Sex Week 2021 explores healing through sex and intimacy


Courtesy of Eliza Gonring

The annual week on sex and intimacy is entirely organized by students.

Yunkyo Kim, Campus Editor

This year’s Sex Week is all about healing. 

Members of the Northwestern community were welcome to attend a range of events as part of Sex Week 2021, including a Wednesday workshop on reconnecting with sexuality after trauma, and a sex story slam that will take place on Saturday. 

Scholar and community organizer Da’Shaun Harrison gave a highly anticipated preview of their book, “The Belly of the Beast: The Politics of Anti-Fatness as Anti-Blackness,” which discusses racial biopolitics, on Thursday. The week’s committee also organized a virtual art gallery on sexual freedom in relation to healing and the pandemic. 

Though Multicultural Student Affairs, Gender and Sexualities Studies Program and the Women’s Center sponsored this week on sex, a board of five students organized the programming. The students spearheaded the planning, coordinated with visiting guests and arranged timelines of advertising.  

This year is bittersweet for SESP senior Eliza Gonring, who has helped organize Sex Week since freshman year. Gonring said Sex Week has been her favorite part of NU.

“That’s why this year, it was like, (Sex Week) has to happen, it has to be good and it has to be generative,” they said. “It’s been such a big source of happiness.” 

When the committee initially explored what it would want to see in a theme this year, many members agreed on the idea of healing, Gonring said. 

Like Gonring, Weinberg junior Karina Karbo-Wright said the committee also sought to center people of marginalized identities and their nuanced racial and gendered relationship to sex.

“The social climate has been really difficult for the marginalized people which Sex Week is kind of aimed for,” she said. “And so we wanted to create spaces where we can heal together.” 

Karbo-Wright emphasized that Sex Week focuses on the experiences of people with marginalized identities because erasure and misrepresentation persists in the sex industry and in cultural perceptions of sex. 

This includes discussions of sexual pleasure for fat people and fatphobia, Karbo-Wright added. To their knowledge, there is nowhere on campus to talk about fatness and fatphobia’s roots in anti-Blackness and how that intersects with gender and sexuality, they said.

SESP senior and organizer Eden Berke said on top of programming and the virtual gallery, Sex Week is also fundraising for mutual aids and other causes. 

Those interested in contributing can choose organizations including Black and Pink: Chicago — a queer abolitionist organization —  Chicago Abortion Fund and the HayMae Project, Chicago’s chapter of the Haymarket Pole Collective that organizes for equitable labor practices in sex work. 

“We know that many people at Northwestern have a lot of wealth, so harnessing that felt like an important thing to do,” Berke said. 

Part of the fundraising proceeds will also go to one of this year’s speakers, who passed away days before their scheduled event on Black femme liberation. 

Donations will help cover funeral costs and contribute to support for their family. 

Students, particularly those of marginalized identities, have experienced significant amounts of loss and stress in the past year, Gonring said. Learning from each other in an intimate, community-based way puts importance in reframing sex in terms of liberation, she said.

“We’ve all grieved this past year,” they said. “I just think this can be a space where you kind of have a break or just the time to focus on something that is very tangible and related to your body.”

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Twitter: @YunkyoMoonK

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