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Cross posted on Amplify

Brigham Young University basketball starting player Brandon Davies committed a terrible offense: pre-marital sex with his girlfriend. BYU's honor code forbids students from having premarital sex and instructs them to "live a chaste and virtuous life." This move by the university this highlights the negative attitude towards sexuality harbored by many conservative religious traditions, especially Mormonism. At a university so conservative on their views about sex, I am concerned about the student’s sexual health and safety. Surely at a University that does not “allow” pre-marital sex, students still are in need of sexual health services. Doesn't a university that prides itself on being a moral institution have a moral obligation to the health and well being of its students?

There is the opinion that a Mormon university can do whatever it likes, and it’s none of our business. Davies signed a contract saying he wouldn’t have pre-marital sex, he did, so it would follow that the appropriate response is to kick him off the team. CFS Sports columnist Ray Rattor says,

   The honor code might be archaic, but it's archaic to you. It works for other folks. You don't like it, go somewhere else. And so it is Mormonism as well. It might not be your cut of meat, but it doesn't have to be. If you find its capacity for forgiveness to be insufficient for your needs, desires or opinions, then find the church that works for you.

Point well taken. Tolerance, even for things we find archaic and personally distasteful, is still very important. However, I simply can’t get in line with the honor code’s prohibition on sexual activity. Let’s put aside the argument that being “virtuous” by abstaining from sex is an ideological method of control over the others, especially women, and that in fact there is nothing inherently virtuous about abstaining versus being sexually active. Also, let’s set aside BYU’s other crazy honor code rules. It not only prohibits premarital sex but also plagiarism, alcohol, and visiting opposite-sex dorms too late at night as well as "sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing" clothing for women; coffee; tea; and beards.

Regardless of all this, while the school has a right to enforce rules that stem from the Mormon tradition, they also have a responsibility to their students. If they are suspending a player for pre-marital sex, it is not a large leap to say that there is a dearth of sexual health services available to students. And this case clearly shows that while the school doesn't want to admit it, even Mormon students are having sex. People of any faith have a right to accesses contraception, confidential testing, and accurate health advice. Slate reports, “A 1954 internal study (cited in a 1985 book about the university) estimated that 14 percent of students had sex before marriage.” However, I wouldn’t be surprised if that number was a lot higher. Plus, sexual assault surely is not unheard of on BYU’s campus.

In Utah, STD rates (particularly for Chlamydia) are painfully high. Sexually active youth in the state face enormous difficulties getting the health information and services they need. Schools are required to stress abstinence in sex ed classes, Utah continues to accept federal Title V abstinence-only-until-marriage funding, and there are fewer than 20 Title X family planning clinics in the entire state.

Ultimately, this negative attitude towards sexuality –- an external force to be grappled with as opposed to a healthy and natural part of being human—is not good for students.  While I respect BYU’s right to create whatever rules they want, I believe that their stance on this issue leads to unhealthy sexual behavior, as well as high unplanned pregnancy rates and STD rates. At a religious university that prides itself on being moral, they have a duty to protect the sexual health of their students.

Dan Jubelirer is a Netroots Youth Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.

Originally posted to TeenAdvocateDan on Fri Mar 04, 2011 at 02:14 PM PST.

Also republished by Mormon Tea.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (3+ / 0-)

    Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.

    by TeenAdvocateDan on Fri Mar 04, 2011 at 02:14:56 PM PST

    •  fwiw, sexual health services are available... (0+ / 0-)

      ...to married students (i know because my wife obtained a birth control prescription from the on-campus health center).

      i'm pretty confident a single student could not have obtained the same, but as for confidential screenings and other services i'm less certain.

  •  I disagree. (4+ / 0-)

    Two points.  (Disclaimer:  I would never have attended BYU myself, or sent my children there.)

    However, I simply can’t get in line with the honor code’s prohibition on sexual activity.

    This is completely irrelevant.  Presumably, you don't go there.  Therefore it doesn't matter whether you agree with their honor code or not.  What matters is that they are completely up front and transparent about their rules, and they are a PRIVATE institution.  They get to set the rules.  If you go there, you are expected to abide by them.  If you don't agree, don't go there.  It's pretty simple. They could say, if you go here, you agree never to wear a red shirt.  Or to drink milk.  Or to sleep past 6 a.m.  Or whatever.  It's their private institution. They get to set the rules.  If you don't want to abide by the rules, you don't go there.  

    People of any faith have a right to accesses contraception, confidential testing, and accurate health advice.

    That may be true.  However, people of any faith DON'T have the right to expect a religious institution -- which is what this is -- to provide things that are directly contrary to their faith.  When they tell you, up front, about their rules, and that their rules prohibit sexual activity before marriage, people DON'T have a right to expect BYU to provide those things.  Again, if they think that a university ought to provide those things to their students, then don't go to BYU.  Because they won't.  It's a pretty simple concept.  If you want that kind of health care and advice, you won't get it from BYU, and you don't have a "right" to get it from BYU.  Students have a right to that kind of medical care and advice from a medical institution.  Not from BYU, a private religious institution.  They know that going in.  

    I do not agree with very much of the Morman faith.  But one thing I do agree with is the First Amendment right of a private religious institution to set their own rules and expect compliance by those who choose to become part of that religious institution.  I think it is completely unfair to choose to go to a private, religious institution, expressly agree to abide by those religious rules, and then criticize the private religious institution for enforcing the very rules that you agreed to abide by.  

    To his credit, I don't see the young man in question criticizing BYU for enforcing the very rules that this young man expressly agreed to abide by.  

    I think it is unfair for others, standing on the outside, to criticize this private, religious institution for doing what it said it would do and enforcing its own rules.  Even if you or I completely disagree with those rules.  

    •  sure, but what about BYU's responsibility? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      johnny wurster

      I am not advocating for BYU to no longer have the right to enforce whatever rules they want. yes, they are a faith institution, and yes, they are upfront about the rules. Therefore, I am not asking for BYU to take back Brandon Davies. My point here is about broader societal issues. As I put forward in the post, I don't see the ideology of "abstaining from sex is right" as anything more than a method of control (it should always be a personal choice.) And to me, this issue (not a case, because Davies did not commit a crime) opens the door to examine more broadly the societal consequences of conservative religious views on sex.

      I also strongly believe in the 1st amendment protection of all religion, even one that I strongly disagree with, and I just want to clarify that I am not so much criticizing the enforcement of the rule so much as the larger issue of why the rules exist in the first place.

      Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.

      by TeenAdvocateDan on Fri Mar 04, 2011 at 03:03:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You or I have no business (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        slksfca, VClib, in the Trees

        analyzing why BYU has those rules in the first place.  The First Amendment is why -- they have the RIGHT to have rules that you think have "broader societal consequences."  They have a RIGHT to have rules that you think are really, really, really  bad.  It's not your rules.  It's not a rule that affects you.  It's not a rule that affects anybody OTHER THAN people who expressly and voluntarily agree to comply with the rules.  

  •  Of course it's silly, (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slksfca, coffeetalk, in the Trees

    but it's also their right. Don't like it? Don't go there.

    By the way . . . do you really think a rule against plagiarism is crazy? Really?

  •  You say repeatedly... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    in the Trees

    ...that you respect BYU's right to make its own rules, but (pardon me for saying this) I find it hard to believe you. :-)

    I sympathize with your arguments, but I'm not sure you've thought them through completely: IMO, you're muddling the content of the honor code, which is definitely open to debate and criticism, with the enforcement of it (and students' agreement to follow it). And I say that as a former BYU student who left the school due to my own realization that I could no longer abide by the honor code.

    There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

    by slksfca on Fri Mar 04, 2011 at 02:53:54 PM PST

  •  Without links, your assertions remain only that. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jethropalerobber, coffeetalk

    I'd also suggest you avoid PC boilerplate unless you're going to practice it (at least in the same paragraph).

    Tolerance, even for things we find archaic and personally distasteful, is still very important.

    But apparently not that important:

    Also, let’s set aside BYU’s other crazy [my emp] honor code rules. It not only prohibits premarital sex but also plagiarism, alcohol, and visiting opposite-sex dorms too late at night as well as "sleeveless, strapless, backless, or revealing" clothing for women; coffee; tea; and beards.
    •  ok...fair enough (0+ / 0-)

      I think that on a legal level, BYU should be protected by the 1st amendment and that as a private institution they can do whatever they want. This is more what I meant by tolerance.  However, tolerance does not mean silencing legitimate disagreements with a particular religious/political/personal figure. As for links, the honor code list came from a slate article here:  http://www.slate.com/... (which I DID link to earlier in the post)

      Dan Jubelirer is a 2010 Netroots Fellow at Amplify, a youth-driven community dedicated to promoting sexual health and reproductive justice.

      by TeenAdvocateDan on Fri Mar 04, 2011 at 03:05:22 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Bigger question: (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    jethropalerobber

    How on earth did Jim McMahon, one of the biggest rebels in football, make it through 4 years at BYU and this guy get caught?

    •  You Are Comparing Apples and Oranges... (0+ / 0-)

      I read an article that quoted Levell Edwards saying that McMahon spent more time in his office than he did.  Apprently McMahon's problems were mostly with behavior on game day.  He did things like flip the bird to the crowd, etc.  He did things publicly that the school had to act upon.  I doubt that he was called to the coaches office for flipping off his roommate in the privacy of their room.

      At BYU flipping the bird is a small infraction compared to premarital sex, even if you don't consider them different.  And more than likely, Davies went to his Bishop and confessed his violation of the Honor Code.  BYU doesnt have an army of spies trying to catch students smoking and having sex.

  •  What Health Services... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    slksfca

    do you feel that BYU should provide to students?  You were a little vague on this point.  

    Are you singling out BYU for some reason?  Or do you think that all schools should provide the same services that you want for BYU?  What about Tech Schools, Barber Schools or Notre Dame?  I am sure that Notre Dame has been on your radar for a long time.  It seems unlikely that they pass out condoms or birth control of any kind.

  •  Brandon Davies great sin was (0+ / 0-)

    he only had ONE girlfriend in open defiance of BYU traditions.

    apparently due to ancient hardware and the transition to dk4 I can't recc tip jars or comments any longer so in lieu of the 'standard nod' you'll see a variety of replies until this gets fixed or becomes a mighty big fucking pain in the ass

    by oopsaDaisy on Fri Mar 04, 2011 at 05:25:54 PM PST

  •  it's interesting that according to some reports... (0+ / 0-)

    ...the way that Davies got caught was the same way Harvey Unga (BYU football's all time leading rusher) got caught -- unprotected sex led to a pregnancy.

    that lends some anecdotal evidence to the notion that the school's policies encourage risky behavior.

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