Zeta Sigma Chi, an Eastern Michigan University sorority, held their 9th annual SexapalooZa, an event promoting conversation and education about safe and healthy sex.
“I feel like in society we’re taught to feel ashamed of our bodies and feel ashamed for having sex,” said Dominique Bumpus, a sophomore member of Zeta Sigma Chi, “but most college kids are engaged in it [sex], and if you want to be safe you have to talk about it.”
The event, held on Tuesday, Nov. 28 in the student center ballroom, ran from 7p.m. to 9:30p.m. with a little over 70 students moving in and out. Carnival-style tables had various games related to sex education, including a race to pull condoms over zucchini, a sex phrase card game, a condom dartboard and dental dam tutorial.
Nearly all the tables had pamphlets with information on safe sex, relationships, consent, how to spot STDs/STI and other topics in the subjects. Raffle tickets were sold at the front table for a chance to win gift bags from Lover’s Lane. Music played the whole time and attendants could freely move between tables and ask any questions they had. Food in the form of crackers and cheese, lemonade and fruits were provided in the back of the room.
Other sororities and fraternities were in attendance, including Kappa Alpha Psi and Tri Sigma. The Women’s Resource Center was invited to the event as well, having one of the game tables and providing information on sex and consent. Mindy Holmes, a representative from the WRC, said the event was a good way to make education fun.
“It promotes a positive dialogue about sex,” she said. “It helps teach you what consent is and what it isn’t and gets people more comfortable talking about sex, because it’s a bit of a taboo to talk about it…people think it’s dirty but it’s a completely natural thing to do.”
Having comfortable conversations about sex has been the main goal of the event since its conception. Bumpus noted how the way sex education is often taught in high schools can make it more likely for young people to have unsafe sex.
“In my high school it was always ‘don’t do it, don’t do it, don’t do it’, and as a teenager when you hear ‘don’t do it’, that means do it,” she said. “I know I would rather be safe about it if I am going to do it – know what risks to take, know different ways to enjoy yourself, know how to clean yourself – that’s all important.”
Abstinence-only programs in schools have been under scrutiny for their effectiveness before. According to Advocates for Youth’s publication on abstinence programs in 11 states: “None of the programs showed evidence of long-term success in delaying sexual initiation among youth enrolled in the programs. None of the programs showed any evidence of success in reducing other sexual risk-taking behaviors among participants.”
Hayli Shopshire, a member of the EMU’s Alliance for Sexual Assault Prevention (ASAP), said she thinks education on sex should start much earlier then college.
“I don’t particularly like abstinence as a teaching method, because if you tell a kid no – you’re not teaching them anything, you’re just telling them know and they’re do it anyway,” she said. “You should teach them everything about it, then they’ll be better prepared when they’re older and start making those decisions.
Abstinence just takes the decision away from them,” she continued. “…I feel like it’s a topic that isn’t talked about a lot because people just don’t want to talk about it.”
Ariel Cotton-Jackson, a junior in attendance, said the event has a positive impact on the community.
“It’s very informative,” she said. “Especially the information on safe sex and STIs – that’s scary to look at…I think any time a student is told something like this, it sticks at the back of their mind, so if someone came in here not knowing anything they’d learn a lot.”
Sophomore Alex Schwehafer wasn’t previous planning on coming to the event, but ending up enjoying himself.
“I expected it to be more uncomfortable then it was, and it was more queer friendly then I expected,” he said. “Usually events like these are just automatically hetero, but its nice to come here and just immediately see that there’s other options.”