Behind the Curtains: Harvard Sex Week

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By Tushar Dwivedi

At any given moment, numerous student organization-hosted and sponsored events can be found across campus. Few however, hold both the simultaneous intrigue, allure, and intimacy that comes with “Sex Week” at Harvard. In the small, yet packed room in Sever, roughly 10 panelists and a moderator gathered to answer questions regarding the topic of “Queer Intimacies,” presenting to a diverse diverse group of audience members.

Run by SHEATH (Sexual Health Education and Advocacy Throughout Harvard), Harvard Sex Week exists with the stated goal of provoking thought, commentary, and action regarding relevant sex and sexuality based topics. What makes Sex Week so appealing to students is the fact that programming is designed by students in particular, without restriction.

Questions asked by the moderator came from students seated amongst the crowd, sending in questions anonymous, and the resulting discussion ranged from highly personal questions such as “What does intimacy look like (including Non-Sexual and Non-Queer Intimacy) for you?” to more foundational, educational questions such as: “Can you describe what love languages look like?”

Responses to each these questions were highly personal, and the key success of the event was not only the ability to educate students in attendance, but in the creation of a space that allowed open, safe dialogue. As Ari Wu (class of 2021), a panelist at the event, mentions, “In terms of community, it’s really affirming to be in sex-positive spaces, especially in this case since it’s a queer-centered sex-positive space.” The core function of Sex Week is not just to provide an entertaining, yet educational space for attendees, but also as an outlet for speakers and panelists as well.

In organizing events, board members from Harvard Sex Week reach out to relevant student organizations, Harvard Offices, etc. in order to put together the best possible combination of events. In Ari’s case, “sex week organizers reached out to [the QuOffice] office to ask if we wanted to cohost an event, and we suggested the topic of queer intimacies.” For Ari, “as an intern on the Campus Education team,” this mean the chance to “plan the event, recruit panelists, etc.”

Queer Intimacies, occuring Tuesday, October 30th, took place on the second day of sex week; events run through the week and the weekend, with events alternating between mid-afternoon slots after most classes have ended to late night times around 8pm. The result is an impressive 13 different sessions, each hosted by unique panelists, that take place over halloween week at Harvard. Committed to the cause, Sex Week isn’t the only time during which organizers put together such intriguing and exciting events. Sex Weekend, in the Spring, typically takes place in mid-April, and represents a shorter, condensed form of Sex Week intended to continue and maintain conversations regarding relevant topics.

Meanwhile, relationships with both corporate entities as well as Harvard affiliated organizations help create the large scale nature of the event. Sporting over 25 corporate sponsors, including companies such as JOPEN, LELO, OhMiBod, and OMGYES, among many others, the result is often a series of fun giveaways and prizes that remain the talk of campus in the days leading up to and after Sex Week. On the other hand, relationships with 13 Harvard organizations, including groups such as the Harvard College Women’s Center, Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response, indigo, the Undergraduate Counsel, etc. ensure that a diverse range of perspectives and ideas are brought to each of the discussions. The result is not only a highly diverse range of speakers, but also of topics and presentation formats that continue to draw high volumes of Harvard students.

Tushar Dwivedi ’20 is looking forward to the remainder of the Fall lineup of events.