PHOKUS Aims to Make Students Into “Sexperts”

By Haleigh Griffin

Sex — many college students explore it during their four years as an undergraduate, from romantic relationships to studying questions about sexuality in their courses.

But one group at Furman is betting that at least some students have lingering questions about the facts of life, perhaps ones that went undiscussed in their high school sexual education class.

A new initiative from PHOKUS — Promoting Healthy Options through Knowledge, Understanding, and Service — is aiming to answer these questions by expanding sex education at Furman, training students who can share with their peers the information that will help them as they make their own choices.

PHOKUS members pose for a photo after a weekly meeting focusing on the latest ways to inform Furman students through sex education. Photo courtesy of Haleigh Griffin

PHOKUS members pose for a photo after a weekly meeting focusing on the latest ways to inform Furman students through sex education.
Photo courtesy of Haleigh Griffin

This semester, PHOKUS is assembling a group of “sexperts,” organization members who have been trained to teach sex education, who will eventually go around to freshman halls and answer questions students might have about sex.

PHOKUS hopes to have the sexperts program running by next fall. Freshmen will be free to ask any sexual question that they wish, and all questions will be submitted anonymously beforehand so students can sate their curiosities free of perceived judgment by their peers.

“We’re not here to judge students for the choices they make — we just want them to have all the information when they make decisions that could affect their health,” said PHOKUS president Hayley Cunningham.

Sandra Adams, a Furman infirmary nurse and the faculty sponsor of PHOKUS, is arranging for a group of doctors and nurses to come and teach sex education classes for any members who wish to become sexperts.

Students must already be peer-education certified to qualify for the sex education classes. Students can become certified through various means, either by taking classes online and then passing a national test or attending a conference that PHOKUS sends representatives to each year.

“One of the great things our club offers is our peer-education certification, where students can actually go to conferences and get certified to teach their peers, which can be really valuable for students planning on entering a variety of fields, from education to health sciences and medicine,” Cunningham said.

The new program will be an addition to PHOKUS’s others sex education initiatives in which club members volunteer to teach wellness classes on sexual safety and ways to cautiously consume alcohol.

Recently, for instance, the club held a “mocktail” party, setting up stands outside Burgiss Theater offering free mock alcoholic beverages and facilitating games aimed to demonstrate the potential dangers of parties, drugs, and alcohol.

Part of the education process included allowing students to wander around helplessly in near-blinding beer goggles while another set of PHOKUS members scurried around the party putting stickers on the bottoms of neglected drinks. If students found stickers on their cups at the end of the game, that meant someone had “spiked” their drink.

The goal was to demonstrate not only how important it is to never let your cup out of your sight but also to show how easily it is to be spiked. The American Psychological Association reports that one in four women report to being raped or sexually assaulted during their college years.

The mocktail party was followed by a CLP on the experience and science of addiction.

Students interested in being a part of PHOKUS’s sex education and other initiatives can find more information about meeting times on the club’s OrgSync page.

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