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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.

Follow College Inc. on Twitter.

By 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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Should state money go towards hosting these events? NO! But regardless, college students have been thinking about sex ever since there have been colleges. Having events that involve it are no big deal, just more openness. The Internet makes it all accessible. This just makes it local.

Posted by: cyberfool | September 2, 2010 4:18 PM | Report abuse

We would love to be a part of sex week at a college. Many of our clients including our founder have dealt with a life of sex trafficking. We reach out to women and children in the sex industry. It would be nice to see a venue on the harms, prevention end of what has been written. It seems these sex weeks are more to explore the sex industry and what it offers instead of the pain, realities amongst many other things that need to be shared for prevention to Colleges.
A Scarlet Covering

Posted by: Ascarletcovering | September 3, 2010 12:34 AM | Report abuse

BDSM 101?


It seems that college kids are all full of enthusiasm and life, which in its purest form is sex.

Then they graduate and calm down, but they still date; they just don't do nude runs any more.

When they get married, no more sleeping around, and when they have kids, life becomes a drudge. I see it all around me, but I seem to be immune.

I also see in former-enthusiastic kids now in their forties really begin to petrify. They show the early symptoms of "angry old people" syndrome.

It hits them full-on in their 50's and by their 60's everyone is consumed with jealousy toward the kids who are doing what THEY were too stupid to do because they listened to old people, and exactly what they would do now if a Genie granted them one wish: "make me YOUNG!"

But no genie exists, and when all the life drains out of their scolding, grey bodies, they die and become the ultimate grownups: rotting zombies mindlessly shuffling through the streets wanting nothing more than to kill the living.

You know, it doesn't HAVE to be like that.

Stop being so self-centered and selfish, and be happy that finally, a generation is as free and happy as everyone, everywhere SHOULD have been.

And you MIGHT try having sex yourselves you know, with new people. This weekend, me and two friends in their 50's are going to a nude beach for the first time.

And they don't know each other. That's right, I set this up. I'm playing matchmaker,Faye style: They're going to meet on a blind date... NAKED.

And I get to watch!


is the kind of thing that keeps you young.

Now, YOU do it too.

-- faye kane homeless brain

Posted by: Knee_Cheese_Zarathustra | September 3, 2010 4:55 AM | Report abuse

The truly educational opportunity would be to counter all the ignorance, depravity and filth by presenting the truth about the authentic meaning and purpose of human sexuality within the fruitful lifelong bond of husband and wife.

Posted by: thebump | September 3, 2010 8:21 AM | Report abuse

Given the craven standards of our consumer culture anyway, is a "sex week" that promotes porn, violent porn, sex industry "toys" and assorted other male-dominated visions of women really needed? How about taking a break from that for god's sake? A week perhaps entitled "sexual ethics week." You know, that could be a week that follows the business school's "ethics on Wall Street week." You could have exposes on the percentage of college students who will graduate with STDs, AIDS and psychological damage from having been date raped. This is not higher education. It might fit under the larger rubric of education, but "higher"? Try lower. way lower.

Posted by: medogsbstfrnd | September 3, 2010 8:51 AM | Report abuse

I don't care if they fornicate on the lawn; just don't call it "education" or bill me for it.

Posted by: mhoust | September 3, 2010 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Whole thing reminds me of the old joke about an inquiry made to an employer about whether or not someone named Sexauer worked there.

When asked if they had a Sexauer there, the response was: "Heck no, we don't even have coffee breaks."

Well, so much for a non-union shop...

Posted by: Spectator | September 3, 2010 2:02 PM | Report abuse

As someone who has participated in Sex Week events I can tell you that they do a lot of good. No one is forced to participate or view any part of it if they don't want to.

What these weeks do is make talking about sex less taboo and they help students to feel more confident and knowledgeable about sex, even if they don't use the information right away (or ever).

The questions I get asked after talks I give (yes- about sex toys and sexual pleasure) are heartbreaking.. indicating to me that young people are so often misinformed about their bodies (especially young women) and how they are supposed to work. These weeks give students the chance to ask some really important questions and get honest, smart answers from folks who know.

Don't fool yourselves, young people will have lots of sex whether you talk about it or not and these weeks help to make sure that they are doing things safely and enjoying them.

I own a sex shop and almost everyday talk to grown up adults who have sex problems stemming from lack of knowledge, misinformation or our cultures amazing ability to make women feel bad about their bodies and sexual response. I hope these sex week events helping to create a generation of people who understand their bodies, their sexual response and their partner so everyone (even married people!) can have healthier sex lives.

Posted by: searah | September 3, 2010 2:23 PM | Report abuse

Every week should be sex week! Sex week is just part of what makes America awesome in the world! I would rather have my tax dollars going to kids in college to watch porn and screw than to send kids to die in the middle east so that oil companies and 'contractors' can get rich. But hey, that's just me, a veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom and Maryland Alum... Semper Fi and Go Terps!

Posted by: ipa24 | September 3, 2010 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Oh man, this is priceless, now these smart4zzez figured out a way to get an excuse to get laid, watch porn, yadda, yadda: Sex week.

Are f.....g kidding me?

Will get credits for it?....

Posted by: eaglestrk01 | September 3, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Margaret Brooks sure knows how to hold a grudge. She's purposefully trying to shame that talk about sexuality openly and honestly, and she already knows that administrators at these colleges DO know what is going on, because she has been in direct contact with them for many months, now.

It's amusing to me that she so readily and eagerly and knowingly misrepresents events whose organizers have consistently reached out to her but who she has refused to engage with. She knows better and should be held to a higher standard than this.

Ms. Brooks knows full-well that sex week events DO focus on health, and her specious argument that somehow "promoting pleasure" is more akin to "entertainment" than "health," or that these things are themselves mutually exclusive is absolutely ridiculous.

I can't believe Brooks' intentional fear-mongering is still making headlines. Less surprised that her sex-negativity is making headlines at the Washington Post, but still.

Posted by: 39gj24f | September 3, 2010 7:38 PM | Report abuse

"... No one is forced to participate or view any part of it if they don't want to ..."

It would be interesting to learn whether the occurrences of campus rape/date rape, other violence, STDs, or pregnancies fluctuate in the weeks after these events.

Posted by: Voter4Integrity | September 4, 2010 1:04 AM | Report abuse

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