Every young sexually frustrated teenager dreams of the freedom of college. Having sleepovers whenever you want, with whomever you want, and never having to say a thing to your parents. It seems like sex is the one thing everyone is certain happens in college — but is it? And when it does happen, is it good, enjoyable sex? If it’s not, how do you make these encounters better? The Title IX team and the Women’s Resource Center attempted to answer some of these questions, as well as many others in a series of workshops and talks leading up to Valentine’s Day.
Violence Prevention Educator Nina Harris, in collaboration with many others, organized the week of events to discuss sex and relationships on campus. “The narrative shouldn’t just be ‘oh those are the rape prevention people,’ it’s more than that, we’re the good sex people too,” commented Harris. The week included conversations that addressed the good, the bad, and the awkward in different contexts: everything from ‘textually active’ a workshop that examined sacred texts and their relationship to sex and relationships, to queer dating, to sexual empowerment and getting what you want out of a sexual encounter. The events presented conversations that are not usually found in formal settings.
“I think it’s really important to create spaces where talking about sex and relationships is fun,” said Becca Bernstein, Title IX Fellow and one of the main organizers of the events. “I really just want students to be able to have some space to think about these issues and have the chance to reflect on their own relationship to sex and relationships.”
The administrators involved in these events, including Harris, Bernstein, Alice Holland and Isaiah Thomas, took charge of creating that space. The staff made an effort to really engage with the topics, in order to create meaningful conversation with students. “[Harris] was pushing to move beyond a thought like ‘if I ask, he’ll think I’m weird’ to questioning why that is weird, or not ‘hot’ and why we should care,” commented Morgin Goldberg ‘19 who attended the Sexual Empowerment event.
The wide range of topics for these workshops came out of student input, mostly based on last year’s Healthy Sex & Relationship week last year. Multiple collaborations with student groups and different committees from the WRC and Title IX liaisons resulted in events that covered all different aspects of sex and relationships students saw as prevalent on campus. Even some of the slogans for the events came from students, such as for the Beyond Hooking Up event, during a Title IX student advisory team meeting, said, “The last time I was on a date was … literally never”.
Students such as Clare Pérez ’18 also helped organize and run the events the person quoted in the flyer for ‘Beyond Hooking Up’. “The main intention for Beyond Hooking Up is that there are ways to meet new people, romantic or not, that isn’t at the frats on a Saturday night or Pub Nite on Thursdays,” Perez stated. The event began with a presentation on intelligent flirting and healthy relationships and included speed dating/friend making, then ended with a mixer to reconnect with people students had met earlier in the night. “We wanted people to walk away feeling more confident in their ability to talk to new people and put themselves out there,” Perez said. These different kinds of social events, outside of Thursday and Saturday nights, can connect people who may not usually cross paths, and in a school as small as Swarthmore, new social events can be a breath of fresh air.
According to Nina Harris, students at Swarthmore have a slightly different mentality around the balance between personal relationships and academics. “I think Swarthmore doubles down on that ‘you’re only here for your academics’ thing,” commented Harris, “I’ve worked at a lot of top tier schools and it felt like the students had a lot more balance in their experience.” At times it can feel like Swat marriages or random hook ups are the only options for students. For many, the focus may be on academics and internships rather than their own relationships, and these events attempt to take time out of busy schedules to reflect on our relationship with relationships. “It’s like you’re all brain and then you’re all genitals,” commented Nina Harris on Swarthmore students’ hook up culture, “you can never just feel fluid in your experience.” This balance between intimacy and workload is something many of us still need to figure out.
The overall theme of the week was to reach out to students in an attempt to help find that balance and build that bridge between academic life and romantic life. The culture of Swarthmore can sometimes be dominated by academics and often times students can forget that college is also about experiences and personal growth rather than just success in class. The WRC and Title IX Office are working to bridge those gaps and offer the tools to make that balance easier for students to find time for themselves.