On Tuesday, March 21, I attended the “Periods and Disorders” Q&A as part of the Sex Education at Sewanee series with Lauren Cuevas. The Purple met with Title IX Coordinator and Senior Director of EEOT (Equity, Equal Opportunity, & Title IX), Dr. Sylvia Gray to talk about what (state general theme of article). After attending part of the series, I talked to Dr. Sylvia Gray, an organizer of the event, to ask questions regarding the series and its conception. What was the purpose of a series, rather than a single large event, whether she thought this was an effective strategy for information dissemination, and of course, whether it had been a helpful resource for the students.
During the “Periods and Disorders” Zoom event, many of our discussions were prefaced by the fact that sex education as a whole, and what is taught throughout school, is inconsistent from school to school and state to state. For some people, sex education may not have been present at all. As such, the purpose of these discussions is to help give people an opportunity to receive sex education, help start a dialogue surrounding biological misconceptions, mainly for women, and to open up a safe space for people to ask questions in the realm of sex education.
In the past, Sewanee has had very successful turnouts across genders to events like “The Female Orgasm.” But events like “Periods and Disorders” had mostly women in attendance. This begs the question; since making sex education lectures mandatory simply isn’t feasible, is there a gap of people who will never reach this information? How do you reach them?
Although this is a complicated question that would probably require a series of studies to answer, Dr. Gray did give an interesting response, though the conversation quickly became one of preventing sexual assault. She specified that part of the strategy for disseminating education like this to the community of Sewanee, is that “mutual interests have to be satisfied.” Students need to have the option of attending the events, she said, “and we need help with prevention [of sexual assault and harrassment] on our campus.”
As such, this part of the education that the school provides can’t get in the way of graduation (can’t be mandatory), but it has to be promoted, talked about, comfortable, approachable, and easily accessible in order for people to use it. Dr. Gray mentioned that “we are not in a place with this series where we’re saying [it’s] for the guys.” However, she has often “had men from greek life, leadership positions and executive boards,” she said, come to her directly, “and say ‘hey we need help [with preventing assault].’” She also mentioned that many young men had called her directly to ask dating related questions.
More importantly, Dr. Gray said that a big factor in talking to different groups about sex education, whether the group was primarily young male sports teams, people in the LBGTQ+ community, or any other demographic, it always came down to explaining the same things, or answering a lot of the same questions in different ways.
The sex education series that is running right now does not currently adhere to this change in tone in order to attract and appeal to all groups on campus, but of course it is still open to everyone. What this series does offer is a look at different topics broken up into separate events so that people can pick and choose what to attend based on their interest, rather than having to sit through a single long event. Dr. Gray said that “the work that I have done up to this point is looking forward to building out things that are specifically for men [and other groups] so that they can have a space to talk [about these things].”
It’s important that students know they don’t have to wait for sex education events if they have important questions to ask. Dr. Gray hopes to help promote more discussion spaces like this Sex Ed Series with Lauren Cuevas, the Title IX office email, and Dr. Sylvia’s Gray’s office number. Four events are left in the series on “How to Prevent UTIs,” “What is Ethical Non-Monogamy,” “SexEd Jeopardy,” and “Office Hours with EEOT Staff.” For those interested in attending, I highly recommend it!