A few weeks ago, I received several emails about a special event taking place at Harvard. I immediately thought that I should post about it on here, but because I was in the middle of my senior thesis--which I finally turned in on Friday!--I was too absorbed in the world of writing and not sleeping much. But I figured it's a good idea for you to see one of the emails yourselves:
Hooking Up: Hot Hints for a Great Sex Life With Amber Madison, author and sex-columnist Thursday, March 1 at 7pm Ticknor Lounge (Boylston Hall)
Want to know more about...how to give and receive pleasure? how to communicate your desires? how to make sure that you and your partner get what you want and need from one another? Do you have questions about sex or sexuality that you've never had answered?
You won't want to miss this! Join us for a scintillating and sexy talk with AMBER MADISON, author of the recently released book "HOOKING UP: AN ALL OUT GUIDE TO SEX AND SEXUALITY" before her appearance on The Today Show the following day.
Amber will share helpful advice and crucial information about having a gratifying sexual life now, or later! You'll be able to submit questions anonymously to Amber, and she will answer them during the session. Come enjoy a comfortable environment for: -- sexxxxxy suggestions -- chocolate covered strawberries, HOT chocolate, and other snacks -- prizes (including Amber's book) and other great "stuff" ALL students of every gender identity and sexual orientation are welcome! Mark your calendar!
When I saw this email, I rolled my eyes and thought, oh great, another one of these sex talks put on by some campus groups. WRONG! I only had to read further to see the official sponsors of the event: The Center for Wellness and Health Communication, the Bureau of Study Counsel, the Harvard College Women's Center, the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response, and the Freshman Dean's Office
Those of you who do not attend Harvard don't know much about these groups, but in case it isn't clear, these aren't student groups. They're official college organizations. I couldn't believe the Freshman Dean's Office felt this was an appropriate event to sponsor. And the Bureau of Study Counsel? How could this tie in to good studying habits? I wrote a letter to the heads of each of these groups, along with the Dean of Harvard College, expressing my confusion as to why these groups proactively sought to host a sex talk by Amber Madison (whose book, by the way, is disturbing in many respects).
This is part of the reply I and others who wrote letters received:
Contrary to the assumptions stated in your letters, it is very much within the mission of each of our offices to provide students with accurate information about sexual health, agency, and well-being, and to encourage them to use that information to make healthy, self-directed choices for themselves. Access to information about sexual health, decision-making, and well-being is an integral part of adulthood, and our role as educators is to enable all students who wish to learn about their own development to have access to accurate, meaningful information...
Given your concerns, I hope that it is reassuring to know that Amber is going to emphasize the importance of respect and mutual decision making in sexuality, including setting self-determined boundaries effectively, communicating effectively and safely, and paying attention to one's partner's needs and wishes. These are all indispensable features of a healthy adult sexual life, whether they are employed now or not until much later. We are not advocating sexual activity for anyone who does not feel ready. We are advocating empowered knowledge and personal agency on this issue, which is completely in line with each of our office's goals....
Finally, as you know, being part of an educational community means that not every program and event is of interest to (or in line with the moral values of) every student from every background. It is nonetheless our responsibility as educators who are knowledgeable about student development to address needs when they are evident, and to make information and dialogue opportunities available to those who wish to have it, entrusting them to decide for themselves— not based on others' moral beliefs-- what is best for them. Thanks again for sharing your concerns. We appreciate student feedback and hope these clarifications are helpful.
I have to catch a plane early in the morning, so I must keep my comments brief, and I'd love for you all to give me your analysis of the reply. One thing I must say that bothered me--she repeatedly brings up not imposing our morality on other people (I and others had suggested the College host an event on abstinence or at least an event where students with all different perspectives could speak), but I never said one word about morality. She assumed that I was trying to impose my moral views on others--but what was the College doing? Your thoughts and comments would be much appreciated!