Though H*yas for Choice quietly introduced a new condom delivery service Oct. 17, the program has prompted a loud response.
The system allows students to request free condom delivery through a Google form 48 hours before an event. Party hosts can then pick up the condoms from the H*yas for Choice table in Red Square or request for them to be delivered to a specific location.
The idea was modeled after a similar program started by Boston College Students for Sexual Health. Boston College threatened disciplinary action if the group broke any university policies, which Boston College Students for Sexual Health has been careful not to do.
“We are lucky enough that Georgetown respects the rights of its students and isn’t going to shut us down. The university can’t tread on our freedom of speech and expression if we go against what they believe in,” H*yas for Choice President Laura Narefsky (COL ’14) said.
While the group has done little to publicize the new initiative, it has been covered by external media, including the Huffington Post and a local Fox affiliate station.
“Anytime a pro-choice group does something on a Catholic campus, people see it as news,” Narefsky said “We are thrilled. It’s great that our message is now reaching people outside the Georgetown community. Hopefully this will become a service we can provide to as many groups on campus as possible.”
This attention, however, has led to passionate responses from students and others who oppose the service, citing a risk of increased sexual assault and incompatibility with religious values.
“This new service simply contributes to the already prevalent hookup culture that reduces men and women to mere objects of physical gratification,” Emile Doak (COL ’14), a member of the conservative group Love Saxa, said. “Saturating alcohol-infused parties with easy access to condoms will only facilitate this objectification.”
Andrew Schilling (COL ’14), a member of the Georgetown Knights of Columbus, said that such the condom distribution system would perpetuate sexual violence.
“Unfortunately, the proposed plan does nothing to tackle the most urgent problems of Georgetown’s current hook-up culture, like the high rate of sexual violence committed against women,” Schilling said. “Instead, it will likely perpetuate the same culture responsible for these problems in the first place.”
Narefsky expressed frustration with this disapproval.
“I find that really shocking. Some of these claims I find offensive, I find them unfounded,” Narefsky said. “I think it’s dangerous to make those kinds of claims. Sex isn’t a dirty word. Protecting yourself in every way possible is a good thing and something we should not shy away from.”
“Our trial run was at a GU Pride party that went really well,” Narefsky said. “It was all inconspicuously in the corner, and all 40 condoms we had there were taken. For us, that was great. We couldn’t have asked for anything better.”
Disapproval for the new initiative has not been limited to the university’s Catholic community. Amin Gharad (COL ’16), a student coordinator of the Muslim Interest Living Community, also voiced concern.
“It’s not just the distribution of condoms that disturbs me, but the fact that efforts are being made to facilitate and tacitly approve of a lifestyle of extramarital sexual relations,” Gharad said. “As a Muslim, it’s not a lifestyle I could ever nod approvingly toward, but, at the same time, it’s a much more deeply rooted problem than something that either banning or distributing condoms will ever be able to solve.”
Gharad acknowledged, however, that his opinion is likely in the minority.
“I’d also venture to say that those who share my views with regards to sexual behavior and the usage of intoxicants are quite few and far between on American college campuses in the year 2013,” he said.
Despite this criticism, the increased attention on H*yas for Choice has largely been positive for the group.
“I definitely wouldn’t say we tried to make a big deal about this, but all press is good press for us,” H*yas for Choice Treasurer Sarah Madoff (COL ’16) said.
The organization currently receives free condoms from the Department of Health and Human Services, Planned Parenthood and The Great American Condom Campaign. The recent press drew the attention of Condom Nation, a condom distribution organization that provides mobile HIV testing.
“Condom Nation has been intrigued by our program and supportive of us and wants to partner with us in the future because they see that this is an important service that we’re providing,” Narefsky said.
Narefsky recognized the potential for publicity on the program to present the image of a more tolerant Georgetown than one typically associated with Catholic universities.
“Via this media coverage, people can see the progressive shift among modern American religious organizations, and that Georgetown understands and respects students’ rights,” she said. “We value our Jesuit education so much, but even if what we are doing goes against the teachings of the Catholic Church, we are still members of this community, and our actions should still be allowed to be performed.”