Sex Without Alcohol
by Tobias Smith
was the first year in history that alcohol was not served at Safer
Sex Night. The event, which took place on Thursday at the Sco,
is a yearly tradition hosted by the Sexual Information Center intended
to educate Oberlin students about safer sexual practices.
Between 800 and 1,000 Oberlin students gathered in the basement
of Wilder, ready to dance and flaunt their costumes, or lack thereof.
Many were dressed in underwear or lingerie, while others were less
conservative. Passing through usually shut doors, students stood
in line to enter an alcove in the corner of what is usually the
Decafé, which had been transformed into the Tent of Consent.
Educational, sexually explicit videos played on TV screens, and
students sat in booths in g-strings and halter-tops.
Safer Sex Night began in 1984, a decade after the SIC became an
independent organization, in response to what was felt to be an
insufficient response to AIDS which began appearing in the early
1980s. It has been an annual event since then and has recently come
under fire because of what some perceive as mixed messages concerning
issues of alcohol use and consent.
Safer Sex Night and Drag Ball are two of our peak call nights
for the sexual assault line, junior Brianna Cayo-Cotter, a
member of the Sexual Assault Prevention Team, said.
The decision not to serve alcohol was ultimately made by the Student
Union, which operates the Sco. If indeed the purpose
of the event is educational then the serving of alcohol, juxtaposed,
with sexual positive image, is complicating and confusing at best,
Dean of Students Peter Goldsmith said.
SIC and SAST supported the decision. It is something that
we debated every year. This year it was a mutual decision,
junior Laura Grossman, a member of SIC, said.
We think that healthy drinking is great, it just impairs peoples
ability to give consent, Cayo-Cotter added.
One of the things we are trying to promote is consent. Our
definition of consent is that if you are drunk you cant consent,
sophomore Maria Diaz, another member of SIC said.
Following the recent string of sexual assaults on campus, consent
has been a major issue. The reported assaults have tempered
our thinking about the events of all kinds that can leave students
more vulnerable, Goldsmith said.
To combat this, SAST will be sponsoring a dozen peacekeepers at
the event. It is hoped that the presence of student peacekeepers,
who wear distinctive shirts and work in pairs, could be reassuring
to those who might feel threatened. I think that especially
with an event of this nature, its important that everyone
can feel comfortable, Emma Sloan, a first- year peace keeper,
Another issue that has been raised is the Tent of Consent.
Located in the Decafé and organized by SAST, the tent offers
people a chance to put the idea of consent into practice. Individuals,
after mutually consenting, may enter the tent for two minutes. Some
members of the Oberlin community have mixed feelings about it, however.
I am concerned about the context in which this [tent of consent]
happens and the way it happens, and certainly, it happening on College
property. And the liability that we share in that, I am concerned
about it, knowing that there is a bar right beside the tent,
Associate Dean of Students Bill Stackman said.
Some of the administration feel like the tent of consent encourages
sexual behavior. I think whats really going on is theyre
just embarrassed about it, Cayo-Cotter added.
There has also been concern in the past about the content of signs
for Safer Sex Night. In the past weve been criticized
for our risque posters, senior Nedra Lee, a member of SIC,
said. This year, the SIC has made an effort to tone the posters
Many people feel that Safer Sex Night is a first year rite of passage.
Ive heard a lot about it and wanted to see what it was
like in person, first -year Laura Shummers said.
Others found that it conflicted with their lives. Its
a focus thing ... we have a game Saturday, Ryan Silakoski,
a member of the football team, said. Many coaches are also against
it. [The football coaches] dont recommend it he
Some questioned why Safer Sex Night existed at all. What purpose
does it serve? It definitely doesnt beautify sex; it degrades
it, senior Miguel Villafana said.