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Sex in the Dark

Campus Life

To illuminate a tricky subject, wellness interns turn off the lights

Sex in the Dark education event with lights off and white letters that say how do you broad a sexual desire that you would want to try with your partner, not knowing if they'd be into it too?

Published April 12, 2024

Smith students giggled as they hurried through the rain and into the packed Graham Auditorium. Still laughing, they stopped briefly at a small table for a handful of glow sticks. Then, as they found seats and presenters took to the stage, all the lights in the room went out. 

“Welcome to Sex in the Dark!” announced Mia White ’27, a Community Health Organizer (CHO) in-training with the Schacht Center and the evening’s MC. In the darkness, the crowd of students—now wearing glowing bracelets, necklaces, and crowns—hooted and cheered. 

Sex can be a tricky subject, a minefield of embarrassing moments and mortifying questions, especially in a new place like college. So, to combat the shame that their peers might feel around sex education, the Schacht Center CHOs created a campus glow-in-the-dark Q&A session, led by sexperts Leah Carrasquillo, a nurse practitioner, and Sarah Chrystler, M.S.W ’24. 

The event, which tied into the Schacht Center‘s April theme of sex wellness, was designed to help Smithies engage with sexual topics by providing both the cover of darkness and an element of fun. Though the “Sex in the Dark” format was new to Smith, it was modeled on similar events held at colleges across the country. 

Darkness “adds that edge to get college students to come out of their rooms,” said CHO Eden Ball ’26, one of the event organizers. Ball noted that, although many Smithies were sex positive and well versed in the topics, other students came from backgrounds that lacked comprehensive sex education. 

“I really wanted something that was a beginner friendly introduction to sex education,” said Bell. “It can be scary and we know that.” 

“In bed and your sex life, I want you to be empowered to do what you want to do and nothing more.”

The event began with a giant QR code projected onto the screen so audience members could submit their queries via an anonymous form. One by one, submissions were displayed in giant candy colored text and read out loud by White before being answered by the sexperts. 

There were questions about the logistics of sexual activity, including STDs (get tested regularly), birth control (use additional methods as well as condoms), and why orgasms might (or might not) happen. 

“It’s really, really normal not to be able to snap your fingers and be able to orgasm,” said Chrystler. “Many people do not orgasm from partnered sex.” 

“Try not to take it personally,” agreed Carrasquillo. 

Even with such potentially serious topics, the event was lighthearted. When the two panelists began answering a question about appropriate age gaps for relationships, an audience member called out to clarify. “If it’s 19 and 26—for a friend?” they asked, adding, to laughter, “It’s all hypothetical.” 

More of a potential issue were power imbalances, explained Chrystler, such as those that could occur between a team captain and team member or house president and house resident. “Age is not a reflection of experience,” she said. “It’s the power dynamic and not the age gap itself” that could cause a problem. 

Although designed around personal anonymity, the event often had an interactive community feel. When a question in light purple read “Is it safe to use a strap-on from temu”—a Chinese e-commerce company with notoriously low-quality discounted products—the entire crowd shouted “Nooooo!” in response. 

“It’s your body—but no,” agreed Chrystler. “Use body-safe silicone from a reputable source.“ 

After every few questions, White paused to take the temperature of the room. “How are we feeling guys? Are we feeling great?” they asked, to loud cheering. 

As the questions continued, another theme emerged: Students wanted to know how to better express their wants and desires. “How do I get comfortable without verbalizing my needs during sex?” was one question. “How do I initiate sex other than kissing?” was another. “How do people start their first relationship?” was a third, prompting the audience to “awwww” in unison. 

Carrasquillo and Chrystler answered each question knowledgeably and with humor—at one point suggesting the anonymous Smith forum the Confesh might help engage a love interest—but noted that many of the solutions boiled down to establishing good communication with a partner, and that such talks should start outside of the bedroom. 

“You should be able to talk about it in a conversation,” said Chrystler. “Start small: I want you to touch me like this. I would love it if you tried this other thing.” 

“Normalize the dialogue,” agreed Carrasquillo. “In bed and your sex life, I want you to be empowered to do what you want to do and nothing more.” 

The event ended with another QR code—this time to enter into a vibrator giveaway—and a reminder that the Schacht Center staff were always available to provide more information—regardless of how sensitive the topic might be. 

“I promise your questions are not bizarre and freakish,” said Carrasquillo. “We’ve heard it all before.”

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