This week, Feb 8 - Feb 16, is Sex Week at University of Chicago. Surprised that you haven't heard of it? So was I. Modeled off of similar Sex Weeks at Harvard and Yale, University of Chicago Sex Week, after being decommissioned was revived last year. I sat down with founder Stephanie Grach, a senior undergraduate HIPSS major, and organizer Madison Ball, junior Geophysical Sciences major, to get the low down.
Chicago Business: Let's get straight to it, so what is Sex Week?
Stephanie Grach: Sex Week is where the science and art of sex meet. It's about discussing why people have different preferences, how to respect other views and learning about the variety of sexaual activities even if you aren't going to dabble in them yourself.
Madison Ball: It's 70% knowledge and 30% fun. Most of our events are intellectual conversations about sexual topics.
SG: Right. Events like rope tying, to use a classic example, are really about consent and how to make sure your partner is comfortable and that you are enjoying it. Not just like, here are all the cool techniques you can use.
CB: Sorry, what's rope tying?
MB: Rope tying is an event put on by the Chicago RACK (Risk-Aware Consensual Kink) organization. They are doing a workshop on how to safely tie your partner up in a sexual setting.
SG: And engage in a way that's comfortable, constantly checking in and understanding your partner's limits.
CB: Are there simulations?
SG: Yea, in street appropriate clothing. They guide you and show you the more basic as well as the complex things.
CB: What events are you excited about? And which ones are gaining notoriety?
SG: I'm excited about Graphic Artistry: Creating Erotic Comics for Queer & Diverse Audiences.
An event that's garnered the most press is Temple of Cum and Other Queer Blasphemies a.k.a the Pagan Sex Magic event - it covers religious and online communities that focus on sex.
MB: Its about the sociology and community ties and the way they interact in this pseudo-religion.
The Lascivious Ball is one of the more famous events that allow students to express themselves in ways that would otherwise be "unacceptable." Students push their limits with the outfits. It's part performance, part dancing, part fashion show. The most memorable event last year was when a student came with electrical tape on her nipples and a ball gag.
SG: To better your love life, Tantranova is a yoga guided meditation workshop designed to release stress that represses your sexual drive and make you more aware of your physical senses.
CB: So why did you choose to get involved with Sex Week?
SG: Angela (University of Chicago alumni) and I were co-founders, she asked me about it. What I liked the most was the idea of building a safe space with no judgement where people can talk about anything. I've been lucky in the way I get to express myself with friends and family, what caught me off-guard is how closed off people think you have to be to others, with basic things. Bringing in my health and medicine perspective - you go in to see your doctor, but if you can't tell them what's wrong, you're not going to feel any better. Seeing college students getting depressed because they can't be themselves was unfortunate, providing an open space to discuss these issues was important to me. Seeing students be comfortable with themselves is why I do this.
MB: I just think that sex is a really important and fundamental to most peoples lives, but it's so repressed at the same time. When it's addressed you feel much better typically and it allows for neurosis and psychic pressures to escape in some ways.
To learn more, check out the events this week at http://sexweekuchicago.com/