The Joy of Sex Bureaucracy
This essay responds to The Sex Bureaucracy, in which Jacob Gersen and Jeannie Suk condemn regulations of sexual conduct they see metastasizing on college campuses, pursuant to Title IX’s mandate for equal educational opportunities in institutions receiving federal funds. We focus on the authors’ most trenchant critique, which slams efforts to teach sexual health principles and practices on the ground that, in doing so, universities are “regulating sex itself” and interfering with “ordinary sex.” By placing recent sexual health and violence prevention measures in historical and cultural context, we challenge the authors’ assumption that, absent such instruction, sex occurs naturally and unproblematically on college campuses. In addition, contrary to the authors’ negative assessment, we highlight the value and promise of some of the newer developments they contest. We understand such interventions as a form of sex education, which we call “higher sex education,” given both the campus loci and the advancements apparent when compared to many more familiar sex curricula. We show, in context, why such instruction belongs in higher educational institutions and how it has the potential to transform campus sexual cultures and enhance students’ sexual unfolding—preparing them for healthier and more pleasurable sexual futures. We conclude by noting ways in which higher sex education might improve as it continues to evolve.