Between Feb. 9 and 14 of last year, the inboxes of Yale students were bombarded with mass e-mails about vibrators, masturbation, pornography and sex. This was so-called “Sex Week at Yale,” a program of workshops, parties and guest speakers meant to encourage discourse about sex and sexuality on the Yale campus, thereby creating a more knowledgeable student body. Understandably, the week’s events and the barrage of e-mails were somewhat controversial: some students embraced this opportunity to launch their careers in the porn industry, others were appalled by the unwanted deluge of risque material in their mailboxes. Whether evil or educational, however, Sex Week did generate an incredible amount of nationwide press interest.
According to National Review associate editor Meghan Clyne ’03 (a former Yale Daily News columnist), one disgusted student attended a Sex Week workshop out of curiosity, only to discover, to his horror, that he was being offered “safer-sex tips.” The student narrowly avoided being handed a free sex-toy before being driven away in shame by “an explicit story about a boy and his mother’s vibrator.” Unfortunately, I was not curious enough to attend this workshop at the time. Now, perhaps more unfortunately, I find myself rather intrigued about the fate of the boy and his mother’s vibrator.
Ms. Clyne, in glorious National Review style, described Sex Week as “campus-wide orgy,” which it most certainly wasn’t. Then again, National Review (which, most unfortunately, is the byproduct of a Yale education) prides itself on its conservative bias.
For a larger group of students, made up primarily of self-loving males, Sex Week was characterized by the most single-minded episode of star-gazing that I have witnessed during my time here. Yale held its breath as a real, live porn star, Devinn Lane, walked among us. Hundreds of wide-eyed young Yalies whispered to each other in the halls, dared each other to approach Ms. Lane, and were generally rendered speechless by the presence of a woman who is professional at sex.
Ms. Clyne is quick to decry Ms. Lane’s presence on campus, pointing out that the Yale Women’s Center, the “locus of radical feminism on campus,” was being hypocritical for participating in any activity relating to porn. Ms. Clyne seems not to know that Ms. Lane is a vociferous advocate of women’s rights and of respectful roles for women in pornography.
Nor, it seems, is Ms. Clyne ready to admit that millions of lives can be saved through proper education about STDs and contraceptives (universal abstinence being a safe but unrealistic goal). Ms. Clyne does not seem to feel there is even an interesting discussion to be had about these issues. Although in her YDN columns of 2002 and 2003, Ms. Clyne decried the lack of “civil debate” at Yale, she seems to keep her fingers tightly in her ears when it comes to the steamier issues.
With the graduation of Eric Rubenstein ’04, Sex Week’s founder and one-man organizer, it seems that we will be without porn stars and dildos this year. In the end, Sex Week, which will be missed by some more than others, was hampered by its levity. Although I am unwilling, like Ms. Clyne, to write-off Sex Week as “little more than a week-long bacchanal,” I will admit that it had some problems. If Sex Week could have stayed away from the type of adolescent and sexist humor exemplified by the jokes and pictures displayed on the Sex Week website (www.sexweekatyale.com), I think it could have generated more significant educational discourse on this campus. As it was, Sex Week’s message, though important, often seemed to blur into some kind of dirty joke.
Personally, I am looking forward to Sex Week’s 2005 replacement, Vagina Week. Vagina Week, a global movement to prevent violence against women and girls, is of a very different nature than Sex Week. Nevertheless, it highlights the importance of having a few days at Yale where we acknowledge the significance and centrality of issues of gender and sexuality. Vagina Week is offering workshops from the hands-on (vagina soap making) to the hands-off (self-defense), as well as sponsoring a performance of the “Vagina Monologues” this weekend.
I am pleased that gender and sexuality is not taboo at Yale, and I am confident that we will have a nice, serious, Vagina Week this year.
Andrew Smeall still wants to know about the boy and his mother’s vibrator.