The Women's Resource Center (WRC) at the University of New Mexico is hosting the first Sex Week initiative Sept. 29 - Oct. 2. During the seminars, sex educators will teach attendees about consensual, safe sex through PowerPoint presentations. The events are open to the public, and most sessions are free.
Sex Week is sponsored by UNM's Women's Resource Center, Graduate and Professional Student Association and a local business, Self-Serve Sexuality Resource Center.
“Sex Week is part of the Women’s Resource Center’s overall strategy to prevent sexual violence from occurring on campus,” said Summer Little, WRC director. “We are using controversial titles, and some subject matter, to bring the message to the intended audience.”
The Sex Week initiative is in response to a successful healthy sex campaign by the WRC called “I Heart Orgasm.” Little said that 750 students turned out each time it was offered the past two years. Based on input from students, the WRC decided to expand the program and shift part of the focus to help prevent sexual assaults on campus.
“Our rationale is that by teaching medically accurate sex education with prevention infused throughout, we will be heard by the folks who need this info the most. Young people are arguably interested in sex and many of them have had limited or no sex education. In teaching them about sex, we can also teach them about healthy relationships and consent,” Little said.
Funding for the sessions comes from the student fees designated for the WRC and are set aside for educational purposes. Two of the more controversial sessions on Wednesday and Thursday are not held on campus and require a registration fee.
“Students are at the forefront of all of our programming so the topics were student driven,” Little said. “No taxpayer money has been used for this series. Money was requested from student government and was granted in order to do prevention education and programming in all the above areas: gendered violence prevention program, men’s program, women’s health education program.”
The provocative nature of the titles of the workshops has spurred a lot of conversations about the appropriateness of sex education on campus. UNM’s policy on free speech describes why a college campus is a correct venue for debate and controversial topics:
“As an institution that exists for the express purposes of education, research, and public service, the University is dependent upon the unfettered flow of ideas, not only in the classroom and the laboratory, but also in all University activities. As such, protecting freedom of expression is of central importance to the University.”
Policy 2220: Freedom of Expression and Dissent suggest a way to respond to speech or topics that are counter to a person’s belief’s or perspective: “The exchange of diverse viewpoints may expose people to ideas some find offensive, even abhorrent. The way that ideas are expressed may cause discomfort to those who disagree with them. The appropriate response to such speech is speech expressing opposing ideas and continued dialogue, not curtailment of speech.”
The WRC’s workshops are in addition to a campus-wide effort to identify and combat sexual assault. UNM Student Affairs implemented LoboRESPECT (Respond, Educate, Support, Prevent, Empower, Consent, Train), a campaign tasked to create and implement programs, activities and events throughout the year that address sexual violence.
Social media such as Facebook and Twitter, using the hash tag #loborespect, will help publicize the initiatives and engage the student community. Student government and other campus groups will be launching similar awareness campaigns, such as the “Start by Believing” and “Step Up,” throughout the semester.