. “So they’re stupid enough to believe they can’t get pregnant or an STD or whatever comes with not having safe sex.”

Fifteen to 24 year olds make up one quarter of the sexually active population, but account for half of the 20 million STDs diagnosed in the U.S., Hensley said.

With that being said, this is why gaining information about sexual health is so important, Hensley said.

“If you don’t get all of the information and accurate information, then you’re not going to be able to make the best decisions for yourself,” Hensley said. “The message is always ‘don’t do it, sex is bad,’ ‘wait until you’re married,’ whatever. We’re not giving them the whole picture, and that’s what I think is still so important.”

“Studies show effective youth-parent communication is a protective factor, with these youth less likely to engage in risky behaviors or have unhealthy relationships,” Hensley said.

Because many students are away from home during college, this is the time that parents are not around to guide students through the options that are availablethem, Fletcher said.

“I think (BrdsNBz) would be a good start to answering the sexual questions, but I would hate to think that it would be the only way or the end to the dialogue,” Fletcher said.

Butler provides gynecological examinations, sexually transmitted infections screenings, and gynecologic issue evaluations as well as issues in male health, Fletcher said.

Butler Health Services also orders oral contraceptives.

In the meantime, students can text their sex-related questions to BrdsNBz and expect an answer within 24 hours, or more typically about 90 minutes, Hensley said.

To use the BrdsNBz text service, text indyteen to 66746, or visit HCET.org.

Standard texting rates apply.

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