Many revolutionary ideas have come from idle conversations. For instance, a simple request from an Alabama pastor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver a speech in front of a church congregation forever changed the discourse of racial inequality. Similarly, Dolores Huerta and Cesar Chavez forever changed the notion of separate versus equal, advocating for the rights for migrant workers and giving distraught Americans burdened by unequal opportunity a reason to believe that the impossible could indeed become possible.
One of the University’s own trailblazers, School of Music, Theatre & Dance senior Brandon Littlejohn, also recognizes that dialogue is crucial for achieving social change and has sought to put his ideals to action by changing the conversation surrounding sexual behavior on campus, which is often swept under the rug. I have reason to hope that much-needed progress is coming at a faster pace than I had previously thought.
Yesterday, Littlejohn launched a 10-week campaign on campus under the moniker of the Promiscuity Project Campaign — P2, for short. He sparked my interest to get involved with this campaign, which significantly affects not only the health in communities of color but also the University campus at large — including LGBT communities and those who identify as heterosexual.
As Littlejohn said to me, the P2 campaign is aimed at dealing with “sex and…unspeakable sex acts people participate in to put themselves at risk” for sexually transmitted diseases, both infections that can be cured and incurable diseases that can’t be as easily resolved by a trip to the doctor. The Promiscuity Project’s appeal to me doesn’t come merely from the campaign’s catchy name — though admittedly it is quite unique. Rather, I took notice of the ways in which Littlejohn has engaged students across campus and focused it on issues that directly affect the University community.
Littlejohn’s previous efforts have hit home for many and engaged a variety of groups by reaching out to the community in creative and constructive ways. For example, he has hosted testing sites at The Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Affairs every Tuesday evening from 6 to 7 p.m. and held a video screening last semester aimed at promoting HIV testing advocacy through film and music. Littlejohn is using art to raise the consciousness of students, making us aware that when we take on the status of being sexually active, we must then also act maturely. We not only have a responsibility to ourselves to care about our health but have a duty to our partners to be “in the know” about our sexual health as well.
I was instantly motivated to involve myself with Littlejohn’s campaign when I saw an image from one of his advertisements, which depicted a scene that was clearly an adulterous affair. It wasn’t clear in the picture if the male was having an affair with another female or if the female was having an affair with another male, but what was clear was that there was something adulterous going on. For me, the ad hit home by conveying the sort of story about sexually transmitted infections that pulls most at my heartstrings — the story told by women and men who have contracted AIDS/HIV from their partners, who often (unbeknownst to them) are not as committed to the relationships. That issues like contraction of STIs in committed relationships — issues that were once considered taboo — are being communicated so openly in dialogue around campus is a sign of progress.
I am nevertheless frustrated by situations in which the male or female in the relationship acquires a sexually transmitted disease when, in hindsight, he or she was behaving responsibly. Individuals who cheat on the down-low, outside the understood relationships and without their partners’ knowledge, selfishly put their partners at risk. Though I typically felt powerless to remedy such situations, I now recognize that there’s a venue for action. We can raise awareness on campus and encourage open discourse about important sexual issues. One way to do that is by partnering with Littlejohn.
Considering that a cure hasn’t been discovered for HIV/AIDS, the consequences of cheating can be very negative and serious for a couple’s health. But I have hope that by raising awareness and spreading constructive messages about safe sex and cheating, we can build a healthier discourse that ultimately saves and improves lives.
Brittany Smith can be reached at email@example.com.