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New Book American Hookup Explores the State of Sex on College Campuses
by Maura

Like many a young generation before them, the millennial generation often faces unsubstantiated criticism from their elders: they’re addicted to their smartphones, they’re entitled, they’re overly sensitive, they have too much casual sex. That final allegation is one that Lisa Wade, Professor of Sociology at Occidental College in southern California, tackles in her new book American Hookup: The New Culture of Sex on Campus. Wade, who teaches the sociology of sexuality and solicited student contributions for her book, takes a nuanced, non-judgmental look at what’s up with the current college student population and sex.

Sex and Education
by Caili

When I got off the airplane at the Edinburgh airport in September 2016, the first thing I saw was a wall full of Scottish whiskey advertisements. What else could properly welcome you to Scotland’s capital city? With expectations of bagpipes, kilts, and castles, I knew my decision to move from Texas to Edinburgh for my undergraduate degree was going to be full of new experiences. Although this was true, I found the differences between the United Kingdom and the United States to be more subtle than I had originally thought – things like my native English language being spoken with a different accent, drinking alcohol I was able to buy legally at age 18, and even spellings like “colour” instead of “color” and saying “chips” instead of “fries.” It was like my reality had just been ever so slightly shifted, and yet it was completely disorienting. But perhaps what struck me the most were the different perspectives and discussions I would encounter relating to sex and the body. 

As the first semester went by, I became involved in my first sexual relationship. I assume any first sexual encounter may involve fears and unknowns. As I found myself in various sexual situations, however, it became shockingly clear how little I was aware of my own body. It felt strange that my 20-year-old boyfriend had more knowledge of the way my body worked than I did, had more knowledge of available contraceptive options and condom use than I did, and even had more knowledge of non-sexually transmitted infections than I did. I felt helplessly uneducated about how to practice safe sex, and, I admit, I was a bit terrified. Clearly, sexual education is not something that should be left to trial and error.


Beyond the Birds and the Bees: Peggy Orenstein’s Girls & Sex
by Laura

Peggy Orenstein’s Girls & Sex: Navigating the Complicated New Landscape is an uncomplicated look at the ways in which today’s girls aged 15-20 discuss, sometimes openly, sex in the 21st century. Orenstein, as mom and a journalist, wanted to “find out the truth behind the headlines, what was real and what was hype.”  

After interviewing over 70 young women, Orenstein wrote this accessible book that focuses on topics like body imagery, popular culture’s influences on sex and sexuality, oral sex, virginity, hook-up culture, rape, and sex education. Orenstein connects these topics with studies that help to illuminate the choices young women make when it comes to sex. A full overview of the book can be found here.  

As mother with Millennial children and a professor for whom Millennials make up the majority of my classes, I pay close attention to polls that provide snapshots of this generation. One from last year by caught my attention. Out reported on a trending forecast made by J. Walter Innovation Group, which suggested that only 48% of 13-20 year olds identify as “exclusively heterosexual.” This marks a shift from those older Millennials (aged 21-34) who identify as straight at a much higher rate, 65%.


proFile of Marla Spivak
by Suzette....

For Dr. Marla Spivak, bees are anything but a bother. Her interest in the insects was sparked at the age of 18 when, bored and looking for something to read, she picked up a library book about bees and beekeepers. Very quickly, she wanted to learn more. She found the stories about the bees to be, she says, the “best of science fiction come true.” She was equally fascinated by the “beekeepers who love their bees like family” – so much so that in 1975 she went to work for a commercial beekeeper. She has since dedicated her life to studying bees, earning her Ph.D. from the University of Kansas in 1989 where she focused on honeybees in Costa Rica. In recent years, she has been fascinated by the social behavior and healthcare systems of bees. That’s right, it’s possible honeybees have a better and more natural healthcare system than we do! 

As a leader of the University of Minnesota’s Bee Lab, Dr. Spivak works with an entire “bee squad” so that we may learn about the lives of bees and how to support them. I recently spoke with Dr. Spivak about her research and the goals of the lab. She explained, “The main focus of my work is figuring out ways bees can help themselves. I'm interested in their ‘social immunity’ or health care – how they take care of themselves.” The lab also researches environmental factors impacting bee health, she noted. “Since 2009, we have been studying the benefits of propolis (plant resins) to bee health, the effects of agricultural landscapes on the health of honeybee colonies and on native bee diversity and abundance, and the effects of neonicotinoid insecticides on honeybee and bumble bee health. Current students are studying how to enhance floral landscapes to improve the nutrition and health for bees.” 


Spring Planning and Botticelli’s Primavera
by Suzette....

For most, it’s New Year’s Day that is the time for new beginnings – for resolutions, goals and future plans. But for me, it’s spring. There is something about the arrival of spring weather that motivates me to nest, much like the birds that show up in the newly budding trees at my house. This is the time of year when the winter doldrums begin to diminish and the world around me seems to be coming back to life. I feel a sense of regeneration now that my winter “hibernation” is over and bright colors return. In fact, some argue that spring is the best time of year to “wipe the slate clean” and begin again. Excitement builds as it is time to shed the winter clothing, drop the winter weight, and update the wardrobe as we spring forward toward summer. 

With summer on the horizon, then, it doesn’t take long for me to begin thinking about June – which, for me, means Italy and Botticelli’s Primavera. For years, I have been trekking to Italy with dozens of college undergraduates to study various topics for a few weeks. Study abroad is my passion, and Italy is like my second home. There is little I love more than seeing this amazing country through new eyes each year as my students view its wonders.