Our guest writers Stella Fayman, Weinberg senior, and Alex Russell, Weinberg junior, are part of the committee in charge of Sex Week.
Three years ago, I attended a fireside on sexual health in my dorm with the expectation that my fellow attendees would be fully engaged and empowered with regard to their sexuality. I expected an open, honest discussion with individuals well-versed on the topic. I was shocked when one woman did not know what it meant to lose your virginity, another blushed as she meekly asked about condoms, and yet another was clueless with regard to the orgasm gap. A feeling of shame and embarrassment pervaded the room. Leaving that talk, I knew that something had to change.
How to do it though? As I considered my lofty goal, I came across the Trojan Sexual Health Report Card, an annual survey that scores college campuses on how well-educated their students are in terms of sexual health. In 2006, Yale stood at the top of the rankings and was the only school to receive a perfect score. Why such high achievement? They had an annual week of events revolving around sex to encourage dialogue on campus. Suddenly an idea came to mind.
Thus Sex Week at Northwestern was born. Our mission was, and still is, quite simple: we want people to start talking. Sex Week is meant to provide students with fun, provocative and informative opportunities to explore the role of sexuality in their lives. By showcasing professors and student groups, we hope to unite our campus in the common goal of learning and questioning what sex and sexuality mean to them. With such a diverse range of interests and individuals on campus, we aim to show students that sexuality is an equally varied experience and topic.
Our events are sex positive but hold true to an academically-supported and informative nature. The hard work of our diverse and dedicated committee of over 20 individuals ensures that we encompass many viewpoints in order to have truly successful events. Our dream of engaging students, professors and experts from all walks of life is now a reality: From economics to gender studies, from psychology to music, a full range of disciplines is united under one common goal for one week.
The first question on the Sex Week committee application asks, “Why does Sex Week matter?” The most common answer we receive, which is consistent with our own views, refers to breaking down barriers in sexual education and taking the taboo out of discussing sex. Expectations of sex in American society are contradictory at best and aren’t always conducive to the happiness and well-being of our youth.
American society throws many curveballs at young people regarding sexual education without really explaining how this translates into their lives. Statistics show that America still has the highest rate of teen pregnancy in the fully industrialized world, so clearly there is a tangible disconnect between expectations and reality. As young adults, we are given the right to make decisions on their own terms. However, expecting us to make such integral decisions without providing us with the necessary information is ludicrous. Thus we offer Sex Week as a method of disseminating information that is otherwise difficult and in some cases impossible to find.
We believe empowerment is achieved through an honest and informed conversation. Sex Week has no religious or ideological goals, nor do we try to present only a single side to the many debates that occur in the realm of sexuality. Indeed, we encourage opposition and debate – the hallmarks of truly rigorous discussion and evaluation.
If you oppose us, voice your opinion! We hope students will question every aspect of sexuality and reject stereotypes in favor of their own informed choices. By asking students to question their assumptions, we hope to empower them to do what is right for themselves individually, and to avoid succumbing to societal expectations.
With the ultimate goal of creating an open dialogue about sexuality in an informative and welcoming manner, Sex Week and its events are only a single factor in achieving this goal. If this dialogue is a fire to be ignited, our events are nothing more than the fuel to start the flame. As only a set of events, Sex Week can do little in opening a dialogue. A vital component missing is the spark. It is you, the students and participants in the events, that are the necessary ignition.
Only with your active participation can we achieve our goals, so we, the directors, ask that you start the conversation. The method in which you do so is not important – protests, papers or conversations with friends – but the fact that the dialogue is starting is key. Your help will allow Sex Week achieve its goal and provide students with the dialogue they need to speak about sexuality openly. So, if we may be so bold as to quote The Doors, “Come on, baby, light my fire.”