Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
September 20, 2021

SGA and SARU host annual Sex Week to promote sexual health and consent

By CLAIRE GOUDREAU | May 4, 2021

sex-week-2021

COURTESY OF THE STUDENT GOVERNMENT ASSOCIATION

Poet Hannah V. Sawyerr presented poetry about sexual assault awareness as part of Hopkins Sex Week.

The Student Government Association (SGA) and Sexual Assault Resource Unit (SARU) hosted their annual Sex Week last week, a series of events aimed at promoting safe and healthy relationships among the student body. The events were held in collaboration with the Center for Health Education and Well-Being.

The week’s calendar included a workshop about Title IX, a reading by poet Hannah V. Sawyerr, a two-part educational series by dominatrix Domina Vontana and a sex toy bingo night. Each day focused on a different aspect of sexual health, discussing topics such as consent and self-love.

In an interview with The News-Letter, SARU Co-Director Michael Vidal described the week as a success despite obstacles.

“As the week went on, enthusiasm in general went up,” he said. “We started off a little rocky. For example, we had to cancel the first event [the “Consent in media” lecture] because we didn’t see registration for it on CampusGroups, but turnout was [otherwise] pretty consistent.”

One of the week’s feature events was Vontana’s two-day talk about BDSM. Both events discussed how to practice kinks in a safe and consensual manner and subjects like safe words, communication and protection.

During the talks, Vontana stressed the importance of educating oneself and starting slow.

“It is important that before you take on an advanced level experience, you begin with the building blocks, the fundamentals, the foundation,” she said.

Vontana also emphasized that BDSM can be a chance for a person to better understand themself.

“BDSM is a way — like much art, like much sport, like much creative expression and endeavors — to learn about yourself,” she said. “One of my favorite things about life — and BDSM is a big part of that — is that every time I think I know everything about myself and what I love, something new comes up and surprises me.”

Sex Week also hosted Baltimore poet Hannah V. Sawyerr, who read works centering around body positivity and sexual assault awareness.

Vidal shared that Sawyerr’s reading was his favorite event of the week, explaining that he appreciated the themes of trauma and growth.

“Her poetry is incredible,” he said. “It’s always nice to see that form of expression and how it resonates so much with others.”

Due to the pandemic, Sex Week was forced online for the second year in a row, which Vidal described as a blessing in disguise.

“Sex Week is part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and having that online format, especially the ability to turn off your camera, is really helpful,” he said.

For this reason, according to Vidal, future Sex Weeks will likely adopt a hybrid model, with some events being in-person and others being virtual.

In an interview with The News-Letter, SARU Co-Director Padmini Balaji explained that participating in Sex Week helps SARU and other organizations better promote their resources, such as the 24/7 Peer Crisis Support Hotline.

“By collaborating with SGA, we’re allowed to reach a wider audience. Some of those events were some of our most attended,“ she said. “Not only did they talk about survivors and consent advocacy, which is what we do in SARU, but they also talked about sex positivity and made these topics more engaging and accessible to the broader Hopkins community.”

For crisis support and resource connections, call SARU’s confidential 24/7 peer-run hotline at (410) 516-7887.

Leela Gebo contributed reporting to this article.

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