This Wednesday’s lunch hour was colder and grayer than most in Claremont, but the table outside of Collins Dining Hall offered a splash of color.
“Would you like to take a quick, 15-second survey?” asked the girl sitting behind the table. The survey in question centered on sex positivity and knowledge of sexual assault on campus, asking students to place a sticker under each category that applied to them. Categories included, “I have been in a vulnerable position on campus” and “I have reported sexual assault on our campus.”
The interactive event was part of Claremont McKenna College’s Sex-Positive Week, a collaboration between the CMC Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault, the Associated Students of Claremont McKenna College, the CMC Center for Civic Engagement and the CMC Personal and Social Responsibility Committee on Title IX. Scripps College also hosted a sex-focused week, entitled, “Great Sex: Are You Coming, Again?”
CMC’s week began Nov. 12 with a focus on empowered bystander awareness. Nov. 13 also centered on bystander attention and offered a sex-positive workshop with the Claremont University Consortium’s Health Education Outreach (HEO). Today’s events include the addition of Consent Care Packages—bags with condoms, lube and door signs emblazoned with “CONSENT HAPPENS HERE.”
The main motivation for the week was to not just talk about sexual assault, but to work to cultivate a healthy and sex-positive culture on campus.
“The survey is a safe, semi-anonymous way for survivors and anyone on campus to make their voices heard, and also a way to collect information,” said Talia Segal CM ’15, a representative of the Personal and Social Responsibility Committee.
It can be difficult to collect information about instances of sexual assault on campus, often due to people either not knowing to define an experience as sexual assault or feeling reluctant to report an incident. Thanks to the survey, participants could share experiences without having to go through the standard reporting procedure, which can be lengthy and stressful for the survivor. As people exited the dining hall, nearly all responded enthusiastically to the request for participation in the survey.
“Most of the people we ask to participate are happy to contribute and have a positive attitude towards changing the culture towards sex on campus,” Segal said.
Attitudes and awareness on campus toward sexual assault have changed drastically in the past four years, according to Segal. CMC is becoming more inclined to having open, cross-campus dialogues about sexual assault, a shift that has been reflected by the creation of groups such as the CMC Advocates for Survivors of Sexual Assault.
Liat Kaplan CM ’17, a founding member of the group, said that, while it is still young, her main objective this semester is providing education to her fellow students. Events such as the interactive survey boards have been successful in helping the Advocates spread awareness in an accessible manner.
“I don’t want ‘I don’t know what the definition of consent is’ to be an excuse anymore,” Kaplan said.
Meanwhile, the Scripps Residence Life team is hosting sex-positive programming for its second annual sex week Nov. 12 to Nov. 16. Scheduled events include “Queer Sex Night” Nov. 12, “Defined Lines” Nov. 13, an orgasm talk Nov. 14 and, finally, a body-painting workshop with a focus on body positivity Nov. 15.
Resident Assistant Mia Shackelford SC ’17 was in charge of the week and was particularly involved in Queer Sex Night. At the event, which was open to all 5C students identifying as queer, participants debunked queer sex myths, asked a representative from HEO questions about sex, and shared stories of sexual experiences. To think about and explore what people look for in sexual encounters, participants were invited to make zines, or short picture books, about how they like to have sex.
“The point of it is: In order to have good sex, you need to have good communication, and for good communication, you need to know about what you desire, even if it’s something you’ve never seen in film or on TV in popular media,” Shackelford said.
Many students responded positively to the week’s programming and hope that it will provoke more widespread discussion about sex and consent.
“I thought the event was really eye-opening and a good way for people to feel like a community,” Brandon Kim PZ ’15 said.