This Monday at 6 p.m., the University of Maine will teach students all about “contraceptives, consent, and all things sexy” through its Sex Carnival, hosted by Student Alliance for Sexual Health. Its provocative name may amuse, but this event is a powerful tool for reaching out to students from all types of backgrounds. Sexual education in our country is widely diverse. Some learn only the most conservative, abstinence-only lessons; others have a more inclusive view. These gaps in education are dangerous to the well-being of the student body.
While debate and legislature rages on over programs such as Planned Parenthood and sexual education, opportunities for young adults to learn about proper and safe sex are narrowing. Schools cannot be relied upon for encompassing information. Independent organizations are constantly faced with defunding and shutdowns. The Sex Carnival gives UMaine students the chance to supplement whatever knowledge they already have with more progressive lessons.
The event also takes another step in the battle of destigmatizing sex. Taboo over our sexual practices hinders efforts to educate and abolish widespread problems such as sexual assault, shame and unplanned pregnancy. Talking about these issues in a casual setting is the first step toward fixing bigger issues. If we cannot first discuss the topic without cringing, we stand no chance in eradicating larger problems.
The Sex Carnival also introduces discussion over the emotional side to sex, concerning mostly consent and making sure all parties involved are ready and willing. This breaks down that wall of strict biological facts that much of sexual education constructs. Learning about sex in middle school is often about which organ goes where, and it never considers the emotional impact of sex. The same issue is present in high schools, which teach the body parts but not the implicit permission to interact with them. In many states, consent is never talked about. California was the first state to require sexual consent lessons, and that only began last October. Consent is a topic of many grey areas and one that has just recently been brought into the limelight. Not everybody knows the boundaries of what is okay and what isn’t.
Some of the content in the Sex Carnival — like how to put on a condom correctly — may seem elementary and pointless. However, these technical skills aren’t always as straightforward as they seem. The tiniest errors can greatly increase contraceptive failure. This Monday, students can learn the proper technique while in a fun environment to boot. There’s no harm in a refresher course at least. What might be commonplace to one student could be revolutionary to another. The Sex Carnival will bridge gaps in education and fill in for larger organizations in the face of countrywide turmoil.