Wash. U. students learn about kink, make crafts from contraceptives at Sex Week

This week is “Sex Week” at Washington University in St. Louis, where students can learn about sex toys, “the politics of pleasure,” and how to make crafts out of contraceptives.

The annual program is hosted by the school’s Peer Health Educators (PHEs), student volunteers who receive training on wellness issues such as stress management, lower-risk drinking, and safer sex, which they then promote on campus through events like Sex Week.

According to the PHE Facebook page, there is one activity scheduled each day from Monday through Friday, and while most of the events focus on the recreational side of sex, there is also a free screening for sexually-transmitted infections (STIs).

Sex Week 2016 kicked off Monday night with an event called “Let’s Talk about Sex (Toys),” which organizers billed as a place to learn “everything you want to know about sex toys,” complete with abundant examples.

The discussion was led by an employee from Box, a local retailer that “sells high-quality, non-toxic sex toys with a focus on those who are often invisible to the rest of society, people of color, differently-abled persons, and folks on the LGBTQQI spectrum,” and which the PHEs describe more succinctly as a “feminist sex store.”

After an interlude for STI testing Tuesday, the Sex Week programming resumed Wednesday with “ Java and Justice: The Politics of Pleasure,” a conversation co-hosted by the university’s Social Justice Center about “who gets to have sexual pleasure and who doesn’t” that, the PHEs helpfully note, took place on “hump day of Sex Week.”

Student coordinator Katie Yun told Student Life that the purpose of the event “is to have a safe discussion about the politics of pleasure; talking about who is allowed to have pleasure, how public assumptions of identity shape how we engage with sex, and interrogating what the stakes are [of] talking about or engaging in pleasure, especially if you are outside the sexual, identity, [or] gender norm.”

Also taking place Wednesday was a workshop titled “ Kinking it up; Tying it Down: Kink 101,” where PHE’s instructed students on “kink consent, negotiations, and safety.”

Thursday evening’s feature will be “ Sex in and Out of the Closet: LGBTQIA* Sex in the Dark,” which is billed as “an educational discussion on pleasure and safe sex brought to you by queer sexual health Peer Health Educators and a sexpert.”

Participants will be able to pose their own questions to moderators “while winning sex toys and eating sexy snacks,” and organizers note that “people of all genders and sexualities are welcome.”

The grand finale of Sex Week 2016 is a gimmicky activity called “Getting Handsy: Sexy Crafts with Bedsider,” during which students will be able to make their own “birth control koozies, condom holders, and sleep masks” with assistance from Bedsider.org, an organization that educates women ages 18-29 about birth control options.

WU is not the only school to hold annual Sex Week festivities, though its status as a private university may help to shield it against the controversy that has surrounded similar programs at public institutions. The University of Tennessee-Knoxville, for instance, has had to rely on private donations for the majority of its Sex Week funding because of opposition from the state legislature.

[RELATED: UT-Knoxville Sex Week to feature BDSM, ‘Butt Stuff’ workshops]

Just before UT’s first Sex Week in 2013, the legislature cut roughly two-thirds of the $20,000 that had been earmarked to pay for the event, and continued public pressure subsequently compelled the university to allow students to opt out of paying the fees that fund Sex Week.

Campus Reform reached out to Melissa Ruwitch, the assistant director/chief of Health Promotion Services and the primary contact for the PHE program, to request additional details about Sex Week, but did not receive a response by press time.

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