A sex-themed carnival on the second floor of Michigan League drew a full crowd of students Thursday night, welcoming students to “Come one, come all.” At the carnival, attendees could play games to win raffle prizes, eat candied apples and learn about sexuality and sexual health on campus.
The carnival, part of a three-day Sexpertise conference hosted by the University Health Service, aimed to reduce stigma about sexual identity and experience among students. Public Health graduate student Tahiya Alam, who helped organize the event, said the group hoped to engage students in discussions on topics they may not think about often.
“We know that there are certain realities in the student population and there’s not always access to safe sex information,” she said. “Also, it’s just a fun way to interact with the multitude of different sources of great knowledge we have on campus. It helps students find out what they’re interested in and what they’re not interested in.”
The conference included multiple speakers and showcased presentations on a wide range of topics including sexuality research and stigma attached to HIV/AIDS diagnoses. The carnival aimed to combine those experiences as a capstone event.
“We want to basically cement down everything that they’ve heard throughout the conference, some of the things that our sex educators have really been taught throughout the year, and have them interact with that information in different ways and learn,” Alam said. “Learning happens both visually, orally and auditory-wise so this carnival is looking to stimulate all those senses and learn a little bit more about sexual health.”
The carnival, Alam said, was meant to prompt even more open conversation about sex.
“Anyone who is in sex health education aims to dispel stigma and trying to communicate that ‘whatever you want is great for you and I want to help you navigate that sort of thing,’ ” she said. “So, some people might not even be interested in sex and that’s perfectly all right too and so we try to explore all of those different identities.”
The games and activities at the carnival were named as puns on terms associated with sex. One such game was “Quickies,” in which participants were asked to sort out myths and facts about sex.
The host of the activity, LSA freshman Ciara Hancock, said she was surprised by how little people knew about sex and how difficult it was for participants to separate fact from fiction.
“There’s a lot of information out there, but that doesn’t make it good information,” she said. “Some of the littler ones that don’t seem very important and seem kind of common sense, a lot of people are finding (what) they fundamentally thought they knew isn’t true and it’s a big surprise about some things that they just don’t know the basics about.”
LSA sophomore Sareena Kamath, who attended the event, said she was impressed by variety of sexual health issues addressed at the carnival.
“It addresses a lot of issues in a way that makes you think that you’re not being judged or castigated for something,” Karmath said. “We were just doing this ball toss activity that was about consent, so I think that’s a good way to teach people about consent that’s fun and natural.”
LSA freshman Alexandra Chapdelaine said she was excited to find that the event was forthright with its discussion of sexuality.
“There’s a lot of things that people don’t talk about because they’re seen as too serious or taboo, but this kind of brings it out in the open and lets everybody celebrate themselves,” she said.
Chapdelaine said consent is an important issue on campus that still isn’t properly discussed and she was glad to find that that topic in particular was a critical aspect of the carnival and presented in an engaging way to students.
“It doesn’t get talked about enough on college campuses,” she said. “I know there’s a lot of rhetoric about asking for consent, but it’s still awkward for a lot of people. So, I think it’s important to know how to do that.”
Kamath echoed Chapdelaine’s comments on consensual sex, adding, “A lot of times you talk about when a non-consensual event happens and the consequences of that, but we don’t talk enough about how to prevent it as much.”