Sunday saw the kick-off of Harvard’s second annual Sex Week, a tradition started last March after we saw the rise of sex weeks at several peer institutions such as Yale, Brown, and Northeastern. Sex Week is a step in the right direction toward creating a more open dialogue around issues that affect all of us, but that are often swept under the rug due to social taboos and lack of knowledge. Many students at Harvard were not provided with basic comprehensive sexual education in high school, and even those who were are often left with a great deal of questions and a lack of sexual agency that they don’t know how to answer or fix. Furthermore, most high schools do not promote open dialogue about sexual issues, and many parents do not want to discuss these issues either, so many students are left with a sense of embarrassment around issues that are very important to discuss openly.
The programming for Sex Week serves to address both of these issues, offering events that promote literacy and provide information about sex-related topics as well as events that are more focused on de-stigmatization and engendering discussion. Furthermore, sexual literacy can also play an enormous role in reducing sexual violence. The more that people know about consent and the importance of respect in sexual relationships, and the more that sex is seen as a positive, affirming thing, the more likely people are to practice consent and respect.
Moreover, we are glad that Sex Week is happening in the fall rather than the spring this year. Last year, Sex Week was scheduled just two weeks apart from Women’s Week, which caused the two separate events to seem less distinct and served to reduce the energy surrounding each week.
Furthermore, planning Sex Week for earlier in the year means that first-year students will have a chance to begin this important dialogue earlier in their college careers, as well as fill some of the gaps in their sexual education right off the bat. The only attempt that Harvard makes to provide sexual assault education during freshman orientation is through Sex Signals, a presentation that some have criticized for not appropriately addressing the issues it claims to confront. Sex Week can serve to fill some of the gaps that Harvard does not, and is a laudable student-run program that serves Harvard’s undergraduate population well.