Let’s Talk About Sex…and Intersectionality!

by Nicole Chavez

On Saturday, October 31st at the Afro American Cultural Center, a group of thirty students discussed sex over lunch.

The workshop titled “Race, Ethnicity, Culture, and Sexuality,” was one of several discussions hosted during Sex and Sexuality Week. The goal of the series of workshops and performances was to “promote a sex-positive, safe, and inclusive space …. to facilitate honest, intersectional discussion about the nuances of sexual wellness, politics, and pleasure within the Yale community.”

The Afro American Cultural Center served as a safe space where, with the guidance of SeLF facilitators, intimate conversations opened up quickly. Many students wrongfully assume that Yale has a campus climate that is open and accepting of sex. Despite its reputation for having a thriving hook-up culture, Yale students do not put forth enough effort to actually discuss sexuality and the implications it has on campus. Fortunately, this workshop created a space in which students could actively discuss their thoughts and concerns about how Yale students express their sexuality.

Small groups consisting of about seven to eight students each gathered around a table and had a two hour long conversation during which they discussed the ways in which race, ethnicity, gender, and culture have impacted the quality of their relationships at Yale — whether they be platonic friendships, steamy hookups, or monogamous dating. Conversations turned to a variety of topics including whether or not racial preferences in dating and hookups is inherently racist, how one’s racial and ethnic identity may induce or exacerbate internalized homophobia, and exploring ways in which the intersection of race and sexuality can be brought into conversation with our peers and partners more frequently.

Throughout the session, students were asked to write anonymous responses to a series of prompts that encouraged them to reflect on how their racial and ethnic identities affected their past relationships and their attitude towards seeking relationships in the future. Some of the prompts included whether or not students typically date individuals of one particular racial and/or ethnic group only, whether they see their racial identity as playing a prominent and openly discussed role in their relationships, and if they felt people of color are actively discriminated against in the dating and hookup scenes at Yale.

These conversations were led by several Sexual Literacy Forum (SeLF) facilitators. SeLF is a program through which undergraduates passionate about sexual education can lead workshops that resolve the misconceptions surrounding sexuality. Facilitators focus on promoting the physical and emotional wellbeing of one’s self and one’s partner(s). As one SeLF facilitator stated during the workshop “You can only have a healthy relationship with someone when you know where they are coming from. Getting a better grasp of your partner’s background and the way it influences their thoughts and feelings towards sex and sexuality is crucial to maintaining a mutually healthy relationship.”

For those students who are interested in joining similar in-depth conversations on sexuality, SeLF teaches semester-long seminars on sexuality to undergraduates. The 10-week course covers a variety of topics including sexual orientation, gender, desire, body images, and safe sexual practices. For more information, please visit the following link.