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Hargis: Support SURF in Their Fight for Sexual Liberation

In an era of ever-increasing policing of sexuality and expression, education and empowerment are our strongest allies.
Ilona Buhler
(Design by Ilona Buhler | The Daily Utah Chronicle)


When living in Utah, one must be constantly aware of religious expectations. In Salt Lake City especially, the religious undercurrent in local culture can be hard to ignore — particularly, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ conservative views on sex.

The Church believes that sex education for young people should come primarily from parents rather than schools. Sex education courses are still required in Utah, however, the state is not required to teach comprehensive courses on the subject.

As students graduate high school and enter college, it can feel frustrating, and even embarrassing, to search for sex education resources and reproductive activism. But that’s what the Students United for Reproductive Freedom, or SURF, is for.

As a club, SURF stands for the education and advocacy of safe, liberated sex for students in a traditionally suppressed environment — something Utah and our campus vitally need.

What Does SURF Stand For?

SURF is a “network mobilizing young, pro-choice Americans to write to their elected officials, register voters, and organize community events on and off campus.” The U’s chapter resides in the A. Ray Olpin Student Union building, where students can stop by, talk to members, grab educational resources or even stock up on contraception. The members are employees of Planned Parenthood and exist to advocate for sexual liberation and education.

“We’re more focused on the education and advocacy side of things rather than the health side of things,” said club Co-president Matylda Blaszczak. “We’re on campus to give students a voice in the reproductive freedom fight, and to educate on sexual reproduction from, you know, just basically how sex works, to how to have safe sex and all the way up to abortion.”

SURF believes that every student could use a resource for sexual education, including college students.

“Utah’s very conservative and religious and that can come with a lot of shame, not being educated and just not feeling comfortable enough to ask questions,” said Co-President Jaylee Aston. “We want students to know that they have us if they want to learn and if they want to be liberated.”

Advocacy Matters

It’s clear both presidents are passionate about their advocacy work. They believe safe spaces are crucial for educational conversations that revolve around sex.

“Coming from a Utah high school and a Utah elementary and middle school, sex education is abstinence-based,” Blaszczak said.

Abstinence-based sexual education is known to fail students, withholding medically accurate information from young people who are no less sexually active than students with a well-rounded education.

In a state where sexual violence is rampant and a near-obsession with pornography pervades religious communities and politics, sufficient sex education is painfully necessary. Utah has a reputation of being a sexually conservative, religiously repressive state. Clubs like SURF offer alternative forms of education for young people who had their sex education withheld from them.

But SURF is not an activist group, and they want that to be clear.

“[Students] deserve to feel liberated, whether it’s emotionally or sexually, and they deserve to have a safe space, and they deserve to have their reproductive rights,” Aston said. SURF acts as that safe space for students to ask questions, voice concerns, get involved and connect with other like-minded students and organizers.

If you’re interested in getting to know SURF and get a better understanding of the important work they do, they will be leading an open forum with the Women’s Outdoor Leadership Initiative and a sex-ed series in collaboration with the McCluskey Center in the spring. They can also be found on Instagram.

As students and as young people, we have a right to a proper education and to feel empowered. The message and purpose of SURF is to reinforce these ideas, and they want students to know that they can feel properly informed and active sexually.

In an era of ever-increasing policing of sexuality and expression, education and empowerment are our strongest allies.

We’re facing big changes in how the public responds to sexually expressive individuals and events. “Sexually indecent” books are being banned in our school districts. LGBTQ+ gatherings and celebrations are under fire, as St. George was sued just this summer for denying a drag show.

It’s clear that as long as sexual expression exists, the state will look for ways to squash it.

“I want people to leave our events knowing that it’s okay to be a sexual being — that we all are inherently as human beings,” said Blaszczak. “And that doesn’t necessarily have to look one way or another. That can look any way that you want. And I want [students] to know that there are people on campus that care about that and are advocating for their ability to do that.”


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About the Contributors
Harper Hargis, Opinion Writer
Harper Hargis is currently studying writing & rhetoric. She grew up in Washington and spends most of her time daydreaming about the Pacific Northwest.
Ilona Buhler, Designer
Ilona Buhler is a 3rd year at the University of Utah pursuing a degree in Strategic Communication with a minor in Computer Science. Ilona grew up moving across the world from spending the majority of her childhood in England, then moving to San Diego, California. She then completed high school and moved to Salt Lake City for college. In her free time, Ilona loves to ski, climb and paint. She spends the majority of her free time outside even when she is on campus

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  • J

    John HedbergDec 21, 2023 at 1:17 am

    My bad: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) didn’t originate in Massachusetts. There was a national drunk driving epidemic when half the states lowered their drinking age to 18, followed by “mass” teenage casualties in my home state, so local urban legend had MADD starting in Mass in the 70’s. If you saw Mass drivers, it would be easy to believe. 😄

  • J

    John HedbergDec 20, 2023 at 1:28 pm

    Coming from a drug- and sex-excursion background (Mom was a drug addict, Dad had addiction-related emotional issues, and both parents were sexualized at a very early age, which is most likely why it began), and growing up in ultra-Liberal Eastern Massachusetts, it’s easy for me to see the massive number of lives damaged and ruined by emotional scars and addictive behaviors that come along with early sexual awakening. The brain is evolutionarily wired for reproduction even in the worst circumstances, and so sexual gratification has an opioid-like effect (literally) on human behavior. Even mature adults will crash and burn pursuing serial sexual encounters, which overwhelms their lives, causing situational damage and emotional scarring, and one kind of addictive behavior usually brings along other forms of addiction, as my own family clearly shows.

    I grew up in a group who were sexually active in our early teens, among a culture of parents who sowed their sexual oats with remarkably little thought to any consequences from that addictive behavior, consequences to their partners, consequences to their futures, even consequences to their innocent children who were entirely powerless to take care of themselves while their parents’ pleasure-addictive emotional firestorm burned itself out as their young lives burned up around them.

    Handling emotional intensity takes maturity, which is why we can’t drive before 16 or 17, vote before 18, or drink alcohol before we turn 21. Massachusetts had a famously deadly experiment lowering the drinking age to 18, and my high school had memorials to the dead juniors and seniors who died on the roads and at parties before the 21-year law was restored. This is where Mothers Against Drunk Driving originated.

    Sex is literally as addictive as opioids. Family and friends who started too early became addicts of many different types, with lives littered with ruin and needless suffering. Too many family and friends attempted suicide, many successfully.

    Religion is not the reason sexual awakening is restricted for minors. It’s all the dead and damaged lives from “friendly fire” in the war for “sexual freedom”, deliberately ignoring the consequences of our biology, our psychology, and the effect on all the people around us who love us and go on the ride with us as we speed towards that last stationary object at high speed.

    Adults already have sexual freedom. Leave kids alone, so they can each figure out their own best path in their own way, without all the addictive emotional baggage, without excess trauma and damage, and without being taken advantage of.

    Just something to think about, with Love.