“Sex Week” is a series of events held on many college campuses around the nation that allegedly serve as sexual education, but in reality often promote sexual exploitation.
While some colleges and universities are attempting to re-tool “Sex Week” events to discuss consent and sexual assault prevention, Sex Weeks across the nation still chronically encourage unhealthy and exploitive sexual practices such as pornography use, and often the normalization of prostitution.
When colleges and universities around the country actively promote, subsidize, or host these Sex Week events on campuses they are often carelessly fostering the crisis of sexual assault on college campuses.
A variety of studies indicate that sexual assault on campus is a significant although underreported problem.
In a 2015 national survey of 27 universities from the Association of American Universities, 23% of female undergraduate students reported experiencing sexual assault since enrollment in college. Despite this statistic, less than 28% of all serious offenses (including rape) were brought to the attention of university officials. The defined sexual assault to include “sexual harassment, stalking, and intimate partner violence,” “nonconsensual penetration,” and “nonconsensual touching.”
While the numbers and frequency of such crimes may be in dispute, it is clear that sexual assault on college campuses is a serious problem.
However, by promoting or facilitating Sex Week events, many college officials are actually fostering sexually exploitive biases on their campuses.
Sex Week events around the country chronically promote prostitution as “sex work” and promote pornography as a healthy sexual activity.
At Yale University, where sex week was first initiated a dozen years ago there were two reported rape cases the week named Sex Week to NCOSE’s Dirty Dozen List for facilitating sexual exploitation. The assaults were reported by students who attended an annual “BDSM” party (where students dressed up in bondage costumes and violent porn was projected on the walls of the room).
On some campuses students concerned about sexual assault, and the harms of pornography, are muscling their way onto the agendas of sex week celebrations to bring balance to the events. However, these students and more need support. That’s why we’ve created this campaign, to bring awareness to the issue, and to provide students with access to the research on the harms of pornography, prostitution, and sexual violence.
Studies characterize the violence that animates prostitution as brutal, extreme, common, stunning, normative, and ever-present. Indeed, physical and sexual violence across prostitution types is pervasive—whether one is prostituting in Chennai or Chicago, indoors or outdoors, for drugs or to pay the rent, on a street corner, in a car, back alley, brothel, massage parlor, or strip club—both the threat of, as well as actual violence, permeate everyday existence. You can learn more at Bright Light on the Red Light: The Truth About Prostitution.
Research intimately connects pornography with increased rates of sexual violence. The mainstreaming and prevalence of pornography is also a major reason why women are not reporting these assaults, as porn exposure leads to many “permission-giving” beliefs surrounding rape and violence. Further, pornography is tied to difficulty in relationships, porn-induced erectile dysfunction, neurological and psychological harms, and more. For that reason, it is increasingly considered a public health crisis. You can learn more at Pornography: A Public Health Crisis.
Actions for College Students:
Does your campus host Sex Week? There are several things you can do as a student to make your voice heard and to take a stand against sexual exploitation!
- Access the calendar of events for the Sex Week programs. Review it for sexually exploitive events.
- Discuss your concerns with friends.
- Reach out to the administration at your school, and request that they refuse to sponsor/host exploitive events. If possible, include the names of several of your classmates. Consider circulating a petition.
- If the administration does not respond, consider sending the Sex Week event schedule, paired with explanations for why certain events are harmful, to your parents and other students’ parents or alumni. Ask them to contact the school administration to cancel the events. (This will usually work!)
- If by this stage the school administration continues to refuse to cancel the events, consider hosting your own parallel event to discuss the harms of pornography, prostitution, or sexual violence.You can request NCOSE representatives to attend and give a presentation or we can help you connect with other great leaders and experts too.
- Write a blog about your experiences, and about the events being hosted on your campus, and send it to NCOSE at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will consider your blog for publication to help raise awareness, and inspire other college students around the country.
If at any point during this process you want advice or more research and talking points, contact NCOSE at email@example.com.
Share your STORY
Personal stories help elected and business leaders to see the grave harm associated with this material and can be very helpful in getting them to change their policies. All will be shared anonymously. Please email your story to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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