Another sex week is coming to campus, but this one bills itself as a bit more conservative than other events.
Sadé Patterson has attended many Sex Week events at UNM over the past two years and said she felt some misleading information was given on abortion and birth control.
Patterson, a senior journalism major and president of Students for Life UNM, said she was also disappointed with the treatment of topics like open marriages, orgies and oral sex, and although she understood this may be the preference of some, she did not feel the majority of students were represented during either event.
In response, Patterson said she decided to create a sex week of her own: The Real Sex Week.
Today through Friday, the pro-life organization Students for Life UNM will host The Real Sex Week with workshops from 6 until 8 p.m. in the SUB ballrooms each evening.
According to the event flyer, the workshops’ themes include contraception, STIs, greener birth control methods, pregnancy/parental support on campus, sexual assault healing, abortion healing and self-defense training. In addition, Care Net’s mobile unit will also offer free, confidential STD testing in the GR parking lot from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. during the Real Sex Week.
“We are calling this year’s sex week, ‘The Real Sex Week’ because we are offering real solutions to real issues on campus,” Patterson said.
She appreciated the efforts of the Women’s Resource Center and Students Alliance for Reproductive Justice in hosting previous Sex Weeks and feels sexual education should be presented in all schools, she said. However, she did not think past Sex Weeks were properly executed.
“Much of the content in the previous Sex Weeks did not empower students to make responsible choices, did not offer support to students if they should become pregnant, nor properly addressed the consequences that may come with sex or the tragedy of sexual assault and how we could take it on as a society,” Patterson said.
Hunter Riley, manager at Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center, said she co-organized SexUality Week (formerly, Sex Week) the past two years. Riley said the group offered sex education, free and safer sex supplies, prizes, classes and more.
“The goal of SexUality Week has always been to provide comprehensive, inclusive and pleasure-focused sex education to UNM students,” said Riley. “Our focus is on safety, consent, pleasure, factual information, inclusivity and intersectionality. Through campus and community support, we have educated hundreds of students about how to make informed choices about their sex and relationship needs.”
Program Specialist and Interim Director at the UNM Women’s Resource Center Caitlin Henke said, in 2014, the Center was the main sponsor, creator and producer of Sex Week, while in 2015, it only worked a bit with the Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice.
“The peer-to-peer model is really effective,” Henke said. “We would love to be involved in any way that makes sense, supports students, aligns with our mission and helps to promote the services and resources we offer to students. This past Sex Week was beautifully constructed and implemented. It was inclusive, thoughtful (including intersectionality) and included unique perspectives, and it was creative. I know how hard these students worked to provide this education to their peers.”
Past Self Serve lecture topics included safer sex without “ruining the mood,” consent, negotiating boundaries with partners, pleasure-based sex skills such as giving and receiving oral sex and “alternative” relationships, including kink and non-monogamy, she said.
Riley was concerned by the fact that the Real Sex Week is hosted by an anti-abortion student group and only focuses on heterosexual sex.
“The titles appear to be misleading and actively use deception and impersonation of SexUality Week,” she said. “It’s irresponsible to ignore the educational needs of students who don’t fall into that category and to only provide information in a way that assumes students aren’t already having sex.”
Riley is also concerned about Care Net being an anti-abortion, Christian service and said by “greener birth control,” Students for Life UNM is likely referring to the rhythm method, which is irresponsible, she said.
“It doesn’t give students a wide variety of birth control options. Instead, they are telling students what is best based on their religious beliefs. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it would, in my opinion, be more ethical to be honest about the limited scope of information.”
Nick Montoya, a member of the Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice, said that, as someone who is part of the LGBTQ community, the education he received in high school did not cover everything that he and many others needed.
“Now in college, I know that there are many other people that share these same needs,” he said. “We need to teach our diverse students to love and accept who they are with the necessary information that they deserve. Comprehensive and inclusive sexual education is a vital part of our diverse community and something I strive to protect and encourage.”
Rebecca Frock M.A., L.P.C.C. will be giving a key note address on healing after sexual assault during the Real Sex Week.
Frock said she hopes students will walk away with the confident assurance that we are never defined by past traumas. She said that she is grateful for the opportunity to share the hope of so many who are affected by sexual assault and have chosen to heal.
UNM graduate Robin Willoughby Moses discovered she was pregnant during her senior year of college and will be giving a talk during the Real Sex Week on her experience.
Willoughby Moses said she hopes the Real Sex Week attendees will see that there are a lot of options for support and help out there.
“There’s not one set path you have to take for your health and your family’s health,” she said. “I personally identify more with this year’s Real Sex Week. It seems more supportive and inclusive, honestly. I never felt I could go to any of the talks in past years, because I didn’t feel comfortable with some subject matters.”
In its press release, the Real Sex Week wrote that past Sex Weeks “provided objectifying and misleading information to students on sex, contraception and abortion and ultimately accumulated with an official apology.”
Riley would like to clarify that the apology occurred in 2014 and that organizers faced minimal pushback in 2015.
Henke said the Real Sex Week’s upcoming events seem different.
“I hope what is presented in the Real Sex Week is respectful, inclusive, factual and compassionate,” she said and, up until this point, she has not heard of any criticism towards 2015’s Sex Week.
Riley said SexUality Week provided accurate and inclusive information for students of any identity, was supported by the Society for the Scientific Study of Sexuality, students, faculty and administrators.
“We work with nationally-recognized sex educators to bring students relevant, inclusive and medically accurate information,” Riley said.“We know that for many people, college is a time to explore one’s sexuality. If we give students information so they can navigate their sexual relationships in a respectful, healthy and safe way, that is an important contribution to creating and shaping healthy adults.”
SexUality Week organizers will also be tabling at Smith Plaza Monday through Thursday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and the Student Alliance for Reproductive Justice will continue to sponsor and organize future SexUality Weeks, said Riley.
“As a married woman, I can say that sex is a gift, but with that gift, wisdom and boundaries are required,” Patterson said. “I would have understood if the previous Sex Weeks briefly highlighted the obvious pleasure of sex, but what they did was over-hype sex as only a means for pleasure, while neglecting to guide students to make responsible choices. The previous Sex Weeks suggested that sex is only physical, but we know that it is also a very emotional act that can often end in heartbreak.”
Ultimately, the goal of The Real Sex Week is to offer students life-affirming sexual education, resources regarding sexual assault, encourage responsible decision-making and support students when they face difficult situations, Patterson said.
“We want a safer and more empowered campus,” she said. “Our hope is to not cause any division between the previous Sex Week contributors and us, but to instead work together in the future to bring meaningful and appropriate sexual education to our campus. I think we can all learn something from each other.”
Elizabeth Sanchez is a reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Beth_A_Sanchez.