Ten students gathered in Linsly-Chittenden Hall on Wednesday night to participate in a workshop on Yale’s sexual culture hosted by the Sexual Literacy Forum.
SeLF — which students formed last spring to foster ongoing dialogue about sexuality on campus — is holding five teaser workshops to allow students to preview student-facilitated discussion groups that will be held weekly in the spring. Roughly 60 to 70 students have signed up for the sample workshops, which are entitled “Why Don’t We Talk About Sex?” and focus on public versus private aspects of sexuality. Workshop organizers said they hope the program will supplement Yale’s existing sexual awareness resources by creating a long-term forum open to a variety of topics on sexuality.
“We’re intending [the sample workshops] to be an example of what we do in the ongoing discussion groups, which is opening up discussions about sexuality that might not occur … in everyday life and creating a safe space to talk,” said Hannah Slater ’13, co-director of the SeLF.
The workshops’ curriculum is loosely based on a model used by FemSex, a group of student organizations at several other universities that hold discussions on only female sexuality, said SeLF co-director Paulina Haduong ’13. SeLF workshops consist mainly of student discussion led by a student facilitator with small activities designed to spark conversation, Slater said. Facilitators use guiding questions during the conversation to address topics such as what information people choose to share about their sex lives, she added.
Facilitators aim to make the discussion environment safe and comfortable for all participants, said facilitator Zachary Kafoglis ’13, adding that having student rather than adult leaders emphasizes peer-to-peer interaction instead of “a didactic approach.”
Slater said the organization’s focus on ongoing discussion complements one-time workshops organized by the Communication and Consent Educators, Community Health Educators or Sex Week. Rather than dispensing new information, she said, SeLF builds on existing programs and allows students to reflect on knowledge gained through one-time events held by other groups.
Assistant Dean of Student Affairs Melanie Boyd ’90 said she has spoken with the student organizers of SeLF and is “impressed by the care and energy they are putting into developing these discussion groups.”
“I’m hopeful that the SeLF groups [offer] a valuable opportunity for sustained education, self-reflection and open discussion,” Boyd said.
José-Alberto Navarro ’13, co-president of the Sexual Literacy Coalition, the umbrella group for sex-related groups on campus including SeLF, said SeLF’s discussions contribute to the diversity of forums available for students who want to talk about sexuality. The organization will address a broader range of topics, such as porn, masturbation, body image and pleasure, than administrators or other student groups currently do, Kafoglis said.
Giuliana Berry ’14, a CHE who attended the session Wednesday night, said she thinks the program is unique because students can hear each other’s personal experiences instead of discussing sexual issues in general terms.
“Once you start getting concrete examples, you get a much broader idea of how people perceive things and what’s happening,” she said.
Stefan Palios ’14 said he believes students will become increasingly comfortable speaking about their sex lives as the program expands and more students participate.
The next sample workshop will be held in Linsly-Chittenden Hall at 9:30 p.m. Thursday night.