Yale Bans Week Celebrating Consensual Sex To Eradicate Sexual Assault

On September 15th, in the Report to the President and Fellows of Yale University of the Advisory Committee on Campus Climate, it was announced that Yale has banned the use of its name and facilities for the biennial February event, Sex Week at Yale. Sex Week at Yale describes itself as a “campus-wide interdisciplinary sex education program designed to pique students’ interest through creative, interactive, and exciting programming.” The report claims Sex Week’s most recent iterations have not promoted healthy discourse on campus. As an alum, this saddens me, as it makes Yale approximately 3% less cool.

Recently SWAY has hosted Sasha Grey, Ron Jeremy, Lux Alptraum, and Buck Angel and included topics such as BDSM, fetishism, safe-sex, sexual education, sex toys, masturbation, non-traditional relationships, and oral sex tips. Undergraduates for a Better Yale College have been lobbying for the end of the event. Though they are not officially credited as having any influence on this decision, the future of NOM have taken partial responsibility for the feat. Decrying the series of speakers, demonstrations, and talks as being pro-porn and anti-relationship, they believe it should be banned for its offensiveness and indecency. Within this immaculate display of their precursor to conservative “family first” logic, it seems that being pro-porn somehow makes you emotionally unavailable and ill-suited for romantic pursuits.

As a place that promotes and supports free speech, why does this fall outside the limits of protected activities? It can’t simply be banned because it’s offensive to some. And even then, what’s offensive about it? Who decides if it’s offensive? Isn’t that one of the reasons bans are often a last ditch effort… because we can’t trust those that get to make these decisions to judge a situation objectively?

The administration claims that Sex Week has lost its way, and proof of this lies in student’s possibly receiving financial incentives from corporate sponsors. I think we all know this is bullshit and the reasons for the sudden pull of support for the event lie in the PR shit storm the school has been enduring the past few years regarding the various scandals that have cropped up. I mean, I have a lot of free underwear from my time at Yale and only about half of them are from Sex Week.

If you know anyone that went to Yale, they probably have a pair of these.

I imagine those in charge all looked at each other constantly murmuring various iterations of the sentiment that they had to do SOMETHING. Well, this isn’t it. To ditch this event in reaction to rape chants, Title IX violations, and poor sexual assault claim practices wraps these issues up with the very broad and very rich idea of sex itself. The problem isn’t sex. The problem is people. The problem is privilege. And the problem is that they think stopping this event gives off the illusion of change when they still aren’t actually getting to the root of the issues at hand.

Sex Week has been banned because of the working understanding of Title IX as a women’s issue. Sexual assault is viewed the same way. With the constant debate on whether porn is intrinsically linked to the degradation of women, an event that embraces discussion and acceptance of it is must be pro-sexual assault, right? So we have this weird correlation: that by ridding the campus of Sex Week and its supposed porn glorification we are in some small way fixing the campus that is being investigated for its inhospitable sexual environment.

Constantly equating a hook-up culture with a sexual assault culture is problematic. Some of the most honest, frank, and hilarious discussions I’ve had about sex happened during Sex Week. But most of them didn’t. Because Sex Week is just that. A week. Whether the administration realizes it or not, every week is sex week at Yale (except maybe finals). It’s not what’s being said in the open that’s the problem. It’s what said behind closed doors in hushed tones, what’s emailed student to student, and what’s pushed aside by the committee that hears sexual assault grievances that creates an unsafe environment. When the administration has dealt with their own failings, maybe then they can worry about who’s getting free condoms.

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Brittani Nichols is a Los Angeles based comedy person. When she's not tweeting about white people or watching television, she's probably eating pizza. Actually, she's probably doing all three of those things concurrently and when she's not doing THAT, she's sleeping. Brittani also went to Yale and feels weird about mentioning it but wants you to know.

Brittani has written 302 articles for us.

13 Comments

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    Yeah, because not talking about something and/or banning it is so going to solve a problem. Correct me if I’m wrong, but this whole thing just comes across as sticking ones fingers in ones ears and going NENENENENENENENNENENE.

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    I wish they’d change their advertising, as it kind of makes ‘Sex Week’ look like a cheap club night, but they shouldn’t have been banned. This sounds like a great idea – I wish we’d have something like it at my uni.

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    This makes me sad. If there are problems with sexual assault and pornography or anything in between, wouldn’t Sex Week be the perfect time to discuss them? Why not talk about problems and issues instead of banning others from loving and learning and living their lives with a little fun? This just sends the message that when things make us uncomfortable, we lock them in a box instead of trying to figure out what’s really wrong and fix it. The sad thing is there are so many wonderful things you listed that get talked about during Sex Week that people don’t usually get to have public discourse on.

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    I’m pretty sure President Levin (president of Yale) hasn’t decided anything yet. The committee suggested that Yale ban Sex Week, but no one’s actually banned it yet. He’s waiting to see what the actual proposal for events is like.

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    As a Yalie, I can affirm that Levin has not banned Sex Week–and also as a Yalie, I wish pieces would stop appearing in such wonderful outlets as Autostraddle and Jezebel which criticize Yale for something that hasn’t actually happened. I understand completely the ideological objections, but this piece has a false premise.

    For more full information on the situation at Yale, please read this YDN article by the Executive Directors for Sex Week at Yale: http://www.yaledailynews.com/news/2011/nov/14/cho-and-holmes-lets-talk-about-sex/

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    As another Yalie, I’d just like to add that the Undergraduates for a Better Yale College is literally a group of 5 guys that live in my dorm, and it saddens me so much that they’ve risen to any kind of spokesperson status. This is definitely not Autostraddle’s fault for reporting on the situation as it appears from the outside, but the fault of the Yale Daily News for giving these 5 conservative boys an unlimited platform. Reading their daily op-eds is the most vomit-inducing experience, and the fact that anyone anywhere thinks they do/should have the power to influence university policy literally makes me feel unsafe as a queer, sex-positive woman. It’s such an example of privileged white dudes feeling entitled to set the moral standards for everyone else.

    PS, every time my ladyfriend and I see one of the UBYC members, we’ve made sure to make out graphically in their line of vision.

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      I think my ladyfriend’s comment was verbose and weird-tone-y, but I think she was trying to say that

      The Better Yale College folk take sexually-charged abstinence to a paternalistic place that even Edward Cullen didn’t penetrate.

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      I want to point out the falsifications and distortions that pervade this post:

      1. The UBYC has sixteen members, only two of whom are in the suite that the writer is speaking of, neither of whom is full white (one is half Persian, the other is Latino). Moreover, more than 200 people have signed the UBYC petition. To speak as though UBYC represents the complaints of just these “five conservative dudes” and no one else is therefore a malicious distortion of fact.

      2. The YDN has not given UBYC an “unlimited” platform. Advocates for the UBYC have written columns in the YDN and other people have rebutted them. This is a common practice at Yale and should not serve as the basis for condemning the YDN. The alternative to allowing members of UBYC to voice their opinions would be to expect the YDN to censor them, something both impossible and undesirable in an academic community that, at least theoretically, allows its students to speak their minds.

      3. If the op-eds are vomit-inducing, you probably shouldn’t read them every day.

      4. The UBYC does not actually make university policy, it simply is making a suggestion as to how the university should change its policy. As such, it is no different from any other group, e.g. the Responsible Endowment Project, which, lacking influence itself, seeks to persuade the Yale administration to change its ways. Again, asserting that the UBYC should not be allowed to attempt to influence policy is tantamount to asserting that the University should proactively censor them and prohibit them from expressing their beliefs, which is unacceptable in a university setting.

      5. That you feel “unsafe as a queer, sex-positive woman” makes no sense, given that (a) the UBYC has not spoken on the subject of homosexuality and (b) the UBYC is merely recommending that the University cancel Sex Week, which in no way should make anybody feel “unsafe.” Nice try on the victim card, though.

      6. 4 of 6 of the members of the suite you are speaking of are on financial aid, so I wouldn’t be so quick to brand them as “privileged.”

      As to you making out with your lady friend in public to annoy people who have views that you disagree with, all I can say is that that is extraordinarily juvenile and is not befitting of a thinking, mature adult.

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        Let’s mention that the boy who wrote the op-ed about how Yale glorifies a hook-up culture and that sex necessary glorifies objectification is known to be very attractive, very promiscuous, and often a little rude to his women. I’m actually baffled by his level of hypocrisy.

        Nobody said the UBYC makes policy. Simply that sex week being banned is not their doing in any way/shape/form, so we should stop presenting this issue as though its some sort of success of the UBYC.

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    So in order to combat a sexually toxic culture they have tried to ban something designed to address the real issues, because obviously talking about sex at all is the problem. Hey its not like anyone was ever raped in the Victorian period, lets all go cover some piano legs!

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