Toad’s Place swapped dancers and penny drinks for activists and open discussion during Wednesday afternoon’s “Sex at Yale: The Toad’s Edition” forum hosted by the Yale Women’s Center.
Recognizing the New Haven dance club and concert venue as a staple of Yale’s sexual culture, Women’s Center representatives encouraged Yalies to “see Toad’s with the lights on” and discuss sex and alcohol issues associated with the club’s weekly dance parties. Eighty-eight students in attendance related a range of experiences, and generally agreed that going to Toad’s can be both enjoyable and unsavory.
“We’re doing this with a sense of humor, but we’re not trying to be ironic,” Alice Buttrick ’10, the center’s public relations coordinator said. “Everyone knows about Toad’s, so it seemed like a good, universal place to address the dating scene and sexual culture [at Yale].”
Familiar dance hits played and colored lights flashed as Women’s Center board members Kathleen Powers ’12 and Emma Barasch ’11 welcomed the crowd to enjoy Yorkside pizza before breaking off into small discussion groups. Attendees were offered the option of joining a same-sex discussion group.
While shuffling into their chairs, a number of participants remarked that the floor, though dirty, appeared far less grimy in the light than they had imagined. For some students, this unique event offered their first ever glimpse of Toad’s.
Women’s Center staffer Yinshi Lerman-Tan ’11 said the open dialogue in each group had no pre-set format, but simply offered a chance for students to consider their sexual habits, as well as “all things Toad’s — the good and the bad.”
Each small discussion group covered varied issues, including alcohol abuse, consent to sex, Yale’s hook-up culture and gender dynamics in the context of Toad’s Place dance parties. Discussion leaders encouraged participants to speak freely about opinions and personal experiences in the “safe space” of their group. Discussions were off the record.
Buttrick said the event was part of the Women’s Center’s ongoing efforts to promote consent education, cultural awareness and sexual harassment prevention. Several groups on campus, including the fraternities Sigma Phi Epsilon and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the sorority Pi Beta Phi and cultural organizations such as the Black Men’s Union, voiced their support for the forum or had members in attendance, Buttrick said.
Buttrick said the event went “incredibly well” based on the turnout, flow of conversation and positive responses received immediately afterwards. She added that the Women’s Center will continue to collect feedback throughout the coming week to gauge whether the event was successful and to benefit future “Sex at Yale” discussions.
All six students interviewed after the forum said they enjoyed the event and particularly the choice of venue.
“The event was well facilitated, and I felt comfortable talking about real, sometimes awkward topics,” Zoe Greenberg ’13 said.
The Women’s Center also hosted Toad’s weekly Wednesday night dance party following the forum.