USC's It’s On Us Week of Action continued Wednesday with Sex and Relationships in a Fishbowl, a forum for students to ask questions about topics such as healthy relationships, safe sex and stigma.
Sex and Relationships in a Fishbowl allowed students to ask questions regarding sex and relationships anonymously with Center for Health and Well-Being staff members Quinyana Brown and Jason Halterman answering. Students asked questions such as “How do you know if your partner is emotionally manipulative or just caring?” and “How often should you get tested for STIs?”
For students like first-year nursing student Dylan Butler, it was a chance to get answers to questions they hand't even thought of.
“It was definitely a good experience coming here,” Butler said. “I thought I only had one question but then there are other questions that were like ‘Oh, I can relate to that. I wonder what they’ll say.’”
Brown, Student Health Service's sexual health program coordinator, said one goal of the event was to talk openly and encourage students to come with any questions without fear of judgement. She said she tried to put students at ease at the beginning.
“I’m not what you would normally think of as your traditional sex educator,” Brown said. “I take it from a sex-positive lens. So, I don’t think about things as too much or what you should or should not do. It’s really about what you’re comfortable with.”
Sara Wallam, a fourth-year biochemistry student, is a co-director of USC It’s On Us, which played a part in planning Sex and Relationships in a Fishbowl. She hoped other students also found the discussion helpful and important.
“First, being destigmatizing the fact that college have sex,” Wallam said. “Two, providing resources to students for both safe and healthy sex and also healthy relationships and then also I think ... the anonymous format was a great way for students to ask questions that they necessarily wouldn’t ask their friends or their professors or their educators.”
The team behind the events agreed part of erasing the stigma of sex the students and staff members discussed was thinking about how people take care of themselves and how they feel about their partners. Wallam saw this type of self-care as the biggest takeaway.
“Like after every sexual encounter, how do you feel? Do you want to keep doing this? I haven’t really thought about that,” Wallam said. “So I think that that would be incredibly important moving forward in my life.”
Both Brown and Halterman as well as Wallam hope that conversations like Sex and Relationships in a Fishbowl will shift the campus’ view of sex to a more positive outlook where there can be more opportunities for open conversations.
“I think that we all want a little bit of comfort in that we all want other people to talk to about, but we can’t really get that from other sources sometimes,” Wallam said. “This is a great way to start the conversation on campus and keep it going and introduce people to the different resources and avenues that we have on campus for them.”