Field trips to the local safe sex store, dental dam demonstrations, watching BDSM documentaries and discussions on sexual fetishes are some of the ways students involved in the University of Michigan’s eclectic Residential College’s Sexual Health forum can earn academic credit.
The Residential College is an undergraduate program within the university’s College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. Billed as an on-campus “living learning community,” the Residential College offers small classes sizes, emphasizes student participation, and touts hands-on learning opportunities.
Its student forums are meant to offer a venue to “connect over topics of interest while contributing to the various communities that surround them,” the campus website states. Students in the sex health forum, as well as the other forums the college offers, can earn credit toward graduation, it adds.
The sexual health forum promises a “safe environment to dialogue about topics ranging from basic anatomy to sexual taboos,” its official description on the University of Michigan’s website states.
“Our forum seeks to promote the importance of sexual health and wellbeing in the Residential College community,” it states. “In the past, we have put on variety shows, has movie screenings, hosted guest speakers and the popular ‘gender panel.’ If there are any questions about sex that you’ve always wanted answered, there has never been a more comfortable and fun space to ask.”
But more specific details about exactly what goes on during the 7-year-old forum’s weekly one-hour gatherings came to light this week in an article published in The Michigan Daily student newspaper.
Students call it the Sex Forum, sans the health adjective. It’s led by a sophomore and discussions on masturbation, BDSM and sexual fetishes are not uncommon, the paper reported.
“The group educates its members on contraceptives and safe sex practices, often using demonstrative condoms and dental dams,” the article states. “There are also occasional field trips to Ann Arbor’s Safe Sex Store. … An upcoming meeting will discuss rape, hook-up and college sex cultures. In the past, the group has watched documentaries on various topics including BDSM as well as videos in the media that portray gender roles unfairly.”
In another activity the group engages in, called a gender panel, male students ask female students personal questions about sex anonymously, and vice-versa.
“(It included) a bunch of very sexual questions that I feel like a lot people — especially young people — think about but have essentially no outlet to find an answer and then have educated peers to receive the opinions of,” the group’s sophomore student leader told the newspaper.
And then there’s the condoms. Lots and lots of condoms.
“With less-somber topics, it’s common to keep the environment light — cue decorative condoms,” the Michigan Daily notes. “Last semester, the group made pins out of condoms decorated with magazine pictures for backpack decoration.”
Additional Residential College student forums, all of which earn students credit, include ones that are focused on the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered, Queer community and community organizing and social injustice. Forums on poetry, art, music, books and music are also offered.
Click here to read the entire Michigan Daily article.
IMAGE: Grilled Cheese/Flickr