Sex lives of IUP students: Social media feed ‘hook-up culture’

A Civic Project story

Malinda M. Cowles, associate director, IUP Center for Student Life: “Students don’t get good information.”

By Brittany Malone

INDIANA — Andre J. Goddard, a junior at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, says he has had sex with four women since the start of the 2010-2011 academic year.

“School is stressful,” the journalism major said in an Oct 21 interview in the Hadley Union Building. “Sex is a release.”

Goddard is one of 90 IUP students who responded to an October 2010 survey of their sexual behaviors. (See survey sidebar, below.) He said he has had sex with 30 females since he became active at age 16. And he regularly gets tested for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

More than 1,000 of IUP’s 15,000 students were screened for STDs between September 2009 and September 2010, according to an email from Scott R. Gibson, health director at IUP’s Center for Health and Well-Being.

During that one-year period, the center performed 794 screenings for chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of the most common STDs, Gibson reported. Positive results were recorded in 52 screenings, a rate of 15 percent.

Students usually contract STDs because they engage in unsafe sexual behavior and they haven’t learned to take sexual responsibility for themselves, said Malinda M. Cowles, associate director at IUP’s Center for Student Life. Moreover, they have no scripts to refer to when it’s time to discuss STDs and safe sex with partners.

Goddard said talking about STDs and safe sex is a mood killer.

“I put a condom on,” said Goddard. “Hopefully, I’m safe.”

Goddard said he has hooked up with partners after meeting on Facebook and Twitter.

Melonie E. Stuckey, a junior interior design major, said she never has had a boyfriend. But she said she has had 12 sexual partners.

“I did the whole My Space, booty-call thing.” said Stuckey in an Oct. 21 interview in the Hadley Union Building.

Such connections are generational and “part of a hook-up culture,” said Cowles during a Sept. 29 interview in her office.

“If you’re having a casual sexual relationship, you have to be safe,” Cowles said.

Stuckey said she does not use condoms regularly.

“I guess I had a problem saying no,” Stuckey said. “I like to make people happy. So far, I’ve been safe.”

Stuckey said she was tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia in 2010. Both tests were negative.

Alexandra L. Rusnak, a freshman art education major, said she is a virgin and doesn’t plan to change her status anytime soon.

“I have morals,” said Rusnak during an Oct. 18 interview at the university library. “I’m not going to give it up to some random guy. It’s important to me.”

Rusnak said she is the only virgin among her siblings. And most of her friends are sexually active.

“I’m not ashamed of it,” said Rusnak. “But I think it contributes to my inability to keep or find a boyfriend.”

Rusnak said some college students engage in frivolous sex.

“It’s a contest for some people,” she said. “I’m pretty sure most college sex is regretted the next day.”

The fear of doing something she may regret keeps Rusnak from going out.

“My main issue is losing control,” said Rusnak. “I definitely don’t want to get pregnant or an STD.”

Cowles said sex education should separate the use of contraceptives and the prevention of STDs.  While birth-control pills may minimize the risk for pregnancy, they do nothing for the risk of an STD, such as herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV).

“Students don’t get good information,” said Cowles. “Students think condoms protect against STDs. But herpes and HPV are transmitted skin-to-skin. No penetration is needed.”

Goddard agreed that his sex educational wasn’t good.

“I never learned anything about sex, especially in high school,” said Goddard. “I learned mostly everything on YouTube.”

Brittany Malone, a journalism and fashion-merchandising major at IUP, graduated May 7, 2011. She is from West Mifflin.


Sidebar: College student sexuality, by the numbers

In 2007, one in four college students in the United States had a sexually transmitted disease or infection, according to Stanford University’s Sexual Health Peer Resource Center.

Chlamydia is the most prevalent STI in the United States, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control. Alcohol consumption increases risky sexual behavior, according to the CDC.

STIs are of two types — viral and bacterial — according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States, an organization that provides education and information about sexuality and reproductive health. SIECUS is funded by individual contributions, foundation grants and a cooperative agreement with the CDC.

Bacterial STIs, like chlamydia and gonorrhea, are curable with antibiotics and can be prevented by proper use of condoms. Viral infections, like human papillomavirus and hepatitis B, are not curable and can only be prevented when infected areas are covered directly by a condom.

Indiana County has recorded an increase in the number of chlamydia cases in the most recent years for which data are available, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. In 2005, 130 cases were reported in the county; in 2007, 156 cases were reported, an increase of 20 percent.

— Brittany Malone


Sidebar: The sex survey: How this story was reported

Between Oct. 4 and Oct. 15, 2010, a questionnaire about sexual behaviors was distributed to 120 Indiana University of Pennsylvania students in six academic buildings (Leonard Hall, Davis, Zink, Ackerman, Eberly and Keith), two residence halls (Suites on Pratt and Stephenson Hall) and Foster Dining Hall.

Ninety surveys were returned.

Students who indicated willingness to be interviewed for this story supplied their email addresses at the end of the questionnaire.

 — Brittany Malone


Sex survey results

Nearly half of survey respondents — 46 percent (42) — said they don’t use condoms during sex, according to a fall 2010 survey of 90 students at Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

Additional findings from survey respondents:

  • 70 percent (63) said they have had at least one sexual partner since the start of the fall 2010 semester
  • 38 percent (34) said they have had a one-night stand

The survey population included:

  • 22 seniors
  • 23 juniors
  • 17 sophomores
  • 28 freshmen
  • 38 males
  • 52 females

On a question about respondents’ race:

  • 48 answered
    white or Caucasian
  • 31 answered
    black or African-American
  • 7 students
    did not answer the question
  • 3 answered
  • 1 answered

— Brittany Malone


Sidebar: The sex-survey questionnaire

Following are questions on the fall 2010 IUP sex survey.

What year are you?
-Grad Student
Are you male or female?
What is your race?
How old were you when you started having oral sex?
How old were you when you started having vaginal sex?
How old were you when you started having anal sex?
How many sexual partners have you had since you’ve been an IUP student?
How many sexual partners have you had total?
How many sexual partners have you had since fall 2009 semester?
How many one-night stands have you had?
Have you ever had sex with someone you didn’t know?
Do you use condoms every time you have sex?
Have you ever had an STD?
If yes, what did you have?
After getting the STD, did you:
Increase use of condoms
Abstain from having sex
No change in activity


Sidebar: For more information

For more information about this story, contact the following sources:

Malinda M. Cowles
Associate director
IUP Center for Student Life
Center for Health and Well-Being
Suites on Maple East
901 Maple Street
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
Indiana, PA 15705
Phone: 724-357-9355, -4799

Pennsylvania Department of Health
Bureau of Communicable Diseases
STD Program
Room 1013, Health and Welfare Building
625 Forster Street
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: (717) 787-3981 (Toll Free 1-877-PA-HEALTH)
Fax: (717) 772-4309

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