Obies Shouldn’t be Fairweather Fans of Sex and Body Positivity

The Editorial Board

Since its inaugural year in 1990, the rules of Safer Sex Night have taken various forms (save a few constants: sweat, glitter, butt cheeks — but no nipples). The College banned the once infamous “Tent of Consent” in 2005, along with booze sales at the actual event in 2001. The educational aspect of the event has been taken more and less seriously over the years. Safer Sex Week itself — which includes a variety of educational workshops, including this year’s classes on topics such as STI Stigma and a panel discussing alternatives to monogamy — was started in 2009.

But this general shift toward incorporating more information about sexual health and consent along with the festivities has not come without some resistance on the part of attendees. One year, when Sexual Information Center staff members attempted to perform educational skits at the ’Sco, they were booed off the stage for trying to pull the spotlight away from the booty-popping.

Today (and perhaps since the night’s inception 23 years ago), most Obies would acknowledge that the drunken evening of scantily-clad debauchery that is Safer Sex Night is not in practice about verbalizing consent more loudly or clearly or remembering to wear a condom. In fact, some have argued that it encourages quite the opposite by combining nakedness, copious amounts of alcohol, sultry jams and the ’Sco’s inherently sex-laden ambience.

But that’s not to say that Safer Sex Night doesn’t have a productive, positive place in Oberlin culture. In fact, it has a very positive place: a sex-positive one. Perhaps the SIC should discard its lightly veiled premise of promoting safer sex — a mission it implicitly abandons by making the themes of most of the Safer Sex Week classes required to obtain a ticket center on maximizing pleasure and exploring different types of intimacy — and place the real stars of the show, body and sex positivity, at the forefront of the event’s purpose. Due to the fact that the event is perennially comprised of wasted first-years wearing band-aids over their nipples, this shift might help to limit some of the event’s conceptual irony.

And Obies might indeed need a refresher on these very lessons. Although Safer Sex Night is indeed a venue for being sexy and knowing it, Oberlin students seem to be fairweather fans of these concepts in practice. Last night and throughout the weekend, college students across the country will celebrate Halloween in various stages of undress. But here, girls dressed up as naughty nurses or sexy sailors are often subject to peer slut-shaming. Of course, more creative and comical costumes are preferred, but if feeling and looking sexy is empowering next Thursday night at the ’Sco, there’s no reason it shouldn’t be equally empowering this weekend. Instead of slut-shaming, let’s remind ourselves of the message of Safer Sex Night, and channel our collective peer-pressuring efforts on shaming those college students who have mistakenly decided they’re too cool to don a Halloween costume at all.