Deerfield’s sexual intimacy policy states: “Students are asked to exercise thoughtful and appropriate discretion in all their relationships. Consensual sexual intimacy is not permitted for students at Deerfield.” (DA-Z).
I am appalled that this policy, which claims to guide students “thoughtfully,” blatantly tells us that consensual sex is something to be avoided. This puts both students and teachers in an uncomfortable position. Students are told that consensual sexual acts they may wish to partake in are simply “not permitted,” and the faculty must enforce these rules without discussion or reasoning.
The biggest issue with the sexual intimacy policy at Deerfield is the extreme ambiguity of parietals rules. As determining the specific details of parietals rules is left up to the discretion of the faculty member on duty, each faculty member draws from his or her own subjective idea of what kind of intimacy is “appropriate” or not. This creates a major gray area for students, especially those whose families’ or personal beliefs might vastly differ from those of the faculty members.
Teachers who believe students should not engage in any kind of intimate activity “check” on parietals numerous times, while others choose not to check on students at all. Consequently, students spend a lot of time planning which dorm to get parietals in.
The current, terribly ambiguous sexual intimacy policy only encourages dishonesty in students, who resort to sneaking around the faculty to spend intimate time with their significant other.
If students get parietals privileges revoked, they then resort to meeting with their significant other in public spaces such as classrooms. This presents two issues. First of all, teachers and security guards are forced to waste their time trying to “catch” students at hooking up. Second, as a result, popular public spaces such as classrooms are sometimes locked, preventing students from using them to study.
Last year, a rule was implemented in the Arms building that students working in the classrooms must keep the doors wide open. There have been numerous instances of boys and girls simply doing homework together in the building, and then being asked to leave classrooms by teachers or custodians because, though they were simply working together, the situation was deemed “inappropriate.” At night, classroom buildings transform from spaces of learning to spaces of distrust on both the sides of the students and the faculty.
In health class sophomore year, students are taught healthy and safe choices to make when they are ready to include consensual sex in their relationships. Condoms are provided in the peer counseling office and health center. It is extremely confusing for students to be told they have the safe resources to have sex if they choose to do so, then that they cannot even rely on their dorm rooms to be comfortable spaces for such consensual activity, which can be both healthy and natural in a relationship.
Furthermore, Deerfield students are of a variety of ages, from 13 to 19. High school is a time in which all students change and grow in many ways over the course of four years. It does not make sense for the parietals rules that apply to younger freshmen be the same for seniors. By graduation, most seniors are legal adults, who boast much greater emotional maturity than they did when they were freshmen. Both legally and perhaps even morally, it simply makes no sense for students 16 and older to be forced to adhere to Deerfield’s sexual intimacy policy, provided their partners are also of a consensual age.
On the other side, students who are not old enough to consent do not fully understand the implications of choosing to have sex with someone over the age of 16,. It is time for there to be a distinction. There’s a reason why we have a legal age of consent.
It is impossible for the sexual intimacy policy, as it stands now, to create a safe sexual environment for Deerfield students. I encourage the school to create a new policy. reasoning provided, that clearly states what is and isn’t allowed, so that students have more clarity.
In addition, I encourage the school to consider the vast age range of its students, and the implications of allowing teachers to exercise their own beliefs when it comes to parietals, and modify the policy accordingly. There are many distinctions between younger and older students in the rulebook. The sexual intimacy policy should be consistent with other age-related policies.
Deciding the details of parietals regulations should no longer be up to the discretion of faculty members. Students and faculty both deserve a clear set of guidelines to which both groups are held accountable. Ultimately, Deerfield’s sexual intimacy policy and parietals rules need to be reformed to create a more comfortable, emotionally safe environment for all students.
There always have been and always will be students who are sexually active on campus. The only logical option is for the school to provide a safe and comfortable environment for all, rather than turn a blind eye to what will inevitably continue to take place. Until then, relationships at Deerfield will continue to involve deceit and discomfort.