Roughly 55 students gathered in Linsly-Chittenden Hall Saturday evening to learn about masochistic sexual practices such as those depicted in “50 Shades of Grey.”
The workshop was part of Sex Weekend, a shortened, three-day version of Sex Week — a series of events on sex-related topics held every other year. Sex Weekend, which has been held sporadically in the past, marks the start of an effort to host sex-related events annually to make the program more institutionalized, organizers said. Sex Weekend activities included six lectures and three small-group discussions on topics including sexual health and AIDS activism.
“We have a lot of groups [on campus] pertaining to sexuality, but I think what Sex Week does is it clarifies all these dialogues and brings it into a space where students can figure out what should be talked about and what issues we should be discussing,” said Giuliana Berry ’14, Sex Weekend’s event director.
Berry said Yale has a reputation of being very sexually open due to the publicity given to Sex Week in the past and media attention surrounding sex-related events at Yale such as the release of Nathan Harden’s book Sex and God at Yale. But the perception that all Yale students are highly sexually active is not necessarily true, Berry said, adding that Sex Week offers students a place to explore the accuracy of this perception through dialogue.
Organizers said they are planning to hold Sex Weeks or Weekends annually in the future and that the program size will be in between this year’s shortened program and last year’s roster of over 30 events.
During a discussion Saturday afternoon with “sexologist” Jill McDevitt, who conducts workshops on sexual topics at college campuses across the country, roughly 40 students had to reconsider their idea of “normal” in sex when asked to take anonymous surveys that yielded surprising results. Students often do not realize the difference between normative — being in the middle of the bell curve for certain behaviors — and normal, which is a judgment call, McDevitt said, adding that what is common is not necessarily good just as what is deviant is not necessarily bad.
On the survey, nine percent of attendees reported having accepted payment for sex in the past.
“People don’t think a college student at an Ivy League university would accept payment for sex but I’ve never had asked this question on a college campus and not had ‘yes’ answers,” McDevitt said. “That brings us back to the idea that you can’t have assumptions about people’s backgrounds.”
Other survey responses revealed that three percent of attendees had engaged in bestiality, 22 percent had never had a sexual partner, 12 percent have filmed themselves during intercourse and 52 percent have engaged in consensual pain during intercourse.
At Saturday’s workshop, multiple student-submitted discussions topics were about sexual fantasies involving family members. When students shared their thoughts on incest, three responses were related to fantasies about fathers.
“At first yes, the fact that so many people brought it up surprised me but then I though it might be more of a psychological thing we might all have,” said attendee Alex Saeedy ’15. “I think that’s what the point of the workshop was — to bring up things we thought were so taboo and desire or urges we criticize are just regular parts of sexual psychology.”
Sex Weekend was organized by a board of seven students.