In case you didn’t already know, it’s Sex Week at Harvard University. With the aim of educating the community about all kinds of topics surrounding sex and sexuality and promoting a healthy understanding of it all, courses and workshops are available for free to the general public every day this week — including an anal sex workshop. But that’s not the best part. The best part is the name of the anal sex workshop. It’s truly magnificent — and I’m not just saying that. Want to know what it is? Are you sure you’re ready for it? OK. Here it is:
“What What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101.”
Please tell me I'm not the only one who thinks that's one of the greatest things they've ever heard.
If, somehow, you aren’t familiar with the reference, “What What (In the Butt)” is a viral music video for the song of the same name by Samwell; it hit YouTube in 2007 and has since gone down in history as one of the strangest and most delightful viral videos of all time. South Park did a pretty hilarious parody of it featuring Butters in 2008, if that’s your thing.
Anyway, title aside, the workshop itself occurred on Tuesday night; according to its description on the Sex Week website, it was sponsored by Good Vibrations, a sex-positive store located in Brookline, MA. Its goal was to “dispel myths about anal sex and give you insight into why people do it and how to do it well.” Topics covered included “anal anatomy and the potential for pleasure for all genders; how to talk about it with a partner; basic preparation and hygiene; lubes, anal toys, and safer sex; anal penetration for beginners; and much more.” Anal has never really done it for me, but it’s entirely possible that maybe I just haven’t been doing it right. I grew up in Boston, and although I don’t live there now, “What What in the Butt: Anal Sex 101” kind of makes me wish I did.
As you might expect, not everyone is thrilled about the idea of Sex Week; in an email to the College Fix, for example, student Molly Wharton wrote, “After looking at the schedule of events… I do question the amount of time and resources that went into planning and funding these events, some of which are downright vulgar, at a place like Harvard.” She continued, “I can’t imagine that there are not more worthwhile educational programs and initiatives to which Harvard’s resources should be devoted.” But you know what? I actually think it’s a great idea. The population of the U.S. has a complicated and — to be honest — kind of bizarre relationship with sex; it’s full of contradictions ranging from whether we should actually enjoy it to what constitutes consent (hint: It begins with “y” and ends with “es”). How better to realign how we talk and think about sex than through sex-positive workshops offered by experts at academic institutions?
It’s also possible that Wharton, who acknowledged she wasn’t overly familiar with Sex Week, was unaware of who exactly organized the event. It’s not run by the administration; it’s put together by a student organization called Sexual Health Education and Advocacy, or SHEATH. SHEATH is “dedicated to empowering the Harvard community to explore their experiences with love and sex by providing comprehensive programming addressing a wide range of issues relating to sex, relationships, dating, sexual health, and sexuality. Sponsors for Sex Week itself include the Harvard College Women’s Center, the Center for Wellness, the Office of BGLTQ Student Life, and the Office of Sexual Assault Prevention and Response. You don’t have to go to the anal sex workshop if you don’t want to — but if we’re going to try to make college campuses a healthy environment for safe, consensual, and fun sex, organizations like these and the events that they plan are essential.
Speaking of consent, it’s kind of impossible to talk about a university-sponsored event like Sex Week without addressing the ongoing issue of campus rape and sexual assault. Harvard is one of many schools to have recently faced a federal investigation regarding the mishandling of sexual assault cases; the university did revise its sexual assault policy in response, which, although it prompted a somewhat troubling reaction by its law professors, is a step in the right direction. But I actually think events like Sex Week could also be used to deal with the issue of campus rape. Although none of the workshops on the schedule this look like they specifically address consent, the event could be used to accomplish the thing we ultimately need to accomplish in order to end campus assault once and for all: Teach people not to rape.
Sex Week is still going on, by the way; events are scheduled through this Saturday, November 8, and they’re all free and open to the public. If you’re in the area, check it out — other upcoming highlights include “Fifty Shades of False: Kink, Fantasy, and Fetish” on Friday and “Love @ First Swipe: Online Hookup Culture” on Saturday. Sex should be fun, so go have a blast!