How many of us fantasized about going to college in the Ivy League? To be thought of as among "the best and the brightest," and get a shot at opportunities most people don't have? When a few of my sex-positive colleagues said they were speaking this week at Yale University at something called "Sex Week," I felt a surge of pride for my fellow sex-geeks. Then I felt curiosity. The Ivy League has a sex week? I had to know what this was all about. What do you think of when you think of Yale? I think education, privilege, opportunity, future presidents -- but never once did I think of sex.
In 2002 Yale began to host Sex Week at Yale -- or SWAY, as it has come to be known. SWAY is a biennial series of events and workshops on sexuality, intimacy, and relationships organized by and for Yale students. Reid Mihalko kicked off the fest with the Sex Geek Chic Challenge -- two hours of humorous, informative, no-bullshit sex education the way you wished it were taught. Known for his charisma, wit, and emphasis on integrity, Reid travels the country teaching, coaching, consulting, and collaborating.
Sex Week happens Feb. 2-14, and it comes with its own brand of controversy. It was canceled last year after complaints from a conservative group called Undergraduates For a Better Yale College. Its members claimed that the organizers took money from the porn industry. This claim was denied, and Sex Week was reinstated weeks after it was canceled. It seems where sex is concerned, controversy will always be close by.
This year, organizers could not use the name Yale in the name of the event, and they also could not use corporate sponsorship to pay the speakers. So they held fundraisers to pay for the experts who traveled a great distance to educate. Former U.S. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders agreed to speak during Sex Week, but unfortunately organizers couldn't raise enough money to pay her fee.
The mission statement for this year's Sex Week states, in part: "Sexual culture is not homogeneous. We differ not only in the way we understand sexual culture, but also in the way we negotiate our place inside of it. Conversations about sexuality matter to us because they implicate ideas about what we should and should not do with our bodies; ideas that affect not only our physical, emotional, and mental well-being, but also the social environment around us."
Accordingly, Yale brought over some of our best sex-educators and superstars to educate their masses. One is Dixie De La Tour, who's behind the performance series Bawdy Storytelling, as well as Just Morgan, who has been on stage for Dixie and is an amazing trans-woman comedian and performer who we've told you about before.
Then there is the beautiful and sexy, activist, porn star, and sex-worker extraordinaire Maggie Mayhem. Maggie Mayhem speaks about the "ethics of porn" with Gail Dines and Cindy Gallop. She also talks with students and hosts a solo Q&A on Saturday (Feb. 11). Mayhem is a writer, performer, and educator who calls herself a "radical progressive sex hacker."
Sex Weeks ends on V-Day with Good Vibrations staff sexologist Carol Queen, co-founder of the Center for Sex and Culture, discussing Wisdom From Someone Who Loves Sex to Someone Just Starting. The center's website describes the talk thusly: "Many elements of our lives can facilitate great sex or sex that isn't very pleasurable at all: the effects of good or bad sex education, role models, shame, harsh experiences, and our ability to communicate." Queen is as well as an author, educator, performer, and activist who has a doctorate in sexology.
Over and over I'm told that San Francisco is a "bubble," but it seems like it's spreading. At times I feel like the city is amidst a renaissance, and I am so happy to be a part of it. Sex Week at Yale lets me know that our youth is hungry for sex-education and sex-positivity -- hooray to San Francisco sex geeks for being a part of it.
Vanessa L. Pinto (aka Fleur De Lis SF) documented a year of her sex life on her blog Whatever You Desire. She also blogs for the Huffington Post and is a contributing writer with Whore! Magazine. She has a degree in political science from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.