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on behalf of Sexual Health Advocates

in Op-Eds/Opinions by

Jordan Reyes ’19, a Sexual Health Advocate (SHA) who works for the admissions office, was informed by Vice President and Dean of Admissions Jim Bock ’90 on Monday that he could either stop wearing his “I <3 Female Orgasm” t-shirt while working or lose his job as a general information presenter (GISP). The shirt is among the merchandise that was distributed at I <3 Female Orgasm, a February event featuring sex educators Dorian Solot and Connor Timmons teaching a “message of sexual health and empowerment,” sponsored by Title IX Office, the Women’s Resource Center for Gender Equity (WRC), and the SHAs. Jordan is now unemployed. The reason? According to Dean Bock, “It is potentially triggering.”

You know what is potentially triggering, Swat? PROTECTING RAPISTS.

We are appalled, but not shocked, that a college administrator would misappropriate “concern over triggering” while Swarthmore has and largely refuses to own up to a history of traumatizing victims and survivors of sexual assault, and perpetuates and dismisses genuine concern over the triggering effect of institutionally prioritizing perpetrators of assault. While we understand the College can dictate the dress of its paid representatives, punishing a student for wearing a sex-positive t-shirt given out by the very office that is working against sexual violence at Swarthmore, in the name of eliminating triggers, is tone-deaf, hurtful, and hopelessly hypocritical.

Putting aside the college’s apparent apathy with potential triggers when I <3 Female Orgasm fliers were plastered all over campus in support of this school-sponsored event, Dean Bock’s sudden commitment to the needs of hypothetical survivors while the administration continually fails to acknowledge its troubling history rings hollow. As Jodie Goodman ’16 has recently written in The Phoenix, “Many students are familiar with complaints made during the spring of 2013, most notably the fact that Tom Elverson, Swarthmore’s alcohol education and intervention specialist as well as Greek liaison, was known to intervene in favor of Delta Upsilon members during Title IX investigations.” In 2013, 13 students filed a Title IX complaint against the college for the college’s mishandling of sexual misconduct reports. Critically, numerous Swarthmore students’ histories of consensual sexual engagement have been used to discredit their allegations of assault. As The Phoenix reported in 2013, survivors appearing before the College Judiciary Committee have been asked questions such as: “How many people have you slept with before?” and “You say you had sex with him [your assailant] before?” With this history in mind, the invocation of sexual trauma to censor pro-healthy sexuality shirts is breathtakingly inappropriate.

Censoring the (sartorial) work of the school’s anti-sexual violence advocates, in the name of sexual violence awareness, makes no sense.

So given Dean Bock’s ultimatum to Jordan, it seems that sex-positive, trauma-aware programming on healthy sexuality like I <3 Female Orgasm, which was sponsored by Title IX this February, is a liability for the college to showcase to potential students. That the college doesn’t allow its student representatives to wear a shirt promoting its own Title IX Office’s programming on healthy sexuality, combined with the college’s history of silencing anti-sexual assault protest, suggests that Swarthmore’s commitment to the amazing work of its Title IX Office extends only so far as the Office’s ability to serve the college’s financial interests.

As Sexual Health Advocates, we advocate to make this campus hospitable for healthy sex and relationships. That’s why we co-sponsored I <3 the Female Orgasm along with Title IX, and the WRC. We suggest that, if Dean Bock really wants to support survivors of sexual violence and those re-traumatized by Swarthmore’s mishandling thereof, he and other administrators listen and respond to the genuine concerns of actual sexual violence survivors. That includes supporting Title IX and SHA programming that addresses said concerns.

Dean Bock should start by reinstating Jordan, who, as a Sexual Health Advocate, a Title IX Liaison, and a NuWave member, is working for a safer and healthier sexual climate in a moment when the same cannot necessarily be said of the institution itself. (See the recently published website Swat Protects Rapists for an overview of the college’s failure to pursue justice for survivors of sexual violence.) Crucially, Jordan should be able to wear and discuss the message of his shirt on the job. Regardless, we hope that Dean Bock’s newly demonstrated sensitivity to the concerns of trauma survivors is reflective of a new administrative commitment to the needs of survivors on campus.

In the meantime, Swat can’t protect us from rapists, but at least it can protect us from orgasms!

This op-ed has been co-signed by the following Sexual Health Advocates: Lulu Allen-Waller ’17, Bel Guinle ’19, Helen Hawver ’17, YuQing Lin ’20, Will Marchese ’20, Sabrina Merold ’17, Krista Smith-Henke ’19, Shayla Smith ’20, and Dorcas Tang ’19.

 

Works Referenced

“Does Swat Protect Rapists?” by Jodie Goodman

http://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/04/13/does-swat-protect-rapists/

“Go for the O” by Lauren Savo

http://swarthmorephoenix.com/2017/02/23/go-for-the-o/

“DoE releases Title IX complaint against Swarthmore” by Daniel Block and Izzy Kornblatt

http://swarthmorephoenix.com/2014/04/24/doe-releases-title-ix-complaint-against-swarthmore/

“Brought to Light: Accused Walks, College Demands Silence” by Max Nesterak

http://daily.swarthmore.edu/2013/04/17/brought-to-light-part-two/

“Swat Protects Rapists” Website

https://swatprotectsrapists.wordpress.com/

 

Worth, peer advisors promote sexual health

in Campus Journal by

Condoms at my boarding school were difficult to come by. Theoretically, one could go to the health center and ask for them, but the school handbook said that students found engaging in sexual activity on campus would be subject to disciplinary action (clear messages about sex weren’t easily accessed, either). So condoms were a four-mile walk down a highway in rural western Massachusetts, or a $20 cab ride away, plus the occasional judgmental stare from the CVS cashier.

So imagine my delight when, upon my arrival at Swarthmore, condoms were everywhere: thrown at us during the orientation play, spilling from the dorm lounge cabinets, stuffed in the tied-off legs of a pair of cutoff shorts affixed to someone’s door on AP 3rd. Though I still don’t know how to use the dental dam offered to me on my way to lunch freshman year, and though the actors in the orientation play are no longer allowed to hurl condoms at students, access to protection is alive and well on campus.

Sexual health is a pressing issue at colleges across the nation. According to a 2012 report by Georgetown’s Health Education Services, 25 percent of college students have some form of sexually transmitted infection. This is troubling, but not surprising: Trojan Condoms, in a recent study, found that only 41 percent of college-aged adults report always using a condom. Besides, condoms do not prevent the transmission of all possible STIs.

At Swarthmore, the Sexual Health Advocates and Worth Health Center attempt to address a wide variety of issues related to sexual health, providing information, education, resources, and services including contraceptives, condoms, and HIV and STI testing. The SHA program, which recently transitioned from its student-run structure to operating under the supervision of Student Wellness Program Coordinator Noemí Fernandez, places at least one student in each dorm, who stays equipped with male and female condoms, dental dams, gloves, and lubricant for students to use.

The SHAs do a great deal more than merely provide supplies, however. They also serve as resources for students who wish to discuss sexual-health related issues. SHAs undergo multiple two-hour training sessions around different sexual health topics, and, during each monthly meeting, go over the best responses to questions they have been asked or approaches to students’ problems. This month, for instance, the SHAs’ meeting will focus on HIV and AIDS, and members will discuss the history and science of HIV/AIDS, including prevention, treatment, and stigmas.

Laura Hyder ’16, a member of the SHAs, believes this educational approach is extremely helpful for the group.

“You have a full picture, and so it’s easier to help someone deal with issues if you have a larger understanding of what the problem is,” she said.

Hyder noted that Swarthmore is free from some of the challenges of addressing sexual health at other schools, such as those where students are not allowed to distribute free condoms (Boston College is one such institution). Though Hyder and her fellow SHAs may sometimes have difficulty acquiring enough supplies, these are still paid for by the college, she noted.

Though the SHAs host study breaks and events, table at Sharples, and are discussing the idea of hosting office hours, Hyder said that it is challenging to reach a large number of students.

“Since we’re here for people to come to us, it’s largely dependent on people wanting to reach out,” Hyder said. “It’s kind of a self-selecting group — those that are willing to talk about it are the ones who come, while those with less information or who are less comfortable are the ones that aren’t going to reach out.”

Only one person has approached Hyder this year with a question, she said. Though Hyder is glad students have access to a wealth of information about sexual health via the internet, she also thinks a conversation with an informed peer is more helpful and calming than Googling.

“I think hearing it out loud is a much more comfortable way,” Hyder said. “If someone comes to me, and they’re concerned about their birth control not working, Googling it is way more likely to raise alarms than help you think calmly and clearly about what you’re going to do.”

The SHAs also consider consent a key part of overall sexual health, and are trained to discuss healthy relationships and to gear conversations towards directing students to other resources. Though SHAs are not confidential resources, they are able to discuss why certain situations might be concerning to students and to point them towards other information or college personnel.

Hyder said that Fernandez has been particularly helpful in encouraging SHAs to be as open and welcoming as possible for students with sexual health-related issues, and that she and the other SHAs have learned to get students to share information rather than assuming their concerns or questions.

“We might not be able to give them advice, but the more that we make it comfortable for them to open up about their issue, the more they’ll answer their own question or it’ll become clear what they need to do,” Hyder said.

Worth, meanwhile, provides a variety of sexual health-related resources. A senior who wished to remain anonymous, Mary*, has used Worth for many of these services, including STI and pregnancy testing as well as acquiring birth control and Plan B. (Worth has also partnered with one of its physicians who is at the health center weekly and can insert IUDs at her office three miles from the college.) For Mary, all of her experiences at Worth were positive and comfortable, and she felt she was given a great deal of choice and privacy.

For instance, at the end of Mary’s freshman year, she believed she had contracted an STI. Mary went to Worth and met with a nurse practitioner, who collected samples to be tested and provided advice.

“She really just gave me complete autonomy and choice in what I was going to do and made me feel very comfortable,” Mary said. “It was a really good experience — I didn’t feel scared at all.”

Health and Wellness Services Director Alice Holland, who joined the college in July, said that students who call or walk in to schedule an STI screening will be seen the same day or the next at latest. Tests for certain infections require a urine sample or a swab of the genital area, while others require a blood test. Samples are then sent to an outside lab, and students can pay via insurance. Holland said that if students do not want to use their insurance, they can visit a Planned Parenthood (there are clinics ten minutes away in Media, twenty minutes from the college in Upper Darby, and several in Philadelphia).

Mary noted that she appreciates the convenience of having Worth’s services on campus, as well as the health center’s discretion. Though STI testing, birth control, and other services will be billed to one’s student account, these will all show up as consultations at Worth rather than specific items.

“It doesn’t explicitly state what you were there for, so even if you’re scared about your parents finding out, they’re not going to find out,” Mary said.

Students who receive STI testing are always made aware of the results, whether these show nothing or come back positive. Next steps depend on what STIs a student may have contracted, Holland said. While some infections can be treated and cured, others are permanent, though Worth can provide medicine to help symptoms heal faster. Worth also provides counseling as well as education about modes of transmission and prevention of the spread of viruses. Depending on the infection, Worth may advise students to notify any sexual partners so that they can be tested and treated in order to prevent further spread.

During her junior year, Mary thought that she might be pregnant and again had a positive and straightforward experience at Worth. When asked at the front desk why she wanted an appointment, Mary said she did not want to discuss her concern aloud in the waiting room, and was granted this privacy.

Mary has also gone to Worth to purchase Plan B several times. She was somewhat nervous the first time she did this, due to the fact that she was asked to give information about how many people she had slept with, but believes that Worth’s focus is on ensuring safety rather than on judging students or telling them what to do.

Holland explained that in hiring nurse practitioners, she has focused on candidates’ experience with sexual health and with diversity and inclusion, among other criteria. (The health center employs three nurse practitioners and three physicians, all of whom are capable of conducting testing for STIs.)

“We really want to be a safe and comprehensive office,” Holland, who has a PhD in human sexuality, said.

Holland, who has been working in higher education for 12 years and previously served as the director of the health center at Quinnipiac University, particularly enjoys working with the college population due to its sex-positivity, she said.

“They come in, and they ask questions, and they want to take care of themselves and they want to get tested and they want to know what’s available to them,” Holland said. “It’s a great population, because they’re really attuned to their bodies and they want to stay healthy. I’ve seen that all of the places I’ve been and I’ve just been very impressed.”

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