c/o Sulan Bailey, News Editor

c/o Sulan Bailey, News Editor

The Office of Health Education (WesWell) hosted its first-ever Sex Carnival on Friday, Feb. 17. The Carnival included tables on the first floor of Usdan University Center and activities similar to carnival games, intended to be both fun and educational, themed around the topic of sex. WesWell also partnered with the Center for Key Populations to provide HIV testing, which was available in Fayerweather.

The Sex Carnival activities in Usdan included condom races, an “Ask a Sex Therapist” booth, a sexual health trivia wheel, a table where New Horizons Domestic Violence Services shared information on building loving relationships, and two Adolescent Sexual Health Awareness (ASHA) Dirty Talks, one on kink safety and the other offering healthy relationship tarot readings. WesWell Director September Johnson shared that in designing programming for the Sex Carnival, WesWell hoped to foster open dialogue about sex and help destigmatize it.

“Carnivals are fun, and at the end of the day, sex should be fun,” Johnson said. “We want to make sure that while we’re providing comprehensive sex ed, we’re also making sure that it’s pleasure-positive and all-inclusive for everyone…. Talking about sex openly like this helps reduce the stigma of talking about sex…. So having an event like this, and having it be so pleasure-positive, really helps reduce that stigma.”

The idea to host a Sex Carnival was originated by WesWell’s Peer Health Advocates (PHAs) last year, but they did not have time to execute the plan. WesWell made the Sex Carnival a priority for this year.

“This was really…the brainchild of the PHA program and students in the PHA program who are really passionate about sexual health and sharing this information,” Johnson said. “Because we couldn’t do it last year, we were committed to making it happen this year. We’re really excited that this was an idea that came out of the PHA program, and we’re excited to see it come to fruition.”

The Sex Carnival was intentionally planned for the week of Valentine’s Day because of the increased sexual activity that happens around the holiday. This timing complemented WesWell’s initiative to hand out condom-grams (small packages including a condom, candy, and sexual health information) on Valentine’s Day.

“We also wanted it to be around Valentine’s Day because everyone might be engaging with their partners a little bit more, maybe engaging on dating apps a little bit more,” Johnson said. “So we thought having it around Valentine’s Day would be really important. February’s also Teen Dating Violence Awareness month, so it goes along well with that theme as well.”

Additionally, the Sex Carnival provided an opportunity for ASHA to share some of its sexual education curricula in a new space, and to potentially reach people who had not previously participated in a Dirty Talk. Dirty Talks are frequently hosted internally at ASHA and occur when members bring a presentation, game, art activity, or discussion question related to sexual health to the rest of the club.

One Dirty Talk hosted at the Sex Carnival featured healthy relationship tarot readings, allowing students to choose a Wesleyan-themed tarot card (including pictures of the Cardinal, Pasta Tom, Wild Wes, etc.) and receive sexual education. ASHA co-coordinator Blythe Guecia ’23 shared that Spencer Klink ’24 conducted this Dirty Talk, providing a comfortable space for people to discuss relationships.

“Spencer talked with people about their relationships and shared advice, some of which drew upon the ‘Healthy Relationships’ section of our sex ed curriculum, which underlines communication and respecting boundaries,” Guecia wrote in a message to The Argus. “Because there was also a sex therapist at the carnival, Spencer shared that this was more of a fun, silly, and casual format for people to talk about their relationships.” The second Dirty Talk hosted by ASHA was Kink 101, led by Bex Kachman ’24. Kachman presented on kink safety, asking trivia questions about what BDSM stands for, the kinkiest country, and more. 

c/o Sulan Bailey, News Editor

c/o Sulan Bailey, News Editor

“The kink table went really well,” Kachman said. “I mainly quizzed people about kink and kink safety, and I learned that people are naturally very curious about things they don’t understand or know much about. Also, [I learned] that some people know more about kink than they think they do!”

Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) psychotherapist Priya Senecal held a booth where students could ask questions they have about sex therapy, sexual health, and mental health. Senecal sought to create an environment where students could easily approach them and ask questions, and where they could provide answers as well as information about CAPS services and programming.

“For many of us, sex isn’t something we are taught how to talk about,” Senecal wrote in an email to The Argus. “By holding space for conversation and curiosity, we can begin to normalize talking about it and asking questions. We can break down barriers to talking about it. Creating space at Wesleyan is an opportunity for folks to learn valuable skillsets (e.g. communicating boundaries such as sexual [yeses, nos, and maybes]) that they can take with them into the larger community and after their time at Wesleyan.”

After the success of this year’s Sex Carnival, Johnson hopes that it can be a yearly event, and that the event will grow as it repeats.

“My hope is that…this is something that we can plan for every year and hopefully every year it gets a little bit bigger,” Johnson said. “This is only the first year of the Sex Carnival, so I’m sure that we will have bigger and better ideas coming.”

Kat Struhar can be reached at kstruhar@wesleyan.edu.

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