RESHAPE-ing Sex Ed

April 3, 2015

Rosalind Black

The Sexual Information Center Presents Re-Shape (poster)
Photo credit: Dan Quigley '15

This year, Oberlin’s Sexual Information Center (SIC), a student-run organization dedicated to sexuality and sexual health education, has revamped its programming to be more inclusive and accessible to all students on Oberlin’s campus. This new focus can be seen in all of the events included in the organization’s new series, Radical Explorations of Sexual Health and Personal Experience (RESHAPE) Week.

The SIC was formed in 1979 when the Contraceptive Co-op and the former SIC merged into one organization. It is a nonprofit group that provides students with unbiased, confidential, and comprehensive sexuality and sexual health education. The SIC has always been directly involved and invested in the interests of the student body, providing information, education, counseling services, and certain products. From 1979 until 2014, the SIC hosted an annual event called Safer Sex Night that aimed to de-stigmatize discussion of HIV and AIDS prevention and queer sexuality, expanding in 2009 to include a week of educational workshops, performances, movie screenings, and discussions about not just preventing the spread of STIs but also recognizing consent and emotional and mental needs.

This year, the SIC has created a new program to bolster sexual education in RESHAPE Week, which, as members explain in an open letter to campus, “[centers on] issues of power, agency, and constraint in regards to sexuality, especially concerning issues of privilege and oppression as well as sexualized violence, intervention, and prevention.” Members believe the new series improves upon the old programming, which they report overlooked many experiences and communities of students on campus.

The members of the SIC began forming RESHAPE Week after a thorough review of the SIC’s entire mission, which they reworked to more fully represent the multitude of viewpoints and backgrounds of students on campus. “From this refocused position, we have worked through the creation of RESHAPE week in an intentionally collaborative manner,” says fourth-year Sarah MacFadden, one of the event coordinators. “This means every event we’re sponsoring this week has been discussed and approved by the entire organization.”

The collaboration on RESHAPE Week does not stop with the members of the SIC, however. The SIC enlisted many student groups and other performers, speakers, and activists to plan and put on events that will take place over the course of the week. “It’s really crucial to recognize that the perspectives and experiences of the 18 current SIC staffers are limited; it’s not possible to have a perfectly representative sample of the communities we’re serving,” MacFadden says. “Working collaboratively leads to more intersectional, responsible, and beneficial work and events.”

The SIC plans to continue hosting RESHAPE Week and similar events in years to come, while continuing to look critically at how it functions on campus and how students respond. The SIC is open to feedback on its events and the organization in general, MacFadden explains, and is looking for ways to improve. “RESHAPE is still a very young event and will likely evolve quite a bit over the coming years … I can’t say exactly what RESHAPE will look like next year, but I imagine it will take this very exciting starting point and continue to expand and improve on it,” MacFadden says.

SIC members have devoted much attention and energy this year to reevaluating the organization’s presence on campus along with its Experimental College class called SexCo. They have rewritten the application and curricula for SexCo and, in general, are moving toward providing more oppression-explicit programming, including adding office hours that serve as safe spaces for people of color.

RESHAPE Week kicks off with one of three Bystander Intervention Trainings hosted by Preventing and Responding to Sexual Misconduct (PRSM) that will run from 3 to 5 p.m. on Saturday, April 4, in King 123, which you must sign up for to attend. Other events include, but are not limited to, a workshop with and spoken word performance by DARKMATTER; discussions and workshops that examine everything from the transgender basics to rape culture and survivor support to desirability politics; trivia night at the Slow Train Cafe; talks from visitors such as photographer Jess T. Dugan, patient advocate at Preterm Cleveland Ohio Leah Pusateri, and WomanHOOD Project founder Amanda R. Matos; and Bring-Yr-Own-PowerPoint, where students are encouraged to give their own presentations on topics related to sexual health and more. For the entire list of RESHAPE Week events and activities, visit the Facebook page.

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