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The Carletonian

SEXploration promotes sexual positivity across campus offices

At Carleton, April marks a month-long series known as “SEXploration.” The series is coordinated by multiple offices on campus that host various events with the goal of promoting sex positivity.

This year, the series has been led primarily by the the Center for Community and Civic Engagement (CCCE) and involves the Gender and Sexuality Center (GSC), the Office of Health Promotion (OHP), Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), the Title IX Office and Sexual Misconduct Prevention and Response (SMPR), the departments of Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies (GWSS) and the Career Center.

Some off-campus organizations have partnered in the series as well: Carleton alums, Smitten Kitten  (a sex toy shop) and the HOPE Center. A biology academic civic engagement (ACE) course and the Office of Residential Life & Housing (Res Life) have also been involved.

So far, the various offices have hosted book talks, conversations, workshops and movie nights, among other events. CCCE Fellow for Health & Belonging Sammi Sheridan ’24 has been the lead student coordinator involved in communicating about and facilitating SEXploration from the CCCE side.

Sheridan describes the intention of SEXploration as a series that has been around for several years “where students learn about sexual health and sex practices” among a range of other topics that relate to sex. She said that “the CCCE took [SEXploration] on because there was a lack of events and education surrounding sex that the students really wanted and asked for.”

Sheridan said that in the creation of SEXploration, the CCCE hoped to foster “a better campus culture [of] talking and being more open about sex.” For her personally, Sheridan said that “it’s been very nice to talk about it openly.” In her role facilitating events with the CCCE, Sheridan has enjoyed being “a leader in making it feel more okay.”

In the interview, Sheridan spoke about one of the previous students in her role last year, and that she was “super, super open” in how she talked, especially during the series. Within the CCCE “it was so refreshing to have that [openness] and to have someone who’s not ashamed to speak about [sex],” according to Sheridan.

Sheridan has been taking on that openness in her role as a facilitator of SEXploration and is proud of it. From Sheridan’s own perspective, “I think people are getting more comfortable with it by having the leaders who already are comfortable talking about it.” She made an anecdote about telling some of her friends last year about an event that gave out sex toys. They had shocked reactions about something like that happening, but her response was “Hell yeah it is!”

SEXploration deals with a variety of topics surrounding sex from the more intimate levels to the more serious levels. Last week’s events are a testament to the array of topics that it covers: “On Monday [Apr. 8] Erica Staab from the HOPE Center gave a talk,” said Sheridan. “Unfortunately not a lot of people came to that, so it was kind of me and her chatting for a lot of it, but she was going to do a lecture on emotions surrounding abuse.”

The HOPE Center, located in Faribault, Minnesota, is an organization  dedicated to supporting survivors of sexual and domestic abuse, with the acronym HOPE standing for “Healing, Outreach, Prevention, and Education.”

Sheridan continued that “[On Tuesday Apr. 9] SMPR had a talk about the book ‘Sexual Citizens’” and on “Thursday SHAC had a workshop called ‘Let’s Talk About Sex.’” On Friday, the GWSS department hosted a movie screening of “Moonlight,” a film about the life of a queer Black man. 

On an event she’s looking forward to, Sheridan said, “The GSC is hosting one — next week is also their Pride Week — called ‘Beyond Consent 101’” and I was talking to some of the people who were planning it and they seem really excited.” This workshop was hosted in Sayles and catered by Desi Diner on Apr. 18, and focused on viewing sex through an LGBTQIA lens. “They’re working with a book called ‘Pleasure Activism,’” Sheridan explained. The event highlights “the ways that societally we’ve designated pleasure as something that’s taboo or often silenced, but the book shows that it’s actually involved in everything, not just sex.” Sheridan sees this event as a great learning opportunity.

Temitope Williams ’26 is a Gender and Sexuality Center Associate (GSCA) and said that “this GSC Sexploration workshop, Beyond Consent 101, will be the first workshop put on by the GSC in almost two years. Most of our programming happens during Pride Week, usually the fourth week of Spring Term, because by June the school year is just about over. This year we did have a programing heavy fall term with LGBTQ+ History Month in October.”

Arthur Onwumere ’24 is the GWSS Senior Departmental Advisor, and was involved in the screening of “Moonlight.” He is also involved in the GSC as well as the QTBIPOC student organization. Onwumere said, “I believe [SEXploration is] important to have as it allows us to explore and learn about sex in the context of cultural and gender diversity while also providing students different offices to explore around campus that you didn’t know did work to support SEXploration.”

Williams, on the importance of SEXploration at Carleton, said it “is a super important series to have at Carleton. I think it’s something that people don’t like to admit much now that we’re in college, but most of us, especially those of us who went to high school in the US, haven’t received comprehensive sex education.”

They go on to say that “SEXploration not only provides that base of knowledge that people might not have had before, but makes sure to reaffirm people’s autonomy and choice within sexual activities and sexual relationships.” Williams said, “I also think a lot of the principles that people learn from the SEXploration workshops and events can be applicable to life in general and relationships beyond sexual ones. It’s also a great way to celebrate the variety of human experiences that exist and deserve to be represented here at Carleton.”

On the involvement of the GSC and GWSS department, Onwumere said that “It’s important for the GSC to be involved because some people associate the GSC as just a resource for the LGBTQ+ community, but it’s a resource for everyone who might want to learn about sex, sexuality and gender beyond the surface.” He added, “Learning about the history of queer movements or political movements around the queer community is important, their history is interesting too.”

“The GSC and GWSS department both work effortlessly to provide classes, resources and opportunities to explore the world of gender, sex, sexuality and humanity,” Onwumere said. “Everyone should take a GWSS class before graduating as it gives context to the many ways we as people socialize and revolutionize.”

Williams adds that as a GSCA on the Campus Education & Resources team, “I’m all for educating students on campus. Carleton students don’t just need to be educated on the existence of queer identities, but queer students need spaces to connect and relate to each other and resources to better help them affirm their identities and learn how to be more mindful of their relationship to the larger queer community and the world.”

While April is about half over, there are still many opportunities for students to participate in SEXploration. For example, SMPR is hosting a training workshop on consent and boundaries on the 23rd, Smitten Kitten will be partnering at a sex toy workshop on the 25th, OHP is hosting a trivia night on the 26th and the Career Center is holding an alumni panel on the 29th. Along with these upcoming events, SHAC also offers free STI testing every Tuesday this month.

The planning and coordination of this year’s SEXploration series has been going on since the fall term.

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Cecilia Samadani
Cecilia Samadani, Features Editor
I'm an English major with interests in Creative Writing and Middle East Studies minors. I love all things related to art whether that be writing, drawing, music or dance, and am an avid cat person. Cecilia '26 (she/her) was previously a Staff Writer.

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