Asking sex-related questions, even of a medical expert, can be awkward, uncomfortable, and just plain scary. As a result, people don’t always have the information they need to make informed and healthy decisions when it comes to sex and relationships.
With that in mind, BU Student Health Services (SHS) Wellness & Prevention is hosting Sex in the Dark, its popular annual glow-in-the-dark event, where students can ask anonymous questions (written and submitted in advance) and receive answers from a team of knowledgeable BU sex experts, tonight at the School of Law Auditorium. Organizers say the goal is to “create a safer place to talk about safer sex.” The key to making it a safe space? It’s all done in the dark.
At tonight’s Sex in the Dark, dubbed the “hottest Q&A on campus,” questions and discussion are expected to touch on subjects ranging from consent and communication to sexual identity, sexually transmitted diseases, and more.
“We know that college students and students at Boston University come from all over the country and all over the world, and that there is no consistent sexual health education in the United States, and globally as well,” says Katharine Mooney (SPH’12), Wellness & Prevention director. Tonight’s event is designed to provide medically accurate information about sex.
“Students might be getting information from sources that they trust but that’s really not correct, so this is a nice opportunity to expose folks to information that is accurate,” says Wellness & Prevention prevention program administrator Mia Trentadue, one of the organizers. “This event is really about the students, and it’s whatever they want it to be.”
The Sex in the Dark panel starts at 7 pm, but students are urged to arrive early so they have time to write out their questions, since the auditorium lights will be off once the Q&A begins. Neon giveaways, such as bracelets, necklaces, and large foam glow sticks will be handed out in advance and will provide some illumination as well as a little whimsy. The panelists will address as many questions as possible during the 90-minute event.
The evening begins with a Resource Fair at 6 pm. Students can stop by tables staffed by on- and off-campus organizations, including BU’s Center for Gender, Sexuality & Activism and Sexual Assault Response and Prevention Center (SARP), the Bisexual Resource Center, Planned Parenthood, Fenway Health, Athena’s Home Novelties, Global Protection Corp, and BU’s Student Health Ambassadors, who will be handing out information about resources and services.
The four experts on this year’s panel are SARP crisis intervention counselor Cherita Cloy, Rich Galgano, SHS associate director of primary care, Lola-Ade Akintobi (SPH’16), of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, and Michal Goderez, the lead sex educator with Good Vibrations, a retail shop in Harvard Square.
“We feel it’s really important to have folks from the BU community, since we know that our students often interface with these people,” Trentadue says about the panelists. “As far as the other panelists, we like to have people who are well versed in sexual health education.”
Good Vibrations is a sex-positive adult toy company with an emphasis on sex education. “One of the reasons I’m excited that Good Vibrations is going to be on the panel is the idea of coming at sexual education not just from the factual element of health and safety, but from the perspective of pleasure,” says Goderez. “It’s the piece that’s missing the most from people’s education.”
Data from the Guttmacher Institute, a research and policy group dedicated to promoting sexual and reproductive health and rights, indicate why events like tonight’s are so important. They report that only 18 states and Washington, D.C., require that contraception information be provided in sex education classes, and only 12 states require discussion of sexual orientation, while 37 states require that abstinence information be provided.
According to Goderez, the lack of proper, standardized sex education stems from many factors. “A big problem is that in areas that are trying to provide good sex education,” they say, “the teachers aren’t even well-informed because of the ongoing history of lack of information.” In addition to the Q&A, tonight’s event will feature students performing skits or reading vignettes touching on subjects like sexual identity and relationships.
“Those conversations we know aren’t always pictured in the movies or seen in other kinds of pop culture,” says Mooney. “So it’s an opportunity for us to role-play some of those things and just make it a more normal part of the conversation on campus.”
Program evaluations show that Sex in the Dark makes a difference: 87 percent of students who come to the event say they feel more informed about their sexual health after attending, 85 percent say they are better prepared to talk about sexual issues with a partner, and 82 percent say they are more comfortable accessing sexual health resources on campus.
“We’re proud to see that it’s not only something fun for students to attend,” Mooney says, “but that they really leave the event feeling more informed and empowered.”
Sex in the Dark: A Glow-in-the-Dark Sexpert Panel is tonight, Monday, October 22, at 7 pm, in the School of Law Auditorium, 765 Commonwealth Ave. Doors open at 6 pm and students can visit various tables to learn about sexual health resources on and off campus and get glow-in-the-dark giveaways like bracelets, necklaces, and foam glow sticks. The event is free and open to BU students, faculty, and staff.
Sara Frazier can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.