September 27, 2012

Student Organizations Plan Cornell’s Inaugural Sex Week

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Following several universities across the country, Cornell will be holding Sex Week this spring –– a weeklong celebration organizers hope will serve as a means to address sexual issues on campus.

“What we’ll do is a campus-wide series of events that help people to explore their own sexuality and the sexuality of other students on campus,” said Shuangyi Hou ’14, president of the Every1 campaign, which advocates for victims fo sexual assaults. “It will be a full week of event, different events that appeal to every single type of person at Cornell. It requires a really open and collaborative process.”

Hou said one of the primary aims of Sex Week is to provide a forum to address the sex-related concerns of various groups on campus. Several Cornell officials and student leaders of campus advocacy groups expressed their support for the event, which they said will provide an opportunity to address some of these issues through University-wide, all-inclusive programming.

For instance, Rachael Blumenthal ’13, a member of the Sex Week steering committee, said the recent string of reported sexual attacks on or near campus created a need  that she said can be met by Sex Week.

“There must be a discussion: What is sex? What are the implications? It’s about understanding consent and respect having to do with sexual intercourse,” said Blumenthal, who is a member of Consent Ed, a group that seeks to educate student groups on campus about sexual assault prevention.

Laura Weiss, director of the Women’s Resource Center, agreed that the recent events have sparked what she said is an important conversation to have on a college campus. She said she is “really happy to see so much conversation happening around sexual violence at Cornell.”

Weiss added that the Women’s Resource Center has the resources to provide support to the Every1 campaign and other groups who are involved in the planning of Sex Week.

“Different programs within the Women’s Resource Center would definitely have ideas and recommendations that they could make. The center has a large [capacity for] programming,” Weiss said. “I would love to see students involved with the center weighing in on sex week.”

Officials at Gannett Health Services have also expressed interest in helping the development of programming for Sex Week.

“We would be energetic participants in a Sex Week designed to be a catalyst for meaningful education,” said Sharon Dittman, associate director of community relations for Gannett.

Student leaders from several LGBT groups on campus said they also hope to make their voices heard in shaping the culture of a Sex Week at Cornell.

Emily Bick ’13, president of Haven — Cornell’s lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender student union — said she would like to plan Haven events that are already popular to coincide with Sex Week.

“There are two programs that we already run that are fairly well-known: Filthy Gorges, an annual dance with a sex-positive theme; and a sex toy party, where two Babeland representatives come and talk about sex toys,” Bick said. Babeland is a company that sells sex toys and sexual education materials, according to its website.

Hou said she envisions Cornell Sex Week as a combination of fun and serious education about sexual health and safety. She cited “workshops on sexual pleasure,” such as ones organized by the I Heart Female Orgasm campaign, as possible events.

Hou said the upcoming Cornell Sex Week is the product of several months of brainstorming and collaboration between Every1 and other student organizations. In the spring, members of the Student Assembly encouraged the groups to pursue the event, she said.

Sex Week is still in its preliminary planning phase, according to Hou.

“What the steering committee will try to do is to decide the general themes [for the week],” Hou said. “We also want individual [student] groups to have a lot of impact.”

Hou said the major hurdle still to consider in organizing Sex Week is how to finance the project, which she said she hopes will manifest as a “very large, very expensive event.”

The Every1 campaign “is in the lowest tier for [Student Assembly Finance Commission] funding. Sex Week facilitators and other [student groups] are going to need to help us out,” Hou said. “We can’t do it alone.”

Original Author: Erica Augenstein