Yale University cancelled Sex Week. Well, they didn’t actually cancel it, they merely told the organizers they could no longer use the Yale name or Yale funding. I thought this was pretty interesting not only because it’s been a slow news week on the sex front (Herman Cain and the Penn State scandal not withstanding) but because I think perhaps it heralds a necessary pendulum swing in the way the academic community views sex.
First of all, for those less “in the know,” what is Sex Week? I became familiarized with Sex Week when my two older sons started in college and I found out that many Universities have Sex Week, (which I initially thought was unnecessary since it seemed to me that the common experience in college was really sex semester, or sex two semesters.) The purpose of sex week, I was told, was educational, to allow students to be exposed to a wide variety of sexual voices and experiences, to engage in meaningful discussion and to be better prepared for their own sexual lives. Sounds good to me!
So why did Yale University cancel (okay, not cancel, sort of cancel) Sex Week? According to the Yale Daily News, the Advisory Committee, in a 42-page report, criticized Sex Week for having strayed from its original mission, stating that “in recent years it has prominently featured titillating displays, ‘adult’ film starts, and commercial sponsors of such material.”
The best I can ascertain is that Yale Committee had a general concern that the event had strayed significantly from its initial purpose of education and enlightenment and that there might have been some fiscal misconduct, or at least the appearance of such. At the same time, over 200 students from the more conservative movements at Yale were pushing for the cancellation as well and had circulated a petition asking administrators to end Sex Week because they believed that “many of the events promote objectification of sexuality. “[Sex Week events] always promoted or proceeded on the assumption that casual sex or pornography is a normal part of life and therefore an unquestionable good.”
So I have been thinking a lot about this. Both because I always think a lot about sex education and how we want to communicate sexual messages to our kids and (full disclosure here) because I have a son at Yale who asked me what I thought.
I think that Sex Week should be evaluated in exactly the same manner we evaluate any other educational program. We have to define our goals and then look for the most effective means to meet those goals. Yes, it would seem from a cursory glance, that Sex Week at Yale should be scrapped because the goals had been come blurry, the emphasis had swung in one direction, and one direction only and more conservative voices have not been a part of development of the curriculum.
Read the rest of my thoughts on Friday!