At CMC's Sex Week, A Focus on Empathy and Pleasure

The Claremont McKenna College Advocates display sex toys, like the Fleshlight, and give demonstrations of use and care. (Adela Pfaff • The Student Life)

The Claremont McKenna College Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault and Violence hosted the 5Cs first ever Sex Week from Oct. 23 to 27.

The event was created to educate and promote safe sex and consent through a sex-positive, intersectional lens, said Grace "Zippy" Wilson CM ‘18, Executive Director and Founder of CMC Advocates, as well as one of the event’s main organizers. The Advocates are a group of students that provide confidential support to survivors of sexual violence.  

“We wanted to make education surrounding sex the focus for a brief period of time,” Wilson said. “Hookup culture at CMC is not conducive to consent and pleasure. We need to work on decreasing stigma around desiring sex and increase respect for partners by promoting conversation.”

Wilson said Sex Week was inspired by the Survivor Support Week, which was created by Kay Calloway PO ‘18 in 2016 to focus on supporting survivors of sexual violence at the 5Cs.

Sex Week included a speaker series, discussions, workshops, and a carnival. According to the CMC Sex Week Facebook page, the activities were meant to provide all 5C students with access to information regarding consent, safe sex, and pleasure in a fun and educational manner. Speakers ranged from educator and sex worker Mia Li to doctor and stand-up comedian Priyanka Wali, and discussion spanned topics including sexual intimacy, queer sex, and an introduction to BDSM.

Wilson said that the Advocates selected speakers who represented queer people and people of color to cover a wide array of topics with the underlying theme of consent and communication. All speakers came from O.school, an online platform that teaches sex education through live streaming and moderated chat.

Li, who spoke about decentralizing the orgasm as the purpose of sex, said, “Sex Week is inspiring to me as someone who isn’t a college student because what everyone is doing here will be passed down from generation to generation in regards to behavior and ideas. This is going to change so much, because we are normalizing good things versus normalizing violence.”

Students who attended the talks received tickets to use at Thursday’s carnival, which featured a bouncy house, a sex toy raffle, a comedy show, anatomy quizzes and games, inflatable penis jousting, and a bake sale. All CMC students can also recieve free STI testing during the month of November.

In regards to 5C response, Wilson said, "students across the board have been thrilled; attendance so far exceeded our wildest expectations. [Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College] and Senate supported us both with money but also as people, promoting the events and helping us make sure everyone know what was going on.”

Students attend the Sex Carnival, held on the Green Beach at Claremont McKenna College, to learn about resources for students, play games, and earn tickets for prizes. (Adela Pfaff • The Student Life)

Sophia Sun PO ‘21, who attended one of Li’s events, said, “I appreciate this event because the speaker was so candid and straightforward about her sexual experiences. It made me realize that sex isn’t something to avoid talking about but to openly address.”

Warren Chen CM ‘19 said “I think Sex Week is very good to have. When I first heard about it, I was skeptical. But I gave it a shot and went to one of the events. I thought a lot of the talks were informative and came from a healthy point of view, which can be helpful to people don’t have access to that type of information.”

There have been efforts in the past on 5C campuses to raise awareness about sexual violence. In 2014, groups such as the Personal and Social Responsibility Committees, ASCMC, and the Center for Civic Engagement — in addition to Advocates — held events to foster a consent-positive community.

However, Sex Week is the first event on 5C campuses to also focus on sex in terms of pleasure and empathy, not just consent.

According to the CMC Forum, the event was funded and supported by CMC Assistant Dean of Students for Student Activities and Orientation Devon MacIver, CMC Title IX Coordinator Lynzie Deveres, Director of CARE Center Vince Greer, Director of EmPOWER Center Rima Shaw, and the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, in addition to a $5,000 grant from ASCMC.

Wilson said CMC administrators were supportive of Sex Week, from protecting Advocates from legal issues to helping them coordinate the event. The Advocates said they were especially grateful to the Dean of Students office, in particular, Assistant Dean MacIver.

Kenlyn Mirback CM ‘21, an Advocate, said, “I think Sex Week is really awesome because it brings up subjects we don’t really talk about but that we need to talk about. The event empowers people to take control of their bodies and sex life.”

 

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Corrections:

 

Saturday, Oct. 28, 2017 at 2:50 p.m. — An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the main organizer of the event's full name was "Zippy" Wilson and she was simply a CMC Advocate, rather than the executive director and founder. The article has been updated to reflect her full name and title. 

Saturday, Oct. 28 at 2:15 p.m. — An earlier version of this article did not properly reflect the Advocates' comments on the level of support they received from the college.

Saturday, Oct. 28 at 2:11 p.m. — An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that the STI verification app SAFE provided funding for the event.

Friday Oct. 27, 2017 at 9:35 p.m. — A number of factual inaccuracies in an earlier version of this article were resolved. The first speaker mentioned is named Mia Li, not Mia Lin, and is an educator as well as a sex worker. There was no ferris wheel at Thursday's carnival, but there was a bouncy house. STI testing will be free for all CMC students during the month of November, not during the carnival. O.school provided speakers, not funding, to the event.

 

TSL regrets these errors.