Sexuality Series addresses modern topics

Jeff Chu spoke on “stories of LGBTQ grace” as part of Calvin’s 2016 Sexuality Series. Photo courtesy

Each year the Sexuality Series seeks to give students an opportunity to explore topics of sexuality, gender and relationships and to connect these topics with their faith. The series covers a wide range of important issues, including: masculinity and femininity, sexual assault, LGBT+ topics, feminism and dating.

“It’s not in any way, shape or form trying to be comprehensive,” shared Julia Smith, director of the Sexuality Series, “but it’s offering opportunities to bring these topics to people’s attention, to learn something at an event and…then to inform people’s relationships, and…become a discussion topic after the event.”

To kick off the year, the Sexuality Series will be hosting two lectures on Monday, Sept. 25 by Dr. John Van Epp. Van Epp is the president of Love Thinks, an organization committed to helping people grow well in their relationships.

Van Epp’s first talk is titled “Relationship Challenges for Millennials.” As modern technology has transformed today’s relationships, Van Epp seeks to guide students through these new complexities and cultural shifts.  

His second talk is focused on the topic of his book, titled “How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk.” As someone with a lot of knowledge and wisdom about dating, Van Epp will help students identify what can signal a healthy or an unhealthy relationship.

In addition to the talks on relationships, the Sexuality Series will be addressing pornography this fall, an important recurring topic for the series.

“Porn is a huge topic that, over the last couple years, we’ve really been investing in more,” said Smith. “We need to decrease shame around porn and get good information to students.”

One effort to address this issue will be the showing of the film “Over 18,” a new documentary that gives a range of voices on the topic. The documentary features perspectives from young, recovering porn addicts and former porn stars.

The Sexuality Series hopes to use this and other events to decrease the taboo surrounding conversation on these subjects and create a healthier atmosphere for all students on campus.

“[These events are] great tools for beginning conversations about various topics that are relevant to the given student body,” said SAGA leader Sam Koster. “The trick is to have topics that are relevant and getting the people who need to hear it to see it.”

Koster expressed frustration with the topics the series covers. Covering topics like dating can cheapen the deeper topics the series covers, Koster thinks, such as the event last year on conversion therapy.

Regardless, Koster encouraged all students to set aside time to attend these events:

“The Sexuality Series is a great tool that Calvin is providing for free to get to understand more about the relational nature of human beings. It’s a good jumping off point to get into the real grit of important issues.”

The Sexuality Series seeks to use its platform to cultivate an inclusive climate for all students at Calvin and to continually use student input to create such an environment.  

“I see [the Sexuality Series] on an institutional level contributing to a safer, more honest and more healthy climate for all of our students,” Smith said.

“Whether that’s a student that’s experienced sexual assault or abuse, whether it’s a student who is looking for their spouse or engaged and looking ahead in the next year to get married, or whether that’s a gay student who is wondering if this is a safe place that they can even be out – I think the visibility of the events and topics can promote safety for all those kind of students and many others.”