Sexual Health Panel and Expo Empowers Islander Students to Make Educated Choices

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – “[Sexual health] is a topic people are afraid to discuss and one few people are educated in,” said Delaney Vampran-Foster, assistant director for the Office of Engagement Initiatives. “Our goal is to help highlight for students the way they can be safe and healthy if they’re choosing to engage in sexual activity. Choices have consequences and we want people to make good choices because, unfortunately, a [poorly informed] choice can alter the course of your life.”

Knowledge is the first step to empowerment. This is why Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi’s Islanders Teaching, Engaging, and Motivating (I-TEAM) Peer Education Program hosted their inaugural “The Birds and the Bees with a slice of Cheese(cake): Sexual Health Panel and Expo” on February 19.

Experts from Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and the wider community discussed buzzing sexual health topics like dating sites and apps, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), consent, healthy relationships, emotional or psychological health, and myths surrounding the statistics of sexually active college students.

According to Dr. Amy Houlihan, Islander associate professor of psychology and graduate coordinator, sex is everywhere, but at the same time it’s treated as a taboo topic. She also says that often, the discussions surrounding sex are negative.

“It’s important [to foster a sex positive environment] because in our broader society, we have a lot of conflicting feelings about sex,” Houlihan said. “Sex is a natural part of being human. It can be a pleasurable and fulfilling experience for people. It’s important that we have positivity out there to counter some of the negative messages.”  

Houlihan also touched on the importance of being inclusive when it comes to discussing sexual health.

“A lot of times, the messaging we have around sex is very heteronormative,” said Houlihan. “It’s geared at heterosexuals, so there’s exclusion to people that don’t identify in the hetero mainstream.”

Prior to the panel, the event featured a three-scene skit performed by Islander Improv. The interactive scenes illustrated important topics like navigating dating apps, making responsible choices when drinking alcohol, consensual sex, abstinence, and the stigma surrounding STIs.

One Islander student, Trey Lopez, a health science junior, attended the panel and expo after a professor encouraged him.  

“I want[ed] to learn a little more about what’s going on and see questions people have,” said Lopez. “Because I’ll be working in a hospital or a clinic one day, [sexual health] is going to be brought up with patients or people that I work with.”

Towards the end of the panel, attendees engaged with the speakers during a Q&A session. Participants asked questions regarding what kinds of resources are offered on campus, how urinary tract infections are related to STIs, and what are common symptoms of STIs like chlamydia or gonorrhea. Attendees received additional resources and information from agencies within the community, like the Coastal Bend Wellness Foundation, and on campus at the University Health Center.

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