UNM is hosting its inaugural Sex Week next week, and this year’s theme is preventing sexual assault.
Federal statistics show the reports of sexual assault on college campuses are rising around the country—though whether that’s simply because more people are coming forward is unclear. It’s estimated that 20 to 25 percent of female students will be assaulted in college. At UNM, a task force began meeting in the summer to talk about reducing sexual violence at the university.
Hunter Riley is the store manager at Self Serve Sexuality Resource Center in Albuquerque and an organizer for UNM’s Sex Week. She says it’s intimidating to talk to a partner about consent and preferences, and a lack of sex education means that people aren’t being taught how to make sure all parties are on board.
KUNM: How did Sex Week come about?
Riley: Sex Week is something that I’m working on with the Women’s Resource Center. We wanted to respond to a lot of the sexual assaults that are happening on campus.
I knew there was a sex educator out in Oakland, Reid Mihalko, who has a workshop called “How to Be a Gentleman and Still Get Laid,” and it’s very much that sort of class where you’re talking about navigating hook-up culture and party culture and drinking, and all these sort of complex topics with a very consent-focused mindset of like, “It’s really good to ask your partners if they want to be touched in this way." And not only is it beneficial for getting consent, it’s also a good way to be a good lover.
KUNM: Can you talk a little bit about why specifically this year the focus is on rape prevention?
Riley: Basically there is really a sort of disturbing trend on college campuses across the nation. We’re seeing a lot of sexual assaults and ingrained victim-blaming in the way that a lot of these things are handled. I want to try and find different ways to support people to make decisions that feel really healthy for them, and approaching it from the get-go, from the sex part, is a really good way to try and give people a better understanding of how to have really safe, consensual, fun sex.
To sort of tackle this beast that is rampant sexual assault on college campuses, we need to look at it from different angles.
KUNM: It’s often thought that we need to be talking about how to tell ladies not to get raped, as opposed to how to speak with men about how to avoid assaulting someone.
Riley: Well, and that is very much an issue that we see. We tell people: Don’t go out late at night by yourself. Don’t wear these clothes. Don’t get drunk. All these things that are basically restricting the way that people in general—but especially women—want to live their lives, and that’s not actually focusing on the problem.
What the idea is is that we’re talking to people really honestly and openly and about, “Hey there are also things that you can do before you’re in these situations and while you’re in these situations to get consent that’s sexy and fun and is really ideally going to be good for both people.”
KUNM: I think it’s really interesting that you’re doing essentially like a rape-prevention class that sounds like a lot of fun. Right? So that’s the trick.
Riley: Because sexual assault and rape are very heavy sometimes and complex issues, it is hard to talk about them in a way where you’re like, “I’m not saying that rape or sexual assault is fun, but there’s a way that we can address this issue from a perspective of like, 'Let’s have better sex, and a lot of that includes consent.'”
Sometimes people want to go to a more typical rape-prevention training, and that’s great. And then sometimes you want to reach people who are like, “I would never go to that in my life, but if I’m going to a workshop that is also telling me how to be a good partner and how to have the sex that I want to have and how to make sure I’m not crossing boundaries, then yeah, I’ll go to that.” Because it really is a sex skills workshop, just these issues are overlapping in interesting ways.
Reid Mihalko will be speaking Monday, Sept. 29, at 7 p.m. in UNM’s SUB Ballrooms A&B. The event is free to the public. For a complete listing of events, go to selfservetoys.com.