Students Discuss Sex Openly in 'Unsupervised' Talk

Students gathered to discuss issues about sex and relationships in a workshop titled “Unsupervised” on Tuesday night as part of the second annual Sex Week at Harvard. The workshop was meant to provide a safe environment to talk about sex as a small group.

“We, as a culture, are not comfortable about sex,” said Shira Cahn-Lipman, the manager of youth education at the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, who led the workshop. “We are sexual beings; it’s part of our nature.”

Cahn-Lipman kicked off the workshop by outlining the rights of students during the discussion, such as the ability to ask questions and to have fun. She then motioned to the signs that she had hung up around the Sever Hall classroom that read “Agree,” “Disagree,” and “It depends.”

She said several statements such as “My values have changed since coming to college” and “College should be a time for sexual exploration and a relationship limits that,” and asked students to move around the room to the signs that indicated their amount of agreement.

Some students responded to these statements by saying that their values about sex had changed because they had more access to sex in colSome said that relationships can facilitate sexual exploration if there is communication between partners.

“Sex is not bad, it’s not evil, it’s just risky,” Cahn-Lipman said after demonstrating the correct way to put on a condom using a wooden penis. She explained to the group that there are 21 steps in correctly using a condom, including asking for your partner for consent and checking the expiration date on the condom’s package.

Cahn-Lipman discussed the pros and cons of using condoms—namely, the reduced risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections and becoming pregnant versus the reduced sensitivity during sex.

“Trojan and Durex spend about a billion dollars a year making their condoms sound the best,” she said, but added that all brands of condoms will change the experience of sex.

Cahn-Lipman spoke about various STIs such as chlamydia and herpes, in a response to an anonymous question about the possibility of contracting STIs through oral sex.

“One out of four sexually active people in our country have an STI,” Cahn-Lipman said.

“I don’t think people know how to talk about sex without feeling uncomfortable,” Sally M. Castillo ’14 said, adding that while she grew up with a great sexual education, the workshop answered some of the questions she had about STIs.

At the end of the workshop, the students running Sex Week at Harvard raffled off vibrators, lube, and books about sex.

Ben T. Martin ’15, the director of social media for the week’s events, said that he believed the workshop was useful. He added that the focus on STIs and the basics of proper condom use may have been especially helpful for freshmen who may not have had prior sexual eduation.

“I think this was a great introduction for people who may not have gotten the best sexual education in high school,” he said.

-Staff writer D. Simone Kovacs can be reached at