Abby Sun

“The word that comes to mind when I think of Abby Sun is 'fierce,'” says Sarah A. Rankin.
By Rachel Gibian

“The word that comes to mind when I think of Abby Sun is 'fierce,'” says Sarah A. Rankin, Director of the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. “She’s a passionate proponent of sexual health and when Abby gets fired up about something, she makes stuff happen.” No wonder, then, that the event Sun co-founded, Harvard’s Sex Week, has been such a resounding success.

The list of Sun’s accomplishments, however, just begins there. When she isn’t busy working with Peer Contraceptive Counselors, the Radcliffe Union of Students and Sexual Health Education & Advocacy Throughout Harvard College, Abby dedicates much of her time to her art. A VES concentrator, Abby is a prolific photographer and aspiring documentary filmmaker.

Sun developed the idea of putting on a Harvard Sex Week over a lunch break with her friend Samantha A. Meier ’12. The week dedicated to “promot[ing] a holistic understanding of sex and sexuality” is no small affair. In fact, Sun would later land on the front page of The New York Times. With two wildly successful years, Sex Week has built on the popularity of events like the Female Orgasm Seminar to promote discussions of sexuality on a wide variety of topics, ranging from “Sexnicity” to panels on sexual assault policy and healthy relationships.

Clearly, Abby is not one to shy away from a challenge. “I always like to dream big,” she admits, “but I don’t think we knew how big it would become.” Abby’s activist and feminist concerns often focus on societal borders and fringes. In January 2010, she took this concern on the road, through an Artist Development Fellowship exploring the visual, cultural and emotional boundaries of the American/Canadian border.

“We live in a part of the country where we really draw the line between us and them,” she explains. “I think these lines—although perhaps more permanent on the ground, along the border—are lines that we draw every day. How do you know who you are, and how do you know what you believe in? These are all questions of identity that I think really started with the projects that I worked on here at Harvard.”

In the case of Abby Sun, the line between activist, feminist, and artist is blurry. But such porous boundaries are precisely what unite her various projects on gender, borderlands, and sexual health. In her eyes, exploring these distinctions teaches us more about ourselves.

Abby generates effusive praise from those who have spent time with her during her time at Harvard. “She is perhaps the [single] person who affected my own thinking and activism most during my four years at Harvard,” asserts her Sex Week co-founder Meier. “I have faith that she will do amazing things on her own terms in her own way in years to come, and I can’t wait to see what those things are.”

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