SHAW Outreach Experience

“Interested in sexual health?”

“Free condoms?”

“FREE CONDOMS!”

“Want to talk about sex?”

“FREE CONDOOOOOMS!”

“Please take my flyer!”

Sexual Health Awareness Week, or SHAW, is a big thing in SHEP. We promote sexual positivity, safer sex, and healthy conversations and communication about sex! This involves spreading the sexy word, and that involves tabling and flyering.

Oh, flyering.

Not a lot of people come to the table when you just sit there, so we call out to people to come to our table, get free condoms and lube, and learn more about sexual health. We also walk around Sproul and hand out flyers and free condoms to those brave souls who make eye contact and decide to respond positively to free stuff instead of shuffling aside and either pretending we don’t exist, or quickly muttering no and looking away.

It also calls for creativity cleverness in getting people to take flyers – some people will be totally willing to take a flyer, until they hear the words “sex” or “sexual health” or “condoms”, and then they snatch their empty hand back and pretend not to have been coming toward you.

This kind of avoidance and taboo is exactly the thing we strive to counter with SHAW and SHEP. We aim to make sex a normal topic  – after all, it’s just another health topic – and to contribute to our community by spreading safer sex supplies and knowledge!

In the week before SHAW, tabling involved lollipops and arm waving to get people to feel comfortable enough to approach us if they weren’t the type to be enthusiastic about free condoms and sexual health topics. We told everyone we saw about our program and the upcoming SHAW activities that we would have – and, oh, what wonderful activities they were!

Tabling during the actual week of SHAW was certainly interesting and different! Positioned in the center of Sproul and armed with safer sex supplies, a penis costume, our new vulva costume, music, and a consent bean-bag toss game, we spread the knowledge and fun to our fellow students! The bean-bag toss game was certainly a popular game, and we were very excited to have more students looking our way and coming over to get free condoms and lube. Consent and communication were our main messages of the week, and we loved to see everyone participating in our activities! We also had the help of our wonderful DeCal students in handing out condoms and engaging with those who approached our table. Shout out to my section’s student who handled some disgruntled ladies who disapproved of our vulva costume being worn by him! As always, communication and discussion were the order of the day, and we listened to the concerns of those who found it uncomfortable to see a white male in our lovely vulva costume and handing out condoms. Undeterred, we continued to spread the sexy knowledge and addressed their concerns, and went on encouraging sexual positivity to everyone who passed by!

In addition to activities on Sproul, we also made a consent video in the Tang Center! We had students and members of our lovely Berkeley community contribute with their thoughts on what consent means to them (myself included), and it was awesome to see people coming together to talk about consent in passionate, enthusiastic, and safe ways. Let’s tear down the taboo of talking about sexual health!

SHAW was definitely great, and we always want to promote safer spaces for conversations relating to sex and ways to practice safer sex. I even hopped into the penis costume during the week of SHAW and danced around to attract people to our table! I got a few laughs and some people approached our table in higher spirits after that (and some “come hither” gestures), so that was fun! I hope we can all be more sex positive and spread the positivity to everyone around us! I’m looking forward to SHEP’s future outreaches and events, and I hope you do too! 🙂
–Mariya