GV Hosts First-Ever Sex Ed Week – Grand Valley Lanthorn

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Grand Valley State University held its first-ever series of Sex Ed Week events last week. The event was a collaboration between the Recreation and Wellness Department (RecWell), Center for Women and Gender Equity (CWGE) and Ottawa County Public Health.

While universities across the country have placed more emphasis on sexual health education in recent years, Sex Ed Week is the culmination of smaller events that were once the sex ed programming of GVSU. As inspiration for the series of 13 week-long events, the planning committee looked at other universities’ programs to see what they were doing differently.

“I went to a conference in New Orleans and Tulane University has a whole week of sex education,” said Katie Jourdan, student health promotion coordinator. “We met with their peer educators and I thought, you know what, we could do this.”

Sex Ed Week included both serious and light events to ensure students had the opportunity to learn a lot about sex ed and could have fun doing it. Events like “LGBTQ+ Sexual Health,” “What We Wish Sex Ed Taught Us,” and “Reclaiming Consent” focused on vital sex education topics. On the other side of the spectrum, “Condompalooza,” “Find Your Feel Good Yoga,” and “Are you Smarter than a Sex Educator?” were sex-themed games to play and prizes to be won.

Deciding what information to include in Sex Education Week was a challenge for the committee for several reasons. They had to consider the levels of sex education that GVSU students already had and choose topics that would be good starting points for discussions about sexual health. The starting points were particularly important because Allendale was a historically conservative area.

“We just started basic with conversations that every human would need about sexual health,” Jourdan said. “The fact is, we have data from the National College Health Assessment and over 74% of students engage in sexual activity, so they should be able to take charge of their own sexual health.”

The committee wanted to emphasize that students should be able to make choices about their sexual health on their own without stigma or shame. Being unafraid to talk about sexual practices, consent, and even violence opens the door to many helpful opportunities around these topics.

“Most students in Grand Valley say they wish their sex ed classes were more informative and that they don’t feel adequately prepared for real-life situations around sexual health issues,” said Beck Lukins, a peer educator at Grand Valley. Student Welfare Information Team. “It shows the need to teach this type of material, both at the college level and earlier for the enhancement of holistic student well-being.”

Even though the vast majority of students engage in sexual activity, talking about these topics in public is still taboo on many campuses across the country. For this reason, sex ed events typically have low attendance compared to other campus events.

“Coming with a group of strangers to talk about sex can be a little awkward,” Jourdan said. “For us, it was about creating a culture of seeing the image of something that says sex education and seeing different things on the calendar of events.”

To help combat embarrassment and stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some Sex Ed Week events were held virtually or in a hybrid format so attendees could join in comfort. of their home. For sensitive topics like violence prevention and sexual consent, being able to learn in a comfortable environment can make a huge difference in the number of students who attend these discussions.

“If you are a survivor of any form of gender-based violence, being able to attend workshops with information that could potentially be triggered from the comfort of your own home, where you can take care of yourself, comes from open the door to accessibility on so many levels,” said Leah Short, CWGE Violence Prevention and Education Coordinator.

Overall, Sex Ed Week was very successful in terms of turnout and flow with each event. Some were even more popular than expected; one of the STI testing events ran out of supplies, which Alberda says almost never happens.

“It was great,” Jourdan said. “I think for a first year and a kick off, I think everyone deserves a lot of shots and a lot of pats on the back.”

So far, student feedback has been excellent. Although official feedback surveys have not yet been sent out, Jourdan said discussions with students after various events have generated positive reactions.

“They were saying everything was fine and they didn’t know until this week,” Jourdan said. “Someone said if it was there when they released INT 100 they would have gone to all the events. Someone also asked why there weren’t more people here.

Going forward, the planning committee wants to do more to advertise in as many areas as possible and include more student organizations. While turnout was strong this year, Alberta said the committee knew there was still room for improvement.

“We want to work with more teachers who have been there,” said Heather Alberda, sex educator with the Ottawa County Department of Public Health. “We want to do a better job of reaching out to some of those adults and minors who would benefit, and reaching out to Greek life and inspiring them to encourage their people to come.”

Even though Sex Ed Week is over, GVSU students can keep up with Sex Ed events by visiting the Student Wellness section of the RecWell website. The website has links to sexual health facts and other resources such as monthly STI screenings and ways to get free condoms by mail. More information about future events and ways to become sexually educated can be found at www.gvsu.edu/studentwellness/.

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