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Bristol Palin To Headline University's Less-Sexy "Sex Week"

This image was lost some time after publication.
This image was lost some time after publication.

Washington University in St. Louis is bringing in none other than Bristol Palin as the keynote speaker for its Sex Week, in an effort to make the event friendlier to students who aren't having sex.

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According to the university's Student Life newspaper, the student government approved a plan Tuesday for Palin to head up a four-person panel on Feb. 7. She'll speak for 25 minutes, then discuss "abstinence in a college setting" with the other panelists: a representative from the Catholic Student Center, one from Missouri Right to Life, and one from Planned Parenthood. It's not clear exactly how much money she'll charge for this, but her usual speaking fee is $15,000-$30,000, and the event's budget is $20,000.

The rationale for inviting Palin: in the past, Sex Week (which is apparently also called Sexual Responsibility Week) has been too sexy. Says Student Health Advisory Committee (SHAC) president Scott Elman, "We [...] wanted to target abstinence because SHAC and Sex Week have been criticized for being too liberal and too one-dimensional, and that the abstinence conversation hasn't been brought up." He added that at Washington U, "3,000, maybe 4,000 people haven't engaged in sex. There's a population on our campus that does practice abstinence and gets forgotten about." At least on Palin's panel, however, it looks like those actually having sex will be the ones forgotten about: of the four panelists, only the one from Planned Parenthood will probably deviate from the pro-abstinence message.

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Some students, understandably, aren't happy with the choice. Says Sherveen Mashayekhi, president of the Washington U College Democrats, "While she is obviously an experienced person on the matter of teen pregnancy, she is an extremely polarizing presence in social and political terms and does not provide the right type of balancing, sensitive, well-rounded force to an issue as hot as sex on campus." The word "balancing" is key — while the university's 3,000-4,000 abstinent students may want a greater voice in sex week, the fact is that the school has over 13,000 students, many of whom are having sex, and may look to Sex Week for discussion on how to do so safely and happily. And while it's very difficult to have a conversation about sex that's totally devoid of ideology, making Sarah Palin's daughter the keynote speaker pretty much insures that the event's going to be politically charged — rather than trying to make the week neutral, organizers have steered it all the way to the right. Sex Week is now going to start off as No Sex Week — and the majority of students who are sexually active are about to find themselves marginalized.

Bristol Palin To Speak During Sex Week [Student Life]

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DISCUSSION

Flutterb1tch
Flutterbitch

And since it won't let me add on to my comment, let me say I'm really disappointed in Jezebel (though not surprised) for only focusing on how this hurts sexually-active students. Let's be honest here: Sexually-active students are not the marginalized group on a typical college campus. Unless you're at Liberty University or some similar place, sexually-active college students are the privileged majority, as most colleges acknowledge the fact that the majority of students are having sex, even if it's not always discussed. And the fact that they're including speakers like Planned Parenthood just shows that they're not shutting out those views, anyway.

The problem isn't that they have someone representing students who are not having sex. Abstinent students absolutely should have a place in these conferences, since true sex positivity includes not only combating slut-shaming, but also prude-shaming and when people are pressured to have sex before they are ready. The problem here is that promoting abstinence-until-marriage is not the same thing as giving abstinent students a voice. Not only is the larger abstinence-until-marriage movement against sex-positivity, but it ignores the fact that many students are abstinent for other reasons. And even those who are "saving themselves for marriage" don't necessarily believe it's the right choice for everyone, unlike Bristol Palin and the groups she represents.