Sex Week organizers submit proposal

The proposal for Sex Week 2012 to be submitted to University administrators today acknowledges that a few past events have “gone awry” and promises that this year’s events will all have educational value.

After the Advisory Committee on Campus Climate recommended that Sex Week be banned from campus in a report released last month, University President Richard Levin gave organizers a chance to draw up a proposal that “might warrant continuation” of the event. A copy of the proposal sent to the News in advance of submission describes plans for workshops, lectures and artistic performances on topics such as pornography, sexual consent, abstinence and the role of religion in sexuality. For the first time, Sex Week organizers are also requesting funds from the Yale College Dean’s Office and hope to increase the number of activities that are co-sponsored by student groups.

“The point of Sex Week is not to be rebellious,” said Connie Cho ’13, one of the event’s eight executive directors. “We are a student organization, and we have a lot of student group event co-sponsors. We believe that we’re drawing on a wide community of support.”

Cho added that after Sex Week faced criticism from the Advisory Committee, this year’s event will not include “Yale” in its name or rely on corporate sponsors. Instead, she said Sex Week 2012 will seek funding from alumni and student groups once it learns the administration’s response to the proposal. Cho and the other organizers have asked Levin and Yale College Dean Mary Miller — the administrators receiving the proposal — to respond before the end of the fall semester, she said.

Miller said in a Thursday email that she has seen an earlier draft of the proposal and appreciates its breadth and “overall vision,” but she did not comment on specific aspects of the proposal.

Cho said organizers have taken special care to make Sex Week activities relevant to all students, regardless of their ethnic background or sexual orientation. Cho added that some past events and images, such as the cover of the 2008 Sex Week Magazine, have been heteronormative, and this year’s Sex Week board will work to highlight topics more specific to LGBTQ students. In addition, Sex Week will emphasize sexual health and female sexuality — a topic Cho said is historically repressed in society but especially relevant now that Yale is facing a Title IX investigation into its sexual climate.

Organizers also requested funding from the Dean’s Office to support workshops on sexual communication and consent as well as the relationship between alcohol and sex. Cho called the Dean’s Office a “logical ally” because of its recent efforts to educate the community about sexual misconduct though a team of student Communication and Consent Educators established this fall.

The proposal states that Sex Week will take an “intellectually curious, mature approach” to topics of sexuality and hopes to avoid mistakes made in the past. After a porn director in 2008 “unexpectedly” screened a violent pornography clip and an erotic performer in 2010 “shocked students … by exposing her chest without the student directors’ consent,” this year’s organizers wrote that they will screen all videos and ensure that speakers understand the academic nature of their visits. The proposal also calls previous years’ parties at Toad’s Place that featured porn actresses “inconsistent” with Sex Week’s educational mission and said the events associated the porn industry “with celebration.”

“We’re trying to be explicit about the fact that Sex Week is both exciting and educational, and outside media or other people in the community shouldn’t sensationalize such a personal topic for people,” Cho said.

Still, organizers said they intend to hold three events on pornography and will not shy away from other controversial topics. Cho said discussions about pornography are necessary because it is present on Yale’s campus but often not talked about openly.

“Facilitating a discussion on the subject of pornography does not endorse or condemn its use or production,” the proposal states. “Pornography needs to be discussed in the context of student life simply because any product with such a stronghold on the wallets, minds and sexual behavior of young men and women deserves scrutiny.”

Cho told the News last month that she is confident that Sex Week “is going to happen” regardless of the administration’s response. But she said Thursday that the individual events are conditional on Levin’s decision, adding that she hopes that discussions with administrators “would be ongoing if there were any issues raised.”

Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’90, who saw an early draft of the proposal, said in a Thursday email that she was pleased with how organizers emphasized Sex Week’s “educational possibilities.”

As in past years, Sex Week 2012 also intends to promote testing for sexually-transmitted infections. Organizers will host workshops on contraceptive methods and collaborate with Yale Health to encourage students to get tested. Besides the events on physical sexual health, organizers proposed an event on mental health issues such as the perception of body image.

Sex Week is a biennial event launched in 2002 by Eric Rubenstein ’04 and Jacqueline Farber ’03.

Clarification: Dec. 3

An earlier version of this article did not include Connie Cho’s ’13 comment about individual Sex Week events being conditional on University President Richard Levin’s response to the proposal that organizers submitted Friday.

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