SEXPO aims for sex positive campus culture

Whether you love talking about it or hate when it’s brought up in discussion, sex is a topic that can’t be avoided on a college campus.

Scheduled for Sept. 23, SEXPO 2016 seeks to make Case Western Reserve University a more sex-positive campus. From 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., exhibition style booths will fill the Tinkham Veale University Center’s Ballroom C, with 30-minute breakout sessions in the Senior Classroom.

“It can be hard for some people to understand that sex positivity doesn’t mean go out and have sex,” says fourth-year student Katherine Rodgers, the director of SEXPO. Instead, sex positivity is about being comfortable enough to have conversations about sex and determine your own boundaries free of judgment.

So far, Rodgers has been met with positive reception. Most of the groups she reached out to have agreed to participate in the event, resulting in booths on topics such as consent, healthy relationships, BDSM and kink, gender identity and asexuality. Off-campus groups will be in attendance as well according to Rodgers, including Planned Parenthood and the LGBT Center of Greater Cleveland.

The breakout sessions, in contrast with the booths, are designed to provide a more intimate space for people to ask questions and discuss potentially uncomfortable or taboo topics. At this point, Rodgers is most looking forward to a discussion on the female orgasm with Spencer Ciaralli, the graduate student coordinator at the Flora Stone Mather Center for Women.

“No one really talks about it and it’s very taboo,” Rodgers said. “It’ll be interesting to see how people handle talking about that.”

Although it’s now only two weeks away, Rodgers began planning SEXPO two summers ago after discovering how her fellow students’ sex education prior to college differed from her own.

“I was really lucky to go through a program from preschool through college,” said Rogers of her experience in Our Whole Lives. The program is designed to provide age-appropriate sex education in order to build self-esteem and self-acceptance and provide the tools for healthy relationships and choices in the future.

As a SMARRT (Students Meeting about Risk and Responsibility Training) Leader, Rodgers had conversations with groups who, according to her, didn’t know about consent or sexual assault. SEXPO itself occurs during the Red Zone, the time period during the beginning of the academic year—lasting from the moment first-year students arrive on campus until Thanksgiving break—in which freshmen women are most at risk of sexual assault.

“People don’t have that conversation about consent,” said Rodgers. “People don’t always know what defines what when they’re having relationships. Be open about it, tell people your boundaries and make sure everyone knows what consent means.”