Yale Students Propose Less Porny Sex Week


In response to the administration’s threat to ban Sex Week at Yale from using the university’s name or facilities, Sex Week organizers have developed a new proposal they hope will save the event. It will focus on “female sexuality, queer sexuality, and sexual health,” rather than porn.

The proposal, presented to Yale President Richard Levin today, breaks down Sex Week 2012 events into 10 areas: Consent & Communication, Creative Expression & Performance, Culture & Sexuality, Faith & Sexuality, Female Sexuality, Law & Politics, Pornography, Psychology & Biology, Relationships, and Sexual Health. Proposed presenters include Jaclyn Friedman, author of What You Really Really Want: The Smart Girl’s Shame-Free Guide To Sex And Safety, and Dr. Lisa Wade, a sociologist and editor of Sociological Images. Sex Week will still include a discussion of porn — producer and performer Maggie Mayhem will lead a Q&A on the politics of pornography and the differences between on- and off-camera sex. But she’ll also sit on a panel with Gail Dines, author of Pornland, a critique of porn’s effect on contemporary sexuality. Dines will give a solo lecture as well. And a panel on faith and sexuality will discuss abstinence “within the context of religion, but also […] in other contexts.”

The new proposal also includes appearances by sex toy manufacturers — Babeland founder Claire Cavanah will talk about female sexuality and her experiences starting a business in a male-dominated field. Suki Dunham, founder of OhMiBod, will discuss similar issues. However, controversial sex toy distributor Pure Romance will not be in attendance, and in fact Sex Week 2012 will do away with corporate sponsorship entirely. The Sex Week organizers write, “corporate sponsorship has been utilized in the past, because money was needed for magazine production costs, honorariums, and travel reimbursement for speakers. But Sex Week 2012 has eliminated corporate sponsorship, as the loss in funds provided from sponsorship pale in comparison to any risk of commercializing sexuality.” The organizers conclude their proposal thus:

Understanding sex, love, gender, sexuality, intimacy, and relationships is essential to our education at Yale and our well-being. This time of scrutiny can serve as an opportunity for Yale to become a leader in eliminating sexual violence by raising campus standards. A thoughtful, interdisciplinary, peer-sponsored forum on sex can enrich lives, while silence creates the environment for abuse, intolerant, and disrespect.

The Sex Week 2012 organizers have addressed the concerns about the event that led President Levin to threaten to take away their right to use the Yale name in the first place. There’s some disagreement about how serious that threat was — in an email to us, one Yale tipster familiar with the situation called it a “ban,” while Sex Week organizer Paul Holmes argued that Sex Week had not been banned. In any case, Levin did offer students the chance to submit an alternate proposal to enable them to keep Sex Week on campus. What they’ve come up with doesn’t just fix the problems brought up by Sex Week critics — it creates a well-rounded event that addresses complex issues of sexuality from multiple points of view. Levin would be wise to accept their proposal.

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