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For many colleges and universities, Valentine’s Day provides the perfect entrée to Sex Week, a series of events and workshops on everything from consent and body image to contraceptives and STI testing. Among this year’s more creative offerings: a “make your own sex toy” workshop and “condom bingo,” in which players use condoms to mark their cards.
“People come to campus with a wide variety and levels of education about sex,” said Tammi Simpson, vice president for community and inclusivity at Hood College in Maryland, which hosted its first-ever sex week last week. “We feel like having a weeklong program normalizes the conversation and allows us to be open and communicate about not only sex, but sexuality, pleasure and sexual health.”
The college hosted eight events, including a professor-led discussion on the reproductive journeys of transgender and nonbinary people. The Queer Student Union co-hosted condom bingo and joined with the Black Student Union to sponsor Black Love Day, in which students were invited to gather, eat together and meet new friends.
Amanda Dymek, director of wellness at Hood College, who helped organize the week’s events, said it was especially gratifying to watch faculty and students interact during a discussion titled, “There’s Power in Your Pleasure,” led by a sex educator.
“The maturity and the vulnerability that was shared during our evening program … was really wonderful to see,” Dymek said. “Our students were so honest, mature and self-reflective in sharing with our experts their experiences in relationships and in finding and developing their own sexuality.”
Tulane University in New Orleans has scheduled more than 20 sex-related events this week, starting with a Sex Week Kick-Off giveaway of condom kits and sex toys. Students can also play a “Wheel of Fornication” game to win small prizes while learning facts and statistics about sex and sexuality, or attend the “Black Bodies Need Love Too” discussion about the sexual lives of Black students on campus.
At Ohio State University, Student Advocates for Sexual Health Awareness (SASHA) is hosting 20 events—including one centered on writing thank-you notes to abortion providers in Ohio and Texas, which won the notice of conservative media outlets such as Fox News and The Daily Caller, sparking a flurry of criticism online and from the university’s Students for Life group.
A spokesperson for OSU told Fox News Digital that no taxpayer dollars were used to sponsor the event, and that “Ohio State has a deep and abiding commitment to free speech.”
SASHA is also hosting a discussion on “gentle masculinity” with Schuyler Bailar, the first openly transgender NCAA Division I swimmer, as well as an event in conjunction with Lion’s Den, a national sex shop, where students can learn about different sex toys and gear.
The student-run organization Sex Week at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte is hosting 11 events this week, including a do-it-yourself sex toy workshop—back by popular demand from last year—in which students can pick a toy mold and make their own sex toy using a silicone mixture. At the dating-profile photo shoot, students can get their photo taken to add to their online dating profile for apps like Tinder and Bumble. And there’s a speed-dating event, where students go on miniature dates together.
Two events had to be postponed because of COVID-19 restrictions, said student Emily Coulter, a lead organizer for the university’s sex week: the group’s signature drag show and a Rocky Horror Picture Show screening. Both events were pushed back until later in the spring, since they draw large crowds; Coulter said the drag show usually attracts 200 students.
Sex Week at UNC Charlotte aims to host events about things that students can’t easily find online—such as body image and its role in the enjoyment of sex, which Coulter said could be especially helpful for those who gained weight during the pandemic.
“Students are not going to come to an event to learn about how to put a condom on,” Coulter said. “Google is freely available and YouTube is freely available. It is very easy to get those resources. So we focus more of our attention on the things that we think are interesting. I want to hear about the latest research about how our society thinks about our relationship with sex and gender and consent.”
Vanderbilt University in Tennessee is hosting a Sex Ed and Healthy Relationships Week with eight events. Bailey Via, program coordinator of the university’s Margaret Cuninggim Women’s Center, said she’s most looking forward to “What Sex Meant to Me: Exploring the Talk Among Different Identity Groups.”
“We’ve done a version of this event in the past, and it went really well, so I’m very excited to bring it back this year,” Via said. “This event will feature a panel of Vanderbilt students from different racial and ethnic backgrounds as they discuss how the communities within which they were raised have influenced the way they view relationships, sex, sexuality, identity and more. This event is likely to spark some great conversation about how we all have different influences that inform the way we view sex and relationships.”
Via said it’s important to continue educating students on sex in order to fill in the gaps for those who may not have had much sexual health education.
“We believe this work is so important, because it helps students make the most informed and safe decisions for themselves when it comes to sex and sexual health,” Via said. “We want everyone to have autonomy in their sexual decision making, and the more we all know, the more autonomy we all have.”
The University of Denver is hosting a Love + Sex + Health Week consisting of seven events, including a queer-inclusive and supportive consent education workshop for students who may have felt alienated by traditional sex education.
Most of the sex week programming is either hybrid or virtual, so students who might feel uncomfortable or shy going to an event in person can still attend virtually, said Andrea Thyrring, Denver’s health promotion coordinator and coordinator of gender violence prevention and education for the American College Health Association Campus Safety and Violence Coalition.
“We are really trying to build as many opportunities for access to these programs as possible, while also recognizing students really want to connect with one another and with educators in person,” Thyrring said. “So I’m just really excited that we get to balance accessibility and inclusion with that desire for in-person programming again.”