Safer Sex Week Covers Bases

What can a feather duster and an elbow have in common? Ask "Sex Jane."

Sex Jane, also known as Jane Bogart, is one of many sex educators scheduled to come to Columbia for next week's Safer Sex Week. The sexual awareness program, sponsored and run by Columbia's and Barnard's health education programs and student clubs, has occurred every February for the past 15 years.

For the event, the campus will become a hotbed of sexual activity-educationally speaking, of course-with interactive events. Educators will teach students skills to add to their sexual repertoires and give sexual health insights to show that sex doesn't have to be a guilty pleasure.

For her part, Bogart said she plans to discuss how different body parts can be touched and ways to explore the senses. Featured on MTV and recognized as a respected Sexpert around the country, the former Teachers College faculty member and author of Sexploration: The Ultimate Guide to Feeling Truly Great in Bed, said she plans to color her presentation with humor, personal anecdotes, and perhaps an interactive game of sex bingo. And that's what Safer Sex Week is all about, according to the event's organizers.

"Introducing sex toys shows that sex isn't shameful and it's OK to ask questions. It's especially important for women because it's against their behavioral expectations to ask for sex," said Crystal Gonzalez, treasurer of the Columbia Queer Alliance.

Gonzalez is the coordinator of Sex Toys 101, one of the events returning from last year. The program will feature a titillating but tame interactive presentation by Babeland sex toy store educators using dildos, harnesses, and erotica.

One of the new events this year, "Safer Sex and Sexual Health for Women Who Have Sex with Women" will address "a special category that health professionals often neglect" and "sift through the abundance of misinformation around," said Daniel Chiarilli, co-coordinator for the Gay Health Advocacy Project and this year's event coordinator.

Safer Sex Week will also include a discussion of alternative ways to define sex with the Go Ask Alice event, "Expand Your Sexicon," for those who choose abstinence, have trouble communicating their personal boundaries, or seek other forms of intimacy.

Melissa Kenzig, director of the Alice Health Promotion Program said that student groups were more involved with the planning process this year as compared to previous years.

"This year involved more grassroots organizing," Kenzig said.

Whereas volunteers in the past sat at tables in Lerner and McIntosh to hand out free condoms and information pamphlets, this year students will actively distribute safer sex kits throughout campus.

While social commentator Ann Coulter on Fox News has publicly criticized Columbia's "sex club," Conversio Virium, and the New York Daily News has criticized Safer Sex Week among the other sex-related activities on campus, sex educators said that Safer Sex Week serves a different purpose.

"Sex is a natural state," Bogart said. "We operate in the context of a society that uses sex to sell everything yet having a candid conversation about it is wrong. That's paradoxical to me."

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