Majoring in risque business

By Andrew Duff

You’ve seen them. All over campus, tables with pamphlets filled with information about sex, drugs and other health-related issues. Most people shy away from them, perhaps embarrassed by the jar of free condoms.

But Rebecca Forbes, a junior double major in psychology and Spanish, knows how important her job is as an assistant at Health Enhancement Services.

“The big question we always get is, ‘Oh, are you promoting sex?’” Forbes said with a roll of her eyes. “No, it (the tables with free condoms) doesn’t make people have more sex when they have condoms, just safer sex.”

Forbes has worked at the Health Enchantment Services office since the beginning of the semester, but she already has worked the tables, handled phone calls and dealt with plenty of sex-related questions.

“You have to be really open to work here,” she said.

In a given two-hour period at the tables, Forbes usually gets about 20 people, but that’s on a slow Monday or Tuesday.

“You’d be surprised at how many people have walked up to me and don’t know what a condom is,” she said.

Though Forbes wasn’t at liberty to go into detail about the people approaching her who were having sex while unaware of what condoms were for, she was open about who gets the most of the $15,000 budget for condoms and other related materials.

“Sororities and fraternities are the biggest users of our CA bags,” she said.

And what exactly is a Community Adviser bag? One contains 150 styles of condoms and 10 bottles of astroglide lubricant.

“But to get a bag,” Forbes said, “they need to have ‘The Talk.’”

Michelle White, a sophomore double major in English and communication, said people must take condoms and lubricants from tables.

“Be confidential; don’t pass them (the condoms) off.”

This is one of the important rules of the Health Enhancement Services, that regardless of how available they make their materials, they are not allowed to force them onto students.

So with all the sex prevention happening on campus, how many NIU students remain abstinent?

“Last spring’s survey, 21.9 percent said they had no sexual intercourse,” said health educator Steve Lux, referring to a survey that questioned 1,064 students about their sex practices.

In 1994, a survey was conducted by University Health Service about what NIU students considered to be sexual abstinence.

“Ten percent listed anal intercourse as an abstinent behavior,” Lux said.

The results of the survey show a clear distinction that NIU students believe as long as it isn’t vaginal intercourse, it’s basically abstinent.

“It told us that we can’t say ‘practice abstinence,’ now we have to say, ‘no sexual contact,’ to be less vague,” Lux said.

Last spring, 2.5 percent of NIU students said they had experienced an unplanned pregnancy.

“We try to blanket the campus with information, make it available everywhere,” Lux said with a sigh.

Regardless of a student’s ideas on sex, talking to the people at Health Enhancement Services is recommended by many as a place to start.

“We don’t make any judgments on a person’s sexual preference or promiscuity,” Lux said. “That’s a personal choice based on a person’s moral standards.”