KISC Creates Hook-Up Convos

Kelly Cattano

Colgate University has introduced an official sexual education class on campus. “Yes Means Yes” is a series of five non-credit classes held on Wednesday evenings over dinner from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The topic of discussion will be Colgate’s “hook-up culture,” what one wants in a relationship, how to navigate one’s own sexuality better and how to help others with these areas. Facilitators will focus on the formative novel, Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape.

Jaclyn Berger ’09 created the series’ syllabus for her sociology and anthropology independent study, which started out as an extension of the Sociology of Gender course with visiting professor Angela Hattery.

“A lot of questions raised throughout my year of study with Professor Hattery required me to look closely at the intersection of gender roles and socially accepted notions of physical sex, and what impact each relationship had on the other,” Berger said.

Berger selected Yes Means Yes! Visions of Female Sexual Power & A World Without Rape, written by Jaclyn Friedman and Jessica Valenti, to emphasize positive sexuality and consensual sex. An individual chapter is assigned for each week’s discussion in order to have a strong foundation for conversation and plenty of participation.

“I think the most important thing [the book] can do is generate conversations about sexuality as it exists and what an individual or entire college campus can do to steer it in a direction that is healthy for everyone,” Berger said.

Associate Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Dawn LaFrance is the coordinator and co-facilitator of this sexual education series. LaFrance related how the series itself came into being.

“After this topic came up in many conversations on campus, especially during brownbag lunches, a group of us decided to get Jaclyn’s permission and move forward on making her curriculum a reality,” LaFrance said.

This past summer, students and faculty instituted an innovative initiative on campus called “Keep it Sexy, Colgate” (KISC). Focused on positive and healthy relationships, KISC is a committee that creates programs that promote sexual awareness and equality in relationships. The “Yes Means Yes” series is but one of many programs generated from KISC.

Along with LaFrance, nine other trained experts (students and faculty) in human sexuality will facilitate the series. In order to expose multifarious perspectives on the broad topic, each facilitator represents a particular department. Specialists in sociology, mathematics, counseling, women’s studies, the Center for Outreach, Volunteerism and Education (COVE), Associate Vice President and Dean of Students Scott Brown and the Assistant Dean of the Sophomore Year Experience will facilitate.

Discussions will examine unanswered yet frequently posed questions such as where the date has gone, why norms have changed since students’ parents dated, if hooking up is bad, if hooking up is unique to Colgate and if dating several people simultaneously is bad.

LaFrance offered her philosophy on hooking up.

“I don’t think ‘hooking up’ is necessarily bad. I believe that relationships should be consensual and safe. If students fulfill those two objectives ‘hooking up,’ I don’t have a problem with it. The problems in a hook-up culture come from when these two requirements aren’t maintained,” LaFrance said. “The alcohol use on campus certainly contributes to the hook up culture.”

LaFrance promises that “Yes Means Yes” will encourage students to take control of their relationships.

“Men and women are both capable of asking people out on dates. If traditionally this was a man’s role but they aren’t doing it, women should try and see what happens. Additionally, students should learn to ask for what they want sexually and be insistent on what they don’t want. If a student wants to find a healthy relationship, the chances that will occur following a ‘hook-up’ are low,” LaFrance said.

Berger also offered her thoughts on talking about sex, as it is usually taboo to do so in public conversation.

“In my opinion, sex is something that should be talked about all the time. The more you talk about it, the more comfortable it becomes. When campus culture takes to talking about sex in a more open, constructive manner, the culture can work towards forming a generally healthy climate,” Berger said.

Progressive conversations from classrooms and brown bag lunches about sex are encouraged to spread into everyday conversations and delve even deeper to discover the necessities of a healthy relationship.

“I am hoping that the students will learn from each other as well as from the facilitators. The students may decide to do something active about the hook-up culture after it is over,” LaFrance said.

The “Yes Means Yes” series caters to the interests of LGBTQ, heterosexuals, males and females. Classes will meet October 7, 14, 28 and November 4, to help coeds take control of relationships.