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Clark Counselor Seeks to “Normalize” Sex Ed

Summer Brown, a human development instructor and Clark counselor organized the “Yes Means Yes!” Sexual Health and Education Fair on April 18. The event included presentations on self defense, sex toys, consent and body positivity, which Brown hopes will help “normalize” the sexual health discussion. (Andy Bao/The Independent)

As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Clark College human development instructor and counselor Summer Brown organized the “Yes Means Yes!” Sexual Health and Education Fair held on April 18 in the Gaiser Student Center. Independent reporter Ainslie Cromar talked with Brown about her drive to educate students about sexual health.

To advertise the fair, Brown sent an email to Clark faculty asking them to consider adding a sexual education component to their curricula.

What prompted you to send an email addressing the possible addition of sexual health and education to curricula?

“Overwhelmingly, I hear from students that they either didn’t know something was going on around campus or that they couldn’t go because they had another commitment. I sent the email to faculty members to say ‘Hey, if you include this in your syllabus, it will give your students an opportunity to make some community connections with resources they might need.’ It also gives them a chance to access more information about power, privilege and inequity on campus and how to translate real world information into academic settings.”

Your email mentioned that the Clark community is searching for ways to include information on PPI into offered courses. How does this relate to involving sexual education into courses?

“There’s a lot of societal pressure regarding who should be in charge of reproductive health. Many times, it feels like it falls to the female-bodied person to take care of birth control and to get tested, but it’s really the responsibility of everyone who’s having sex to be taking care of themselves and the people they’re having sex with.”

Why are these components a necessary addition to curriculum?

“I’m a firm believer in the idea of holistic wellness. It’s not just about mental health, it’s about physical health, spiritual health and emotional health. It’s hard to feel like you will have those demands met if your basic needs aren’t met. In making sure that we include perspectives from different types of people, it’s more likely that people will do what they need to take good care of themselves.”

What value comes to the campus community with sexual health and education?

“Going back to the idea of holistic health and well-being, sexuality is an important component in our biology. At the very least it means that we can procreate, but if sex were just about procreation, then we wouldn’t need barrier methods and we wouldn’t need [sexually transmitted disease] testing. There’s a lot of stigma around sexuality and sexual expression. The more we talk about it, the more we chip away at it.”

How would information on sexual health make students feel more comfortable around others on campus?

“It’s important to give people the general idea that as long as you’re respectful of yourself and whoever else you’re having sex with, there’s nothing bad about it. If people get that message, they’re more willing to ask for help when they need it since sex has been normalized as a component in their life.”

Why is the Counseling and Health Center sponsoring this event?

“A lot of students get their health needs met here at the Counseling and Health Center. We have a nurse practitioner who does routine medical services for folks including STD testing and treatment. We want to let people know that she is here to help, but if you don’t feel comfortable coming here there are other places you can go.”

Where else can students go for resources on sexual health?

“Marianne Luther, our program coordinator, contacted the library and asked them to come up with a list of books on campus for students who want to read more on sexual health. Planned Parenthood, the Fort Vancouver Regional Library and the Cascade Aids Project have good resources as well.”
Editor’s note: These answers have been minimally edited for grammar and clarity.

3 Comments on Clark Counselor Seeks to “Normalize” Sex Ed

  1. Abigail Soto // April 26, 2017 at 8:42 am // Reply

    Thank you for organizing this fair, Summer. You are an inspiration to me and many others on the Clark campus. Seeing this event come together and happen shows me that Clark cares about students sexual education and safety. That is so critical right now as we keep hearing so much about campuses minimizing students sexual assault claims. I want to know that Clark wouldn’t do that. This kind of event helps create a different culture here. Thank you.

    • Summer Brown // April 27, 2017 at 8:40 am // Reply

      Thanks Abby! Thanks for the overwhelming participation from the campus as a whole! Keep the conversations going!

  2. This is awesome. I’m glad to see these conversations being started!

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