UNC Charlotte Peer Educators Lead Dialogue on Sexuality and Sexual Health

PLEASE Peer Educators
Thursday, December 7, 2017

Social work professor Jessamyn Bowling and a team of students are leading a new sexuality education initiative for UNC Charlotte, and in its first semester, the program is already making a difference.

The Peer Leader-Educators Advocating for Sexuality Education (PLEASE) program is designed to encourage sexuality dialogues and safer sexual health practices.

“Research shows that adolescents and youth prioritize sexuality messages from their peers, and I believe this is true for college students as well,” Bowling said. “If we can train peer educators who are not necessarily experts in the topics but are able to empathetically listen and refer individuals to reputable information sources, I think we can really help connect people with what they need for improving sexual health.”

PLEASE peer educator Amber Howard said she embraced the opportunity to lead the conversation.

“What motivated me most were the conversations about sex and sexuality I heard my friends having; they were so misinformed on some topics, it was shocking. I began to realize this might be a campus wide issue— an issue that I wanted to have a hand in solving.” 

The PLEASE team marched in the 2017 UNC Charlotte homecoming parade and passed out 350 condom and lubricant packets. Throughout the semester they have also been spreading the word on the new safer sex station in CHHS. The station offers free condoms and lubricant, dispensing more than 700 condoms in its first month. It is located on the second floor in the Student Lounge near the exit doors towards Atkins library.

By training undergraduate and graduate peer leader-educators, PLEASE hopes to provide accurate information and encourage safer sex practices amongst the student body. Peer leader-educators are trained in:

  • Gender and sexual identity (including LGBTQ)
  • Contraception and condoms
  • Sexually transmitted infections and HIV
  • Healthy relationships
  • Consent and sexual assault
  • Anatomy/physiology and pregnancy
  • Community resources and online information sources

PLEASE will conduct climate evaluations to measure impacts. The 13 current PLEASE peer educators have completed training on sexuality and gender topics and are available for one-on-one conversations. They are trained in non-judgmental listening and familiar with the full catalogue of campus resources.  

They will also be at upcoming events, including the “Sexpo” on December 5th 11:15 a.m. to 1 p.m. in the Cone Building’s Lucas Room, and at Sex Week events in February. The group is also planning upcoming discussion groups in the College of Health and Human Services to increase dialogues about taboo or lesser-known topics.

“There are bound to be some strange looks as well as some strange questions, said Howard. “It has been worth it to me though, because that is kind of why we are here, to get these conversations going and break that awkwardness!”

Follow PLEASE on Instagram at @UNCCPlease and learn more about the program on their website.