Written By: Angelie Roche
For the past three Thursdays – Oct. 29, Nov. 5, and Nov. 12 – St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s (SMCM) Title IX office held a program series called “Let’s Talk About Sex”. The three programs, which centered around topics that may not have been covered by traditional high school sex education curriculums, were formatted in a seminar-type discussion wherein a presentation would be given and afterwards participants were encouraged to talk about their experiences. Title IX Investigator Helen Ann Lawless, along with a new group she calls the “Sex Ed Avengers,” worked to create a safe environment in which all students felt comfortable with asking questions and participating in discussions. The three presentations were entitled “COVID-19 & Chill: Sex & Relationships during the Pandemic,” “Queering Sex Ed & Safer Sex Practices,” and “Sexual Citizenship: Your Right to a Stellar Sex Life.”
The first presentation, which occurred on Oct. 29, addressed a question many young people have struggled with recently — how can one navigate sex and relationships during COVID-19? The best way to reduce your chance of exposure, according to the Peer Health Educators, is solo sex as COVID-19 is primarily spread through close contact. Mainly, they urged students to be “gentle and patient with [themselves and their] partners” as this is a stressful time for everyone. On Nov. 5, “Queering Sex Ed & Safer Sex Practices” defined queer sexual and gender identities encompassed by the LGBTQ+ community, and instructed viewers on condom and contraceptive use. Finally, “Sexual Citizenship” covered consent, hook-up culture, and destigmatizing different types of sex. Altogether, the programs addressed a wide variety of popular topics that high school curriculums may have failed to address, helping SMCM students learn about consent, safe sex, and healthy relationships.
Normally, SMCM would have brought in speakers to address sexual health and consent education, but due to the coronavirus, it was harder to find them. So, the student “Sex Ed Avengers” took the task into their own hands, covering subjects that they felt had been lacking in their past experiences with sex education. Freshman Claire Stephenson, who was able to become involved with Title IX in her first semester, says she was eager to teach others about safer sex from the beginning of her time at St. Mary’s; after seeing a slide about contacting Helen Ann Lawless during the Consent Education lesson at Freshman Orientation, she took the opportunity right away. She argues that high schools place more emphasis on sexual shame than pleasure and consent, which can be detrimental to students’ sexual health; “people will have healthier relationships with their own minds and bodies,” she says, “if we break down the shame people feel around sex.” Stephenson hopes that her contribution to the “Let’s Talk About Sex” series will help students overcome the negative stigma surrounding sex and grow to feel comfortable with their identities and experiences.
If you were unable to attend the fall semester sessions and are still interested in Sex Education, do not worry —the “Sex Ed Avengers” and the Title IX Office plan to continue this series in the Spring, again covering topics they feel are essential to creating healthy relationships and sex lives. While many high schools leave out important information regarding sex, consent and pleasure, the “Avengers” have made it their mission to fill in the gaps.