I was fortunate to have really good sex education in high school, undergrad and grad school. And, when I was a researcher, some of my work focused on sex related topics. But some college students feel their sex education in high school and beyond has been inadequate and has not prepared them for sexual experiences. Thus, Sex Week was born.
It was Sex Week at Harvard, a student-run program of lectures, panel discussions and blush-inducing conversations about all things sexual. The event was Harvard’s first, though the tradition started at Yale in 2002 and has since spread to colleges around the country: Brown, Northeastern, the University of Kentucky, Indiana University and Washington University have all held some version of Sex Week in recent years.
Despite the busy national debate over contraception and financing for reproductive health, Sex Week at Harvard (and elsewhere) has veered away from politics, emerging instead as a response to concern among students that classroom lessons in sexuality — whether in junior high school or beyond — fall short of preparing them for the experience itself. Organizers of these events say that college students today face a confusing reality: At a time when sexuality is more baldly and blatantly on display, young people are, paradoxically, having less sex than in generations past, surveys indicate.
“I think there’s this hook-up culture at Harvard where people assume that everyone’s having sex all the time, and that’s not necessarily true,” said Suzanna Bobadilla, a 21-year-old junior.
Students here seemed less interested in debating the Republicans’ social agenda than in talking about how sexual mores related to their own lives. One event, “Hooking Up on Campus,” got participants talking about perceptions that have been built up about casual sex — for instance, the idea that all women are so liberated that they are happy to have sex without commitment (a theme that is examined in depth in the new HBO series “Girls“).
The event had helped dispel that rumor, Ms. Bobadilla said, by presenting statistics showing that college students were having less sex than their predecessors and by “letting people come out with their own perspectives.”
Such plain-spoken sex education is particularly important at a school like Harvard, she said, because “Harvard kids don’t want to admit they don’t know something that they feel like they should know.”