God created the world in one week. Or maybe he didn’t — I’m pretty sure there’s a debate you can attend to argue that, or anything else you want to argue. Because that’s what Yalies do: we argue, because there must be a Right Answer out there, and it’s either my position or yours.
If you want to get a college student’s attention, you have one of two options: free food or sex. Yale’s got the free food thing down. But sex is still one we’re dealing with, from Title IX to Sex Week, and we’re constantly debating the “S-word.” When, with whom, with what gender, how … These conversations aren’t just happening on the school-wide level, but in each common room. It’s inevitable.
Sex Week is on everyone’s minds. It addresses on the macro level what we all discuss on the micro level. When I first heard about it, freshman year, I chuckled. “Really?” I thought. “They demonstrate a blow job with a banana?” But I didn’t go to any events — I was a DSer, and thus too stressed out and lazy to go to any of them. But it did give me a sense of pride in my school. We were talking about these issues without shame; we could simultaneously take it seriously enough to discuss sex trafficking yet lightly enough to laugh at ourselves. It’s valuable to be able to talk about sex, all kinds of sex and everything about sex, in a campus-wide forum. Why should we have to hide our discussions? So maybe I should go out and protest in favor of Sex Week.
But then I realize that the Undergraduates for a Better Yale College and others who think like them have valid points. Talking about sex is good — talking about sex simply to talk about sex is, well, a tautology. If Sex Week has devolved to the point where its main focus is “titillating displays,” then the Internet will do just as well. Objectification is not a good thing; I doubt anyone at Yale really disagrees with that. And I certainly don’t want a culture that glorifies objectification. As one of the most hopeless romantics one will ever find, I agree that there should be intimacy before sex.
But let’s be real: that doesn’t happen. Not at Yale, and not in the real world. Not just because of a less-than-ideal culture, but because some people like sex and don’t want emotional attachments. And, conversely, in the real world talking about sex to your boss is probably not okay (though that might depend on your job). Being able to discuss sex is great, but there’s a time and a place.
People are getting so worked up about Sex Week, and whether or not it should be banned, but remember that they’re trying to change it to a compromise. The coordinators are, at President Levin’s behest, making a proposal for a new week that is less about the thrill of sex and more about education, but Levin didn’t ban it outright. So no, it’s not one or the other, not objectification or sex — it’s both.
But that’s not how Yalies think, or so it has seemed to me in my years here. We can’t help but think in absolutes. It has to be one or the other, and we will argue to the vicious end for whichever side of the argument we believe in. I just don’t see why it can’t be a continuum. Can’t a UBYC member admit that while she thinks parts of Sex Week go too far, some parts of it (say, the sex-ed parts) are a good thing? Can’t a proponent of Sex Week allow that while Sex Week is important, maybe it has strayed a bit from its original purpose? There’s a compromise position, and sometimes the answer isn’t to stick rigidly to one side until it becomes a war of attrition. We don’t need trenches dug on Old Campus.
Maybe this time, the answer is to take a deep breath and wait and see. Sex Week, when it comes down to it, is only just a week. It didn’t change my perceptions of sex. It didn’t pull me to one end of the spectrum or the other. It’s less than 10 days, people — so put it in perspective.
We can afford to look into the gray area and consider the possibility that both sides can have merit. The answer doesn’t have to be yes or no. It’s allowed to be “sort of.” God rested on the seventh day; hopefully, by the end of Sex Week, we can give it a rest, too.
Isabel Farhi is a junior in Jonathan Edwards College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.