A sexual health “Mindset List” for the class of 2015

Every year around the beginning of school, Beloit College releases its notorious “mindset list”: statements that describe cultural realities for entering freshmen. The statements, like this year’s “The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia” or “Men have always been Martians, women, Venusians” remind older folks of how times have changed – or not.

In the spirit of Beloit’s work, I’ve compiled a few facts about reproductive and sexual health that have always been true for young people starting college this year (the class of 2015). Some are good news, while in other areas, there’s still some work to be done.

If you are an entering freshman, what would you add to the list? How have these realities shaped your perceptions?

- All federal funding for sex education in public schools, throughout their education, went to abstinence-only-until-marriage programs, which taught that “sexual activity outside the context of marriage is likely to have harmful psychological and physical side effects.”  Source

- There have always been very famous, well-loved, openly gay, lesbian, and bisexual people.

- Films with excessive nudity, violence, or swearing have always been rated NC-17, not X.

- From their birth to their senior year of high school, those in the military who are LGBT faced discharge if they were found out.

- RU-486 has always provided women with a medication option for abortion.

Plan B emergency contraception has existed as an option to prevent pregnancy after unprotected sex or sexual assault since they were children, has been available without a prescription since they were 13, and has been available to 17 year olds since they were 16.

Same-sex marriage has been legal somewhere in the world, and civil unions available in at least one U.S. state, since these freshmen were in 3rd grade

- From Beloit’s list: Women have always been kissing on TV.

- The percentage of people who identify as pro-choice has always been declining — but their generation is more pro-choice than their parents.

- True Love Waits has always pressured young people to make religion-based abstinence-until-marriage pledges in high school. Only a small percent of people have remained abstinent until marriage.

- Activists have always been trying to get Congress to pass a law prohibiting employers from firing people because they are gay, lesbian, or bisexual – and Congress has always failed to do so.

- Facebook has existed since they were too young to use it.

- Abortion clinics have always been targeted by violent protestors, who have committed vandalism, arson, and even murder.

- HIV has always existed, but anti-retroviral drugs have always prolonged the lives of HIV patients for decades.

- Women have always been able to sue when they experience sexual discrimination or harassment.

- For most, a vaccine to prevent cervical cancer has been available since before they were sexually active.

- Both male and female condoms have always existed, and the demand for Magnums has always been…large.

A hat tip to Felicity Knox of Towson University’s Special Collections and Archives for clueing me into the Mindset List phenomenon!

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