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Harvard Sex Week Arouses Thoughtful Discussions

Harvard students hosted a Sex Week event called 'Sexpardy' during last year's iteration of the event.
Harvard students hosted a Sex Week event called 'Sexpardy' during last year's iteration of the event. By Josephine M. Roberts
By Artea Brahaj and Callia A. Chuang, Contributing Writers

Students spoke about sexual health and intimacy during Sex Week events last week, attending panels and workshops with topics ranging from sex toys to gender identity.

For the ninth year, the student organization Sexual Health Education and Advocacy Throughout Harvard College, SHEATH, hosted the wide array of events. This year’s programming included 13 discussions throughout the week, such as “Reproductive Justice with RAD,” and “What, What, In the Butt?: Anal Sex 101.”

Andie E. Turner '20-’21, one of SHEATH's co-presidents, said the group's main goal was to enable Harvard students to make educated decisions regarding their own sexuality and relationships.

“A lot of students come into Harvard maybe with not the best sex education from their high schools or middle schools,” Turner said. “We try to give them the empowerment, the education, the information to go off and have meaningful, happy, healthy sex lives.”

At several sessions, Harvard students discussed their past sexual experiences. Eric J. Cheng ’20, one of the panelists at “Swipe Right: Racial Preferences and Dating,” talked about the effects of dating apps on aggregating existing racial biases in society.

“When you're on an app just for a hookup, like, you really don't care about someone's personality,” Cheng said. “I do think that racial preferences can be more solidified, and that it just feels, like, that much more hurtful.”

Audience member Taylor D. Shirtliff-Hinds ’21 said she appreciated the honesty and authenticity of the five panelists, who also talked about colorism, fetishization, and racial diversity in mainstream media.

Another event, “Bae-Watch: STI Safety with SHARC,” where Sexual Health Awareness and Relationship Communications members addressed common misconceptions about sexually transmitted infections answered audience questions regarding protection, and directed students to free sex resources available on campus and in the greater Boston area.

SHARC educator and panelist Hannah A. Eckstein ’21 said SHARC distributes sex supplies in first-year dorms, upperclassman house, and during their office hours.

“We are here for you if you ever need supplies, if you ever want to talk about an issue, or a concern that you have,” she said.

The events were held in various lecture halls and common spaces across campus.

“I appreciate that we have events that are big – we'll have, like, over 100 people – and then we have little tiny, intimate events,” said Victoria Scott ’20, co-president of SHEATH. “I think it's nice because it caters to different people's levels of comfort.”

Turner said she hopes that Sex Week has fostered a welcoming environment for students and continues to destigmatize discussions around sex.

“It’s not so often that you feel like you can walk into a room of perfect strangers and talk about, you know, oral sex or the things you do when the lights are off,” she said. “They will not feel embarrassed or ridiculed by their questions, and they can get to the answers that they need to continue having a fruitful sex life.”

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