It is important that students are aware of the safety precautions and risks associated with having sex, so they can make healthy choices during their time at Vanderbilt and in the future. For this Campus-Community Connections Project, we decided to investigate the Sex Educators Club at Vanderbilt University.
Though Vandy Sex Educators are a fairly new addition to the resources at the Women’s Center, the program “Let’s Talk About Sex, Vandy!” has been educating Vanderbilt students for a while now, with talks led by employees from the Women’s Center. Since the Vandy Sex Educators’ beginning in 2012, college students at Vandy have taken over these discussions. Although we were unable to attend a “Let’s Talk About Sex, Vandy!” event due to a scheduling error on anchorlink, students who run this event teach their peers how to prevent sexually transmitted diseases and use different kinds of protection methods. Because students run this program, young adults attending this event feel more comfortable and willing to ask important questions that they may not want to discuss with an adult. Now peers are educating their fellow classmates and facilitating honest, productive dialogue.
We also ventured to the Health and Wellness Fair at Branscomb this past week where the sex educators club had a stand. Even though we were unable to speak with a member of this club at the fair, the booth itself was still very informative. There were flyers that discussed campus resources for sex. Pens with the Women’s Center’s contact information were given away to people at the fair, so they would have a number to call if they had any questions. Additionally, different types of condoms, such as female condoms, latex free condoms, and regular condoms, were displayed at the stand. Lubricating jelly was also left on the table.
We thought that the stand was well done, and after attending this fair we wanted to obtain more information on the sex educators club. We emailed Jen Lim, a representative of this club, and asked her questions that we thought would help us have a better understanding of all that the Sex Educators Club has to offer the Vanderbilt community.
The goal of Vandy Sex Educators is to enable students to make healthy and knowledgeable decisions regarding relationships, sex, and sexuality by providing them with information and resources. They do this by putting on events, including “Let’s Talk About Sex, Vandy,” “Let’s Talk Dirty,” Queering Sex Ed, Sex Ed Trivia, tabling at events, Sex Ed Week, and customized presentations. Jen Lim elaborates on what presentations include.
“A typical presentation will include anything from statistics of Vanderbilt student sex habits, condom demo, discussion of various types of birth control, consent, rape culture, feminism, BDSM, alternative sex, LGBTQI culture, Vandy culture, STIs, etc. It is always a good time and while every peer educator has a different style, I personally enjoy light conversation that allows people to laugh and learn at the same time.”
A lot of these topics are ones that many students do not have knowledge of when they come to Vandy. Each class is made of students from different backgrounds with different experiences of sex education. Especially those from highly religious areas or schools may not have been provided with a comprehensive sex education, or even basic knowledge of forms of protection, sex, and sexuality. The Sex Educators try to combat problems such as unintended pregnancies and the spread of STIs. Jen Lim also points out that educating students on sexuality can help to fight forces of rape culture, gender inequality, and shame surrounding sex. She says that by being proud of what they do, they set an example of being “empowered and not ashamed of our bodies, our differing sexualities, etc.” Education is obviously key, as evidenced by the creation of the Sex and Society Class. Vandy Sex Educators also provides students with tools and resources such as important phone numbers, health clinics, support, and meditation.
Sex education and the influence of the Sex Educators on Vanderbilt’s campus has a strong connection to the documentary “Let’s Talk About Sex”. The documentary analyses teenager’s perception of sex and how there is a disconnect between sexual culture and what is deemed appropriate in the United States versus the Netherlands. The discussion of sex is often seen as taboo in the United States but interestingly, American media is filled with sexual imagery and language. This paradox often forces teenagers to learn about sexual experiences from porn and the media which can give false information about sex. Many American teens in the documentary address how people who carry condoms are seen as desperate, slutty, or perverted. In contrast, males and females in the Netherlands admit that carrying a condom is not only acceptable, but it is an essential part of being prepared for any sexual situation. This is where the Vandy Sex Educators comes into play. Not only does the organization provide information and resources for healthy sexual activity, but they encourage students to have healthy conversations about sex. Most of the organization’s events and projects are led by students, which makes it more comfortable for other fellow students to talk about sex. The Sex Educators are trying to eliminate this fear of talking about sex and fight against the often skewed image of sexuality that the media provides.
Having been a part of the Vanderbilt college experience for more than two months, we have developed our own opinions and interpretations of the social life on campus and how it relates to sexuality. We noticed that hookup culture is a very evident part of the social experience at Vanderbilt and at other colleges. Currently, it seems that technology, social media, and busy lifestyles deter many students from traditional dating and instead encourages a much faster and less emotionally taxing form of intimacy. With the rise of the hookup culture and the increased potential for STDs and pregnancy, organizations like Sex Educators are essential for educating our student population about the potential consequences of unprotected sex and methods for practicing healthy, safe sex. Students at Vanderbilt come from many backgrounds and have different levels of knowledge on sex. The Sex Educators are working to educate and provide resources for students so sex can be an enjoyable and most importantly, safe experience.
The Vanderbilt community as a whole is trying to make safe sex more prevalent. Students can buy condoms in the bathrooms in some buildings and at the Munchie Mart. Free condoms are also available at the Women’s Center and Student Health. These resources make having safe sex possible, as condoms are easily accessible. Furthermore, in several bathrooms there are pamphlets that discuss HIV and sexually transmitted diseases. These efforts combined with the impact that the Sex Educators Club is having on Vanderbilt’s campus, are helping make safe sex more prominent. Because there is arguably a hook up culture at Vanderbilt, these resources are indispensable.
The Sex Educators Club generally has events when asked by groups on campus, such as Greek houses, dorm houses, clubs, or classes. They advertise for these events with flyers, through the Women’s Center, or their Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/VandyPeerEducation?fref=ts
However, if you take a look at this page, it hasn’t been very active this semester, with no posts in over a month. Last spring though, this page was hopping with events, news, and information. This is still a relatively new club though, and perhaps they could improve publicity for some of their events. We suggest maybe creating a schedule online, in the Women’s Center, and on their Facebook page, and additionally being more active on the Facebook page.
What are other ways the Sex Educators Club can reach out to the student body? How should this club publicize its event? How do you think Vanderbilt students view sex?