It was Wednesday night, the yearly SEXploration Fair was underway.
The PAC (Peer Advocates For Change) Club had been spending a lot of time setting up for this event. Members of the club sat waiting for people to come into the room to see all the hard work they had put in.
Smiles erupted from all their faces as people started to stroll in, and lots would follow. As students came in, they were welcomed and given a slip of paper that had 10 spaces. They had to go to 10 separate tables and get a sticker from each table after learning about a topic there.
Once they got 10 stickers, they could put their slip with their name and phone number in a little prize baggy.
There were six different prizes to win ranging from coloring books to blankets. As they walked into the 1787 Room, they were greeted by a table of genital chocolates, and free notepads. Another table offered a fun stress ball condom-making table. Volunteers helped attendees make stress balls out of condoms and Orbeez.
Organizers said they tried putting more fun tables right in the front as people walked in so people would feel a lot more comfortable. They said they know it can be awkward and uncomfortable to talk about and be around sexual stuff, so they tried to make it more fun and engaging.
Amy Miller, who advises the PAC Club and also runs the SEXploration Fair, said they throw this event because our system “lacks a cohesive sex education program, as a society nationwide.”
“Even though it is state legislated in Vermont, sex education is the only state legislated requirement for k-12. Every school must have it, it’s not comprehensive, it is often heteronormative, meaning male female. Doesn’t get into LGBTQ at all, and often does not talk about pleasure. It is something that is put under a unit as biology meaning, male and female anatomy parts, and reproductive organs and it doesn’t get into consent. We need advocates for change, we are all about consent, we are not opposed to sexual activity. We are opposed to criminal sexual activity,” Miller said.
All of the tables had great information on them, and they were not all about what is safe to use or stressing consent checklists. There were also a bunch of papers about sexual abuse and what to do if it does happen. They also had Bianca Zanella from the NewStory Center in Rutland there. She is the core advocate for the NewStory Center, which supports survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
She said the center has a 24-hour crisis hotline, and that it was “really nice to see folks today at the SEXploration Fair. Just to make sure everyone knows that we are here as a resource and again rescue people so that they are not alone.”
Shrishty Chhetri who is taking an internship under Miller, did a lot with setting up the fair and spoke about its purpose.
“Educate students about safe sex. What happens is that young students today turn to pornography because they do not get the confidence from sex education from school or colleges. That is why they do that, and consuming a lot of pornography content basically affects your mental health, it affects your relationship, your sex life, and a lot. Just to fill in that gap and educate people that is why this event happened,” she said.
A lot of students who went, like Violet Tetrault, said they loved it, and found it very helpful and informative.
“It makes it fun to go to, brings people together to kind of talk about a touchy subject,” she said.
Other students agreed that the tactics they used helped make the experience more comfortable.
“They definitely used some tactics that made it less intimidating and more fun,” said Alexa Whelan.