The fifth annual Sex Week comes to the University of Chicago this week with 20 events scheduled across campus.
The aim of Sex Week, according to third-year and co-director Zhenying Tian, is to normalize sex by framing it in an intellectual, academic context—thus keeping with the university’s tradition of open, spirited inquiry. As such, lectures like “Lovely Lolita: Sex or Eroticism?,” by Russian and Eastern European Studies professor Malynne Sternstein, are juxtaposed with interactive presentations and student-led discussions.
“We often think that sex belongs to the private, and the private is not political,” Sex Week’s co-treasurer, third-year Avery Yuan, said. “We’re trying to create a space on campus through which we can talk about sex openly and learn about it openly, and make it politically relevant on campus.”
The week features no official theme—both Tian and Yuan named Sex Week’s broad scope and flexibility as its biggest strengths. This year’s slate of events includes a new focus on sex across cultures and time periods.
After an open house held at the beginning of fall quarter to solicit students’ suggestions for Sex Week, the board of directors sought out events that would reflect the growing diversity on campus, Tian said. These include lectures like “Masculinity in Iran: Contemporary Contexts,” as well as a screening of the Indian web series Ladies’ Room, written by a current Harris School of Public Policy student, and “Bible Thumping,” a panel discussion with Episcopalian clergy members and Good Christian Sex author Bromleigh McCleneghan.
Back by student demand are “Introduction to Rope Bondage,” a workshop taught by a guest instructor, and the ever-popular Lascivious Ball, a tradition predating Sex Week by almost 50 years, to be held Friday night at 10:30 in Ida Noyes. The Lascivious Ball is the only Sex Week event that costs money to attend—tickets are $10 at the door—and will include food, dancing, and appearances by PhiNix, Maya, and other performance RSOs.
Over its five years on campus, Sex Week has grown from a fledgling event into an expected tradition, Tian said, adding, “People actively reach out to us to propose their own ideas.” The event provides a recurring platform to RSOs with interests in sex issues—from Amnesty International to Tea Time and Sex Chats to The Body Project. Sex Week has also forged ongoing relationships with outside sponsors, including Trojan Condoms and Early2Bed sex toy store.
Yuan predicts that Sex Week will become more politically charged in the future. “Especially within the public sphere, there will be a lot of discussions related to sex, whether it’s about policy or academics…. There will be more politically related content, and policy-based content. I see that as an inevitable trend.”