Arts & Culture

Sex Week promotes empowerment, discourse

SHEEC spreads sex positivity with sexual assault march, chocolate and porn screening

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Sex Week, sponsored by the Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council, seeks to address stigmas, stereotypes and social concerns.

Featuring a pornography screening, a BDSM workshop and a march against sexual assault, the sixth annual Sex Week at Brown kicked off last night and will run through Sunday.

The event, which has been held on 12 different college campuses since its inception at Yale in 2002, is sponsored by the student group Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council, an umbrella organization for sexual health groups on campus.

“Our main goal is just to have a week getting the campus to talk about sex positivity … in a comfortable environment,” said Anna Hendrickson ’16, co-chair of SHEEC.

Sex Week 2014 brings a new slate of activities along with the perennial favorites “Sex and Chocolate in the Dark” and “Sex Trivia.” The former, which will be held by Students for Choice on Thursday, creates an open forum for anonymous discussion of sex by shutting off the lights in Peterutti Lounge while participants enjoy the titular sweets. The Sexual Health and Awareness Group hosts the trivia night, teasing questions on the event page such as “What’s the most common fetish?”

SHEEC reached out to students in the Brown community who were interested in leading discussions, eventually coming up with a list of events based on available expertise, Hendrickson said. Noting a trend of sexuality groups on campus focusing more on women’s issues, coordinators decided to have an event specifically targeted toward men. “Aggressive, Vanilla and Horny: Discussing and Deconstructing Male Sexuality” took place last night as an exploration of social influence on constructs of masculinity.

“The porn screening is going to be cool,” Hendrickson added, referring to Tuesday night’s event centering on pornography as a medium and whether it empowers or oppresses. “We reserved Smitty-B’s big theater, and we might have popcorn,” she said.

SHEEC was founded to connect the various sex groups on campus in order to create a more cohesive conversation, Hendrickson said. Through Sex Week, the coordinators will work with SFC, SHAG and the Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Relationship Abuse. But SHEEC retains its own goals as an organization — one that happens to be at a crossroads.

“Right now we just plan Sex Week,” Hendrickson said. But the future direction of the group is being discussed. “SHEEC in the past has been more fun — just talking about sex in general from a pleasure standpoint,” she said.

While popcorn-and-a-movie events still embody this playful side, Sex Week 2014 is also heavily concerned with the theme of empowerment. Events such as the discussion on male sexuality will be followed by weekend demonstrations and workshops organized by sexual assault awareness and prevention group Stand Up!

The “Stand Up! March Against Sexual Assault” will take place Saturday, followed by a speech on the Main Green from feminist leader Jaclyn Friedman. Stand Up! will host eight related workshops on Sunday.

The programs aim to provide “more support for survivors and more empowerment for bystanders,” said Emily Schell ’16, founder of Stand Up! “We’re so campus-conscious about (other) issues, but it’s a shame we’re so quiet about sexual assault.”

Originally, the organization’s events were not planned as part of Sex Week. Stand Up! was founded with the knowledge that next year the administration will review the Code of Student Conduct, which is lacking in the area of sexual assault prevention, Schell said. The group scheduled the march for April 5 because it is the weekend before Spring Weekend — a time of higher sexual assault rates on campus, Schell said. Once SHEEC also expressed interest in conducting Sex Week in the same time range, Schell saw a valuable opportunity to combine the two objectives.

“I think it’s a natural progression,” going from healthy conversations on porn and kink to the idea of consent, Schell said. Sex Week is also a way for Stand Up! to “wean the campus into those conversations,” bringing an uncomfortable topic to light in the context of sex positivity, she said.

The diverse array of workshops is a platform for Stand Up! to seek input from different perspectives before approaching the administration with recommendations for the new code of conduct. “I can’t speak for a person of color, an LGBTQ person, a guy, so we’ll be having town forums to open up about this issue,” she said.

The march itself is a demonstration to both the administration and the student community.

“If the University sees people marching en masse on campus, they will no longer be able to ignore the issue,” Schell said. For students, sexual assault should not be “out of sight, out of mind,” she added.

When dealing with such sensitive issues, the need for a safe space is paramount, something that occasionally presents problems for SHEEC, Hendrickson said. “We have discussed checking IDs at the door because in the past Sex Week hasn’t been super popular with some outside the Brown community,” she said. But the group trusts the speakers to maintain a calm environment and attend to the concerns and ideas of everyone present. In these spaces, “people can relax and stay open-minded,” Hendrickson said.

  • TheRationale

    Honestly, this whole Sex Week charade just screams “I can’t keep it in my pants.”

    • Anonymous

      Have you been on a college campus? Like, ever? Regardless of whether or not young people *can* “keep it in their pants”, the fact is that they *don’t*. So how about we engage with the world as it is (as opposed to how we wish it were)?

      • TheRationale

        Perhaps I should have been more specific. Obviously college students are horny. It’s the fact that they’re pretending it’s some grand intellectual to-do that makes them look ridiculous. It’s like North Korea’s PR – they’re not fooling anyone.

    • angry comment section regular

      nah… when you look at the data on what people here are actually doing sex-wise, sex week* screams, “we’re all talk.”

      *aside from the very important focus on sexual assault and abuse

  • JJHollywood

    I’m no prude, but quit effing promoting this garbage….god these young people are dopier than ever

  • Spag Hetty

    Christina Paxson, Please please tell us that you are at least slightly embarrassed. Actually scratch that. I forgot that you say just anything to keep your job.