Should 'Sex Week' worry college leaders?
Several of the nation's premiere universities host Sex Weeks: weeklong celebrations of human sexuality, typically led by students, with activities that can range from the screening of porn films to sex-toy giveaways.
To say that the events lack academic merit would not be quite fair.
Yale's last Sex Week, in February, featured a workshop on human sex trafficking, a presentation on erotic piercings and something called BDSM 101.
Northwestern's most recent Sex Week focused on the Vagina Monologues, but also included a Take Back the Night event to promote women's safety and, in all caps on the schedule, FREE PORN.
Brown's last Sex Week kicked off with the screening of a documentary called "Kink."
This is the sort of stuff, of course, that pushes the limit of what might be fairly regarded as educational. Students and faculty at the University of Maryland last year fought for the right to screen "Pirates II" -- not just a porn film, but a sequel to a porn film! -- on campus. A state lawmaker pushed back, and a compromise was eventually reached when organizers agreed to show only portions of the films in an explicitly pedagogical context.
A recent column in the Chronicle of Higher Education may renew the debate over Sex Week in advance of the next round of events.
Margaret Brooks, a professor at Bridgewater State University, writes:
"Sex-toy raffles and giveaways? Workshops featuring graphic, violent pornography and simulated sex techniques? Teaching about polyamory but not about monogamy or abstinence?
"All those events have transpired recently on campuses across the country--perhaps unbeknownst to many parents, alumni, and even professors. As the word gets out about such controversial programs, university administrators must decide what kinds of sex-education programs should be offered to their students, and who should be teaching them."
Brooks notes that denizens of the sex industry have been involved in some of the events, and -- surveying the same web sites listed above -- she concludes that "the emphasis of most Sex Week programming seems to be more on providing entertainment and promoting pleasure, rather than teaching students about sexual health and safety."
Check back around Feb. 1 to see if Sex Week has been chastened.
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Daniel de Vise
September 2, 2010; 11:20 AM ET
Categories: Administration , Pedagogy , Students | Tags: Brown Sex Week, Northwestern Sex Week, Sex Week, Yale Sex Week
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