Let’s talk about sex.
It’s not always that easy or comfortable, is it? For members of the K-State organization S.H.A.P.E., it’s just a daily part of their life.
Sexual Health Awareness Peer Educators, S.H.A.P.E., is an organization that seeks to create an open forum of knowledge and communication surrounding all areas of sexual health. These conversation areas range from healthy relationship advice to STD prevention and awareness, and everything in between.
S.H.A.P.E. first started in the mid 1980s, during the time when the AIDS epidemic was becoming an infamous topic for discussion. The organization aimed to educate students about the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS. Since then, S.H.A.P.E. has partnered up with Lafene Health Center and expanded its services to advocate healthy sexual practices and lifestyles.
A core belief of the organization is that success comes from its peer education program. S.H.A.P.E. recognizes that peers are essential factors in influencing attitudes and behaviors of their fellow peers.
“S.H.A.P.E. really exists because we know that, through research, peers usually learn more or take in more from their other peers,” Julie Gibbs, director of health promotions at Lafene said. “That’s why we’re big on peer education. We serve to preserve the students’ health. We want to make sure that if they are sexually active, they are doing it in a healthy way.”
But S.H.A.P.E. offers more to its students than just sexual health resources. For members of S.H.A.P.E., it can be a great way to gain experience in public speaking, networking and resume strengthening.
“I got involved with it because I thought it was a really good organization,” said Rhett Jones, president of S.H.A.P.E. and senior in hospitality management. “I liked what they stood for and what they did on campus.”
Jones said it can be a very rewarding and informative club to join. Members have the option of obtaining class credit through the organization by being “presenters.”
“Presenters” are required to apply to the organization, take a three credit hour class and meet with the director of Lafene in order to be able to conduct presentations and give advice to students. However S.H.A.P.E. also welcomes volunteers to come to their meetings in order to help with different events and promotional efforts.
In addition to S.H.A.P.E.’s efforts to educate students about sexual health, they are also working to change the negative connotation that comes with talking about sex.
Jenny Yuen, health educator at Lafene, said S.H.A.P.E., along with the health promotions department at Lafene, provides much more than just free condoms. It provides education and resources to living a healthy sexual lifestyle. This includes discussions and conversations about how STDs can spread, what a healthy relationship looks like, how students can seek help if they don’t feel like they are in a healthy relationship and help meet diverse student needs around issues of sexuality and sexual orientation.
“Sex isn’t a bad thing,” Jones said. “There is this really negative [societal] aspect and embarrassment to having sex. You shouldn’t judge people for having sex, and there should be no personal shame in you having sex.”