USC insists students answer questions about the sexual encounters before they can take some course

This seemed pretty outrageous to me.

"A mandatory online course at the University of Southern California (USC) asks students to disclose the number of sexual encounters they have had over the past three months and teaches students to ask for consent by saying “how far would you be comfortable going?” and “would you like to try this with me?”

I would just tell them I have never had any sexual experiences. What business is it of theirs anyway?

Would you tell them the truth about yourself?

Yeah I’d tell the truth. Why would I be shamed? My sexual history is not some horrible secret.

OK! I see the course is mandatory. That’s a little weird. I missed this first time around.

It’s a mandatory course, so it shouldn’t be done.

But it is also hilarious, this is an online course, can you imagine the responses they’ll be getting?

True dat!

Let me expand on my earlier response: If I was taking a course on sexuality, or ethics, I might expect something like this. Mandatory for just enrolling in the college? Yeah that’s weird.

Click through the “About” links a few times on the website, and you wind up at:

“The Leadership Institute’s mission is to increase the number and effectiveness of conservative activists and leaders in the public policy process.
To accomplish this, the Institute identifies, recruits, trains, and places conservatives in government, politics, and the media.”

So not at all an unbiased source. It wouldn’t surprise me a bit if those questions are in an optional section, or have “prefer not to answer” as a choice.

Also, the only references I can find to this on Google are from this one writer. The screen shot is not particularly convincing about the exposure of one’s sexual history being mandatory.

Self reported data is useless. If some professor wants to publish a paper with this “study” as their data, I would suggest finding a different college. What other purpose is there for collecting this information from people?

A prurient interest in teenagers having sex?

I doubt that’s the reason but the fact that it’s possible shows why this is a bad policy. College students have as much right to privacy as anyone else and they shouldn’t be required to discuss their sex lives with anyone.

Can anyone confirm that USC actually does what the not-quite-impartial cite says they do?

Maybe not, but it’s something that many people consider very private; and many teenagers are embarrassed, ashamed, or worried about (that they’ve had too much or too little sexual experience).

I can see how questions like those in the link might be interesting (in the aggregate) to researchers, but I would hope that at least the responses would be anonymous, though even if they are, I’m not sure how far you could trust everyone to answer honestly.

It looks to me like pretty standard sexual ethics training, which is pretty standard in universities, where student are held to a code of conduct that includes concepts that (unfortunately) might be new to them. In my college we did it as a late night peer-educator rap session, but these days it’s pretty normal to have required trainings online. It’s likely one of many similar registration requirements, which may include student loan counseling, academic integrity training (defining plagiarism) and core expectations.

In consent threads, we always have people complaining that they don’t understand how consent is being defined or that there is too much “ambiguity” in sex to seek consent. Tools like this are designed to familiarize people with the code of conduct, clear up misconceptions, and make it explicitly clear what is okay and what isn’t.

One begins to think it’s the concept of “consent” that is actually being objected to…::

USC does have mandatory online training, with one of the three courses appearing to cover material relevant to this discussion.

Whether the questionnaire must be completed in full to get credit or whether there’s a way to opt out of prying personal inquiries is unclear, unless USC decides to comment.

I imagine some students have had fun with their answers (i.e. responding that they’ve had no sex in the last three months but did it with more than six people).

My students were VERY embarrassed to talk about sex. When I pulled a condom out of my purse and told them that every sexually active person should keep one on hand, they just about died.

Dealing with sex in an adult way is a part of becoming an adult. Not everyone has to perform a passage of the Vagina Monologues or anything, but being able to engage in Frank discussion on consent, condom use, and related topics is a part of getting the skills you need to protect your sexual health. Is it really better for students to get this information via rumors and whispers?

The vast, vast majority of college students (as in nearly all) are sexually active, and the majority have frolicked with multiple partners. 86% of college students report being in some kind of relationship. This is relevant information for them.

Sex is a part of daily life for most adults. If the concept is so shocking that they can’t have a discussion on consent, the they aren’t mature enough to watch HBO, much less enter college. And given the content and popularity of HBO, I’m not particularly convinced that the attitudes you describe are widespread.

Surveys are not 100% accurate, but the ways that they get distorted are pretty well known. I’m guessing the questions in this tool were designed primarily as a self-assessment- a way to help students connect be discussion to their lives rather than brushing it off as irrelevant. There may also be a follow up survey that helps the course designers learn what is and is not leading to changes in behavior.

Wonder if you would drop this if it was posted by HuffPo?

Is HuffPo financed by what is clearly an advocacy organization?

A further development:

"USC Apologizes for requiring students to detail sexual history. "

And also from that link:

“USC apologizes for any offense or discomfort caused by optional questions included as part of a mandatory on-line training for students on sexual consent, misconduct and other important issues,” Dickey wrote in an email.

(my bolding) So the sexual history questions were optional, as I suspected. Which also means that the headline “USC apologizes for requiring students to detail sexual history” is a lie. Any comment now, madsircool?

I can think of lots of other reasons why one might not want to be required to put one’s sexual and substance-use history on file with the institution, not the least of which is data security.

USC is not an unbiased source either, though. Without seeing the questionnaire, we can’t judge whether those questions were communicated as optional or if the university is backfilling in response to criticism.

Here’s a quote from the company that provides the training (not an unbiased source either, to be sure) from the Washington Examiner article linked in the campusreform article:

“Campus Clarity wanted to clarify that no student was “required” to answer such questions and that schools were free to come up with their own questions as part of the training course.”

“Schools have the option of including short surveys that are interspersed throughout the course. In these surveys, students are asked about their behaviors, attitudes, and beliefs regarding sexual activity and substance use,” Campus Clarity wrote. “But students can choose not to answer these questions.”

“Each question reportedly has a “no comment” option for students who don’t feel comfortable providing the information. Campus Clarity also insisted that students’ identities were not linked to their answers.”