Letter: A different discussion about sex at Yale

Last Friday’s article on the sex@yale initiative (“Dean’s Office Web site to host essays about sex”) received a slew of comments, and we are grateful for both the positive and negative feedback. As members of sex@yale’s steering committee, however, we wish to make a few clarifications.

First off, we want to differentiate ourselves from Sex Week at Yale. While we respect and support the mission of that project, we don’t think sex@yale belongs in the same “too much sex” category. Many people have expressed concerns about pornography, arguing that fumbling sexual exploits have no place on the Dean’s Office site. We agree. Sex@yale plans to center on strategies for approaching the sexual culture, not play-by-plays of our Saturday night hookups.

We also agree that conversation about sex abounds on campus. This is where we’d like to intervene. To borrow a commenter’s words, “The point of the initiative under discussion is that much of this talk [about sex] comes to a crashing halt when it comes to actual, live college students figuring out what they want or do not want … and how to successfully accomplish it. In that silence can lurk a lot of loneliness, confusion and, on occasion, the conditions for much worse things like sexual assault.” We’re trying to move beyond the meaningless chatter about sex to a more productive conversation that promotes broader acceptance and improved personal health and safety when it comes to sex and relationships.

Finally, like many students, we feel much of our education at Yale happens beyond the classroom. Rather than detracting from the academic environment, then, we’re hoping to create a community in which every member feels that his or her health, safety and desires are respected. Sexuality and relationships are integral to one’s social life here at Yale — whether or not you are sexually “active.” And while Yale is an unbelievable place, traces of sexism and prejudice still persist. If we work to foster a culture of respect here on our campus, perhaps we will be able to promote that same culture in the world beyond its gates.

Here’s where you come in. In order to ensure that our whole community and the diversity of our experiences are represented, we need to hear from you. Whether your sex life is your first or last priority, whether or not you usually think gender issues are “your thing,” we need your help to make this initiative dynamic and inclusive.

Laura Gottesdiener and Genna Purcell

Feb. 28

The writers are the co-chairs of the editorial board for sex@yale and seniors in Calhoun and Jonathan Edwards Colleges, respectively.


  • dandelion

    One psychological theory is that young people think about sex unconsciously every 20 seconds. That leaves 19 seconds for the rest of life. It is certainly appropriate to spend one week out of 40 on what the mind spends one second out of 20.

    Why would Nature create a 20 to 1 ratio(actually 19 to 1)?

    Look at a dandelion about ready to lose its wig.


  • @PK

    i’ve always wondered how people determine figures like that. wouldn’t you have to rely on self-reported data about “how much time do you think about sex?” seems wildly unreliable to me.

  • yadda

    Not to mention thinking about it “unconsciously,” whatever that means.

  • saybrook997

    “This is where we’d like to intervene.”

    I don’t want an intervention by a selected group, who want to tell 70-80 sex stories out of 5,280 Yale student sex stories.

    Can you compromise? Put them on maybe a YDN Web site instead of the Dean’s yale.edu site?

    Topics on “the sexual culture, “our Saturday night hookups,” “sexual assault,” “traces of sexism,” and “a culture of respect.” Anyone can see where that is going. They are op-ed pieces like the “I am That Girl” essay/op-ed.

    PK, first, the Shanor study (from Intro Psych), which I don’t believe, found that 12-19 year-old males think of sex 20 times per hour, and males 30-39, 4 times per hour. A married male under 40 thinks of sex 6 times per hour, or only 600 times for each time he has it (1.5 times per week). That must be when a guy has not much else on his mind, which at Yale is mostly Fri. and Sat. nights, class sections, afternoon walks on Broadway, and reading YDN. Sex probably means lips, eyes, etc. This project would have an essay on the female health reasons that women put on lip gloss, cheek stuff, darken upper and lower eye lashes, drape hair over shoulders, use fingernail polish, just to start with. Could it be….

    Second, you have as many YDN comments as the number of sex stories you want. They include comments from parents, alums, and both. None of them likes the sex essay idea. These are the Watergate, war protest, sexual revolution students/parents. Unlike Yale adm. and English prof., they have become right wing types about their daughters attending Yale or who may apply in 2 or 3 years.

    This idea has not yet made it to alumni news. Check with the Alumni House and Yale endowment before the Dean and President sign off on yale.edu for this stuff.

    Third, all the general PC phrases make comments of a Yale nerd sound like a frat boy. If by sexual assault, you mean making out, without prior consent, then as in Animal House before the college disciplinary committee, “My response is, yes, we have taken liberties with our female guests.” If you mean rape, Yale men do not rape Yale women. Like the incest taboo, even a fleeting fantasy of it requires self-punishment and running or swimming additional laps. Yale parents and students don’t need essays about rape fantasies.

    During junior year, my roommate’s girlfriend lived off campus and was followed along Howe Street by a Cadillac with an open door. They thought that she was a hooker. I guess because of her clothes or makeup. Since her boyfriend was out, my roommate and I went over. Hearing the story and never having seen a Yale woman cry (usually nothing terrifies a man like a woman crying), I started laughing and tried to bite my tongue hard. She cried more, and I couldn’t stop laughing. My roommate settled us both down. Maybe Yale parents or freshmen would want that story. Or maybe just put what you want on YDN, and leave the Dean’s office free to deal with other crises.

  • Sophocles/Shakespeare and Bloom



    How about this line from Oedipus Rex as an intimation of the unsconsciopus: “These words thrill through me”.

    As Harold Bloom points out, it was not Freud who discovered the unconscious, it was the Greeks and Shakespeare.

    Apparently “yadda” is more the quality of #3’s thinking, than simply his/her pseudonym.


  • yadda


    The quotation, with which I was unfamiliar, has an undeniable beauty. However, it is contextually useless. SWAY is designed to put sex on the agenda, in the forefront of the mind, hence “thinking,” a *conscious* decision to apply reason and intellect to one’s perception of sex(uality). The analogy fails if it depends on that one second out of twenty being unconscious, no matter how apt “thrilling through me” may have sounded to you when you reached for it.

    Oh, and Professor Bloom should read the Vedas, Hindu texts written around 4500 years ago; he will find descriptions of the unconscious mind that predate their Greek and Shakespearean equivalents by thousands of years.

    Was the ad hom really necessary?