The basement of Bulger Residence Hall consists of the shine from black lights and glow paint. Resident assistants stand before the packed room holding a bucket stuffed with anonymous questions submitted by residents, who wait patiently to hear them read aloud.
On Tuesday, March 19, at 8:30 p.m., residents crowded into Bulger Down Under for “Sex In The Dark,” a program whose title captured the curiosity of residents and passersby alike. The program, sponsored by the Department of Residence Life and Housing and hosted by the Bulger Residence Hall staff, was intended to raise sexual health awareness and open up the residents’ conversations to a more taboo subject among strangers: sex.
Upon entry, students were given a glow bracelet, popsicle, bags of information on pregnancy and STD prevention, and condoms. Students were then offered the option of buying a “Celibate Shirley Temple” or “Safe Sex On the Beach” for $1, all profits going to Relay For Life.
After signing in, residents anonymously submitted questions to be asked aloud for input from their peers: Resident Assistants, floor-mates, friends and roommates. “What do I do with my hands?” was a submission that alleviated the mood from heavier questions, which took more sincere thought and consideration, like, “I have an STD. How can I tell my future partner without scaring them off?”
Other students were more abstract and suggestive in their questions, asking, “Does the size of the boat matter, or is about the motion of the ocean?”
Resident Assistant Benita Webb has had three years of experience in hosting events like Sex In The Dark.
“I feel as though it’s something that isn’t talked about outside of sex ed in high school,” Webb said. “We have a lot of freshmen residents and this was an enjoyable way to bring them face to face with the realities of the college experience. This program got people talking. We facilitated a conversation that likely would not have been had between the sexes outside of this program.”
Over 80 residents were in attendance, being rewarded for their participation in addressing the questions with 1,500 condoms donated by
local health centers like The University of Akron Health Services, Summit County Health and Planned Parenthood.
“I enjoyed the honesty,” said Bulger resident and program attendee Kerry Johnson. “People weren’t afraid to come out of their shells. I went to a variation of this program in my hall last year, and although they were more mature with the lights on, people were not as willing to answer as honestly as they were with the lights off here tonight.”
Tabaa Alheem and two assistants of Planned Parenthood were also in attendance, offering rapid HIV testing and urine sample STI testing for residents interested in participating.
“What was most successful was the turnout we had of residents who wanted to get tested,” said Resident Assistant Meghan McCants. “We crushed barriers.”
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