Starting Monday, Feb. 13 and continuing through Friday, Feb. 17, the Title IX House, in conjunction with other campus organizations, will host five educational and recreational activities during its Healthy Sex and Relationships Week. The week’s activities aims to raise awareness on issues such as interracial and queer relationships, self-love, the female orgasm, and romantic and platonic relationship building. Now in its third year, the program is intended to create inclusive campus dialogue on different aspects of sex and relationships.
Title IX Fellow Becca Bernstein helped to develop this year’s week of activities in association with the Black Cultural Center, the Intercultural Center, the Office for Student Engagement, the Sexual Health Advocates, and the Women’s Resource Center. She sees Healthy Sex and Relationships Week as a program that must adapt as the campus changes and generates more questions and norms with relation to those subjects.
“The series has evolved as student needs have changed and evolved. What are the issues that are coming up for students this year? What are the traditions that we’ve started in years past that we want to continue in the future?” Bernstein said. “These are the questions that have guided Healthy Sex & Relationships Week since its inception and that inform both the changes and what we keep consistent year-to-year.”
Bernstein continued by stating how the goal of this program is to make studies on sex and relationships accessible and enjoyable for the campus and that each student can come to those topics and engage with them. By centering the series around Valentine’s Day, the idea is to capture community attention when much of the campus thinks about romantic topics thanks to other campus events like Screw Your Roommate.
“The main goal is to help students explore, discuss, and celebrate various issues related to healthy sex & relationships in ways that are both educational and fun,” she said. “Our hope is that every student at Swarthmore will see or hear about Healthy Sex & Relationships Week and connect with it, whether it’s walking through Sharples on Valentine’s Day and creating a consent-themed valentine or participating in a meaningful discussion about interracial dating or LGBTQ friendships, family, and relationships.”
Chris Youn ’20 has expressed excitement for the program, and he plans to attend several of the program’s workshops, focusing most of his attention on Monday’s activity on interracial dating co-sponsored by the Black Cultural Center and Friday’s activity on speed-dating and friend-making co-sponsored by the Office for Student Engagement. He does, however, note that the series places expectations on the campus community and its understanding of what sex and relationships are supposed to mean and be. He highlights that other cultures have different views that must be discussed in concert with others, so that the program can be more inclusive.
“Some of [the activities] do strike me as interesting — first of all, the […] conversations on interracial dating. For me, I feel like it’s interesting because, personally, my father would not approve very much of interracial dating just purely due to his background — he didn’t grow up in the states,” he said. “I guess it will be a bit of an interesting perspective, not that I haven’t seen interracial dating or anything like that, but to actually discuss it as a group or a roundtable discussion — that, I think, would be a great experience.”
Youn plans to use this series as a way to enter dialogues to uncover different perspectives and mindsets regarding sex and relationships. He notes that the dissonance between his household and general metropolitan environment gives him different understandings of these topics that he hopes to compare to others’ views.
“Like I mentioned, I would like to gain a new perspective on things, and I feel it is mostly due to the environment in which I grew up,” Youn stated. “I did grow up in a relatively liberal environment, Los Angeles, but then, the family environment was quite the opposite of this, so I did experience both things. At Swat, I like to meet new people, talk about things, and have intelligent discussions on them, not just some silly discussions on them with no concrete information on it. Just to be able to talk to people.”
Bernstein offered that this series is meant to help community members discover different topics regarding different interpersonal relationships with which community members might not be familiar or comfortable.
“A specific goal of ours this year is to get students who might not think Title IX programming is ‘for them’ to try out something during Healthy Sex & Relationships Week. For example, I <3 Female Orgasm is in no way JUST for female-identified students. This week is about everyone at Swarthmore, regardless of sexual or gender identity, and we hope that some folks will come by who haven’t engaged with us before,” Bernstein said.
Youn appreciated this commitment to opening channels of discussion. He outlined how the campus should encounter different perspectives and how the ideas behind these workshops are already being considered by individuals and groups on campus. As an example, Youn, who holds a seat on the board of the Swarthmore Asian Organization, said SAO was considering hosting a tea house to discuss interracial dating. Youn stated that, because so many groups identify sex and relationships as topics in need of campus discussion, the campus has both a need for these activities and the dialogue they will promote, and it should utilize this week of educational opportunities as a means to enter these topics meaningfully.
To guarantee that these ideas stay in circulation and are accessible to the student body, Bernstein offered campus resources, particularly Swarthmore’s Sexual Harassment / Assault Resources and Education website and the Women’s Resource Center for Gender Equity, as ways to stay involved with the week’s topics.
“We always hope that our programs and events will get conversations started outside of the space. To me, a successful event is one that keeps people talking, thinking, wondering how might I integrate this into my life?” she started. “There are a lot of campus resources around issues of sex & relationships — some that are widely known about and some that students still have a lot of questions about. One thing I always like to highlight is there are lots of ways for students to be involved in this work and the ways that students are involved continues to evolve.”
The upcoming Healthy Sex and Relationships Week speaker series has been designed for inclusive discussions to provoke thinking and exploration into these areas in the future. Many students want to become involved in these topics more thoroughly, but others hope that there might be more work in the future, possibly with even more campus groups, to promote thought on different practices and experiences with regards to what it means to have healthy sex and relationships.
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