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Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby

By Joey Huang
By The Crimson Editorial Board
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board.

After a long dry spell, Sex Week is back. Once Puritan stomping grounds, this week, Sever and Emerson Hall have been dominated by sexual education leaders, advocates, and surveyors. Led by Sexual Health Education and Advocacy Throughout Harvard College, Sex Week has begun with a bang. Penetrant topics — that is, those that go beyond surface-level abstinence and safety — pervade sex week. SHEATH has organized a week to learn about pleasure, sex, and how to enjoy both safely and creatively, breaking down deep rooted, no-fun taboos.

Sex Week’s impact on campus dialogue is undeniable. Scores of our peers altered their already-packed schedules to participate in at least some of its events, with attendance reaching 360 students for the three events hosted last Monday. Sex Week owes its success (as well as the ensuing dialogue) to the flawless execution and preparedness of the organizing group. The lighthearted, causal framing of the events is undeniably helpful. With names ranging from “A+ Students, F Boys: A Student Panel on Dating and Hookups in College” and “What What, In the Butt?: Anal Sex 101,” last week’s activites openly poked fun at the sometimes thorny, scary, or hush-hush parts of our romantic and sexual endeavors, encouraging students to be have fun and be vulnerable. Organizers’ choices actively challenge the notion that sex education must be tied to the outdated pseudo-moral principles, simply be a crash course in pregnancy avoidance, or preach reductive, anti-carnal doctrines.

As a board, we’ll gladly take free condoms and sex toys over unhelpful moralizing; many of our peers, it seems, will too! We’re happy to see Sex Week return to campus, particularly in such strong shape, and thank the students, particularly SHEATH co-presidents Karina A. Pimenta ’22 and Andie E. Turner ’20-’22, who made it possible.

Through its Sex Week programming, SHEATH is helping us over the hump of shame and insecurity that prevents many young people (and honestly, people of all ages) from tackling giggle-inducing taboos. The organizers have managed to destigmatize serious conversations about sex in novel ways, even by simple virtue of holding events inside stuffy Harvard classrooms, where the intellectual backdrop helps break awkward silences. Blurring the line between Harvard as a virtuous, academic campus and Harvard as a home to (inevitably horny) young adults with sexual desires is radically refreshing. It is a mindset that is sex-positive beyond the scope of simply practicing safe sex protocols; a practical implementation of the abstract belief that desire isn’t inherently dirty (in a bad way, anyway).

Sex Week’s success is particularly gratifying given the dire state of sexual education across the country. Roughly half of school districts across the country require no sexual education at all; those that do too often offer lackluster programs. SHEATH is paving the way for the smarter sexual discussions that we need: those that go beyond the run-of-the-mill lecture a middle school P.E. coach might deliver. Through discussions like “My-dentity: BGLTQ Intimacy,” “Race and Relationships: A Student Panel,” and “Won’t Stop Nothing But a Sentence: Period Talk w/ Flex,” SHEATH includes conversations beyond the conventional and, quite frankly, beyond the tired default heterosexual, male, and often white perspective. This programming undermines the unspoken cultural assumption that just heterosexual men are at the forefront of sexual insight and pleasure.

Yet the fun atmosphere Sex Week projects should not be taken as a free pass to behave any which way at its events. Students have a responsibility to respect the event, as a general courtesy to both its organizers and the peers who benefit from it. That includes picking up after ourselves following each event, no matter how spicy its content, and respecting guest speakers and moderators. It also includes respecting gift policies — take the free vibrator, but please don’t steal one for your friend!

Ultimately, SHEATH has exposed our community's naked desire to further explore the bounds of sex and sexuality. The week’s focus on enjoying sex, rather than just being “educated” on it, is pretty revolutionary. We hope the dialogue sparked continues beyond Sex Week.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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