Maddy Ekey is a Bozeman native and just graduated from Bates College in 2017! After her summer internship with Bridgercare in 2015, Maddy was instrumental in creating “Sex Week” at Bates College, which has now been adopted by the Office of Residence Life and Health Education as an important element of the Health Education curricula on campus. Check out out interview with Maddy below where we discuss the idea, the event, and the importance of sexual health education on college campuses:

1. What gave you the idea of hosting a Sex Week on Bates campus? Why do you think this was important for your college campus? Why do you think something like this had never happened before?

When I arrived at Bates, I was surprised by the lack of sexual health and reproductive health education and programming that was present on campus. The concept of ‘Sex Week’ was not my brain child- it was initially founded on Yale’s campus in 2001 as a week dedicated to various topics surrounding sex. I came across an article detailing the inception of Yale’s sex week while researching sexual health programming for another project during my internship at Bridgercare, and the concept stuck with me.

As both a peer educator, and again during my summer internship at Bridgercare, I was extremely fortunate to be fairly educated on reproductive health- during my internship, I also spent a bit of time reviewing state policy on health education. The lack of curricula standards on this topic statewide truly made me realize the exceptional differences that exist in health education between communities, schools, and families. Bates is a school that brings together students from all 50 states and over 30 countries, so to me it seemed incredibly obvious that huge discrepancies existed between individual’s level of education around sex.

Much of the programming that occurs on campus takes place through student groups, so perhaps some sort of programming had previously existed. The programming on this topic that I was aware of happened in very specific pockets, often that required you to seek them out… prior to sex week that is.

2. What were your goals for the event? How did you go about organizing it?

My goal was to tackle the topic of sex, sex positivity, and reproductive and sexual health on a large scale that reached the community broadly, that sparked both conversation and interest in attending additional programming.

Here is the mission statement for the week: Bates Sex Week week dedicated to exploring sex, sex positivity and sexual health with the hope of fostering an inclusionary dialogue across Bates’ campus. By concentrating events into a single week, we feel that the topic will be more direct and successful at capturing student awareness.

I organized it through an on-campus organization called Public Health Initiative, with a lot of help from a few key people. We partnered with a huge number of on-campus organizations, the office of campus life, the health center and the administration to get all of the programming and marketing approved. It was a ton of work, a lot of hoops to jump through and the first year we pulled it off on a really tight budget. Local organizations were incredibly generous about donating both supplies as well as their time and help to pulling the week off. Essentially the administration was on board, but unwilling to give us any money until they saw what the week consisted of.

3. Describe the first Sex Week- what were all the events, speakers, etc. How did the college students, health center, and college administration act?

Both the first year (2015) and this past year (2016) students were incredibly responsive- the marketing campaign was fairly aggressive so almost impossible to miss and, for the most part, the week in total was hugely successful at stimulating conversations across the student body. In the first year (2015) the week was more successful than we ever could have imagined. In 2016, I had an even better idea of what worked- and the week was again successful. Both the college’s administration and health center were supportive regarding the creation of the initiative and acted as advisors- however in total both were fairly hands off.

Here is the 2015 schedule:

And here is the 2016 schedule:

4. What happened the second year you did it? Did it grow?

The second year, I had a little bit more of an idea as to what I was doing, and returned to some of the student-favorite events such as sex trivia and sex week a capella. My idea to host sex trivia as a part of the week’s programming actually came from the fundraising sex trivia event that Bridgercare hosted in the past and Bridercare staff were incredibly generous at sharing advice and previously used questions to help me to pull it together.

5. Do you think it will continue now that you graduate? How would you like to see it grow and evolve in the future?

The Office of Residence Life and Health Education has decided to adopt Sex Week as an important element of the Health Education curricula on campus and are planning to partner with a few student organizations (including Bates Public Health Initiative) and passionate students to help continue the event. I hope that the scale and mission of the initiative persist as well!

6. Anything else you want me to know?

On average, during this single week we go through 2,000-3,000 condoms (and only a few are used for decoration).

This year, Sex Week Yoga was one of the best attended events.
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Needless to say, we are super impressed with Maddy as a determined, persisted, and passionate trail blazer who helped hone and promote a new model of what sexual health education can look like on a college campus! Thank you Maddy for taking the time to chat with us today and keep up the good work!

Want to learn more about Sexual Health Education in Gallatin Valley or your child’s school specifically? Read more here and feel free to contact our Health Educator Cami – 406-587-0681 X113 or carmijo@bridgercare.org