Students find sex at Union

By Shannon Smith

Students were met with what some might consider an outrageous message after a weeklong spring break. The Quad was adorned with flyers encouraging students to “Cum, join the fun” of the 3rd Annual Sexual Health Awareness Fair, “Sex Out Loud”.

Sex Out Loud – sponsored by a number of student organizations on campus – was held from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Monday in the Illini Union.

Dan Cameron, senior in LAS, handed out informative flyers Monday afternoon, encouraging students to see what Sex Out Loud was all about.

“It’s a safe place to talk about issues dealing with sexual health … and sexual lifestyles,” Cameron said.

Cameron, a member of the Feminist Majority, which helped sponsor the event, said the fair provides open forum for students to talk about issues that affect them. He said this is especially important on a college campus where students face issues such as sexual assault and gay bashing.

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    “Even if it’s something as small as taking a flyer, I definitely think students are affected by what we’re doing,” Cameron said.

    Visitors to Monday’s Sexual Health Awareness Fair were able to talk openly about sex and sexual issues. And no one held back.

    Music blared through the walls of Illini Rooms B and C. Booths sold buttons with phrases such as “My Body My Choice” and “I Found the G Spot.” There was even a vulva-coloring contest.

    As a first-time visitor, Ricky Drew, freshman in business, said he was a bit overwhelmed in the beginning.

    “It’s different than what you would normally get anywhere else,” Drew said.

    He said the variety of booths helped promote safe sex as well as adding excitement to an otherwise normal day. Drew said the numerous sex toys displayed were especially extreme.

    “There’s not anything more that you could really say ‘whoa’ to,” Drew said.

    Jenni Purdue, senior in communications and vice president of Feminist Majority, said that while sex is a serious issue, Sex Out Loud hopes to show that it can be fun as well.

    “We want people to see sex as a good, happy thing if you go about it in a responsible way,” Purdue said.

    She said the main focus of the event is to promote discussions on issues that college students should be exposed to.

    “Especially on a large campus with high rates of sexual assault, it’s really important that people learn responsible sex and consensual sex,” Purdue said.

    She said that one in every four girls on the University’s campus will be sexually assaulted or raped at some point. Purdue added that 40 percent of chlamydia and gonorrhea cases are in people between the ages of 10 and 19, and 50 percent of new AIDS cases occur in people under 25.

    Danielle Griffin, sophomore in psychology, said that Sex Out Loud provides this kind of vital information as an example of why students need to be responsible.

    “Some people don’t know about the different contraceptives and STIs,” she said. “They need to know about this stuff.”

    While Griffin, a member of Sexual Health Peers, was a volunteer at Monday’s event, she was also able to explore the fair herself.

    “The vulva coloring contest – that’s just precious,” Griffin said. “And I thought the piercing booth was interesting too.”

    Susan Rodgers, sophomore in LAS, attended the event last year and was intrigued enough to come back for a second dose of what some might consider a taboo event.

    “The female contraceptive was interesting,” Rodgers said. “It showed lots of options people aren’t necessarily informed about, such as the female condom.”

    T.J. Salas, a representative of Curved, a company that sells erotic supplies and books, said the fair provides a sense of community to the curious.

    “I am one of the few groups who have the possibility of gaining revenue from this,” Salas said. “It’s nice to see so many other organizations that don’t have a financial input. It’s inspiring.”

    Yilmael Diaz, sophomore in ACES, said the event is first and foremost a way to make students more open to talk about sexual issues. He added that organizers are “definitely throwing themselves out there” in a way that is far from ordinary.

    “The chocolate genitalia was a nice touch,” Diaz said.

    Diaz said that while he went to another controversial event last year – The Vagina Monologues – this was his first year attending Sex Out Loud. He said organizers should consider having more booths in upcoming years as a way to expand the education.

    Diaz said that everyone he saw was having a good time. He said that negative reactions were not a major issue because the audience was self-selective.

    “They wouldn’t come in if they didn’t want to,” Diaz said.