Two recent Colgate events have started to shift the campus dialogue on sexuality from the Jug dance floor to campus-wide forums such as the African, Latin, Asian and Native American (ALANA) Cultural Center and WRCU.
Last Wednesday, the Office of Undergraduate Studies and the Center for Learning, Teaching and Research hosted a study break in the ALANA living room for students to come and ask frank questions on sex and sexuality. It was followed up on Sunday evening with a discussion on Adjunct Professor of the Health Sciences and Director of Student Health Services Dr. Merrill Miller’s weekly talk radio show, “What’s Up Doc?”
Wednesday’s event started with pizza, wings and an icebreaker activity where students were asked to list different slang terms for male and female genitalia and sexual activities.
“This was very educational in itself with students listing terms coming from different cultural contexts,” Emily Blake, Assistant Director for Student Life and Academic LGBTQ Initiatives and co-organizer of Wednesday’s event, said.
Event moderators Blake, Miller and Associate Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Shelly Lear then led a discussion about a wide range of taboo sexual topics. When the conversation became slow, the moderators would pick a question from a stack of index cards. Each of these questions had been anonymously submitted by the study break’s attendees.
Questions were asked about everything from teaching a sibling about responsible sex practices to knowing when to have sex for the first time to the ambiguous necessity of jumbo-sized condoms.
“My main goal was to provide information to students who have questions about sex. Talking about sex is very taboo in our society. When it comes to having healthy sexual relationships I feel communication is the key,” Blake said. “It was my hope that by beginning those conversations in a safe space or allowing people to listen and ask questions, they will continue the discussion with their friends and/or partner.”
Student response to the event was overwhelmingly positive. Thirty-five people of various sexual orientations and levels of sexual experience attended. Participants felt comfortable in the setting, and many felt that they took away valuable knowledge from the session that they may have not had access to otherwise.
“I felt the conversation was non-heteronormative, relaxed and fun,” Blake said.
Sunday’s segment on Dr. Miller’s radio show, titled “Let’s Talk Dirty,” discussed similar topics, as well as the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning) initiatives and groups on campus. The show featured Blake as well as senior Dom Ruggerio.
The show began with a detailed description of LGBTQ groups and activities on campus. Both Blake and Ruggerio discussed their involvement through groups such as Supporters, Advocates and Rainbow Alliance. Blake also talked about her regular Safe Zone training sessions, where students can learn what it means to be an ally to the LGBTQ community.
Merrill, Blake and Ruggerio then discussed various sexual topics relevant to Colgate life, particularly those dealing with the emotional aspects of sex. The quickly covered topics included sex education, abstinence, finding interested partners of the same sex and the aftermath of random hook-ups.
According to Blake, these awkward morning-afters can be a learning experience.
“It can be an opportunity to learn that if you aren’t ready to have people talking about what happened the night before, you should think about the kind of hook-ups and relationships you have in the future,” she said.
Blake has helped plan several upcoming events to continue this discourse on campus, including speakers and film screenings dealing with sexuality.