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The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Changes to sexual respect programming

Graphic+by+Zander+Leong+26.
Graphic by Zander Leong ’26.

For years, Sexy Trainings, along with their plethora of dental dams, condoms and other safer sex supplies, have been a staple experience for incoming students to Macalester. This year, incoming first-years did not undergo Sexy Training, but instead took part in Respect & Relationships (R&R) sessions. Although this change in facilitation may not be the most noticeable change, it is only one of many changes. 

Tiger Simpson, director of health promotion and sexual respect for the Laurie Hamre Center for Health and Wellness, had a major role in designing the curriculum for R&R sessions. Simpson shared that R&R sessions — which were facilitated by Hamre Center Health Promotion Assistant (HPA) student workers and other student workers specifically hired to facilitate R&R sessions — were designed to complement programming that incoming first-years and transfer students participated in throughout orientation, allowing the programming to become more complex and nuanced as students progressed through various activities.

“Given it is an expected session for first-year students to attend, we start at a place of accessibility, especially considering we are making content that needs to support our wide array of experiences at Macalester: we have students coming from very progressive areas that have highlighted the great value of positive sexuality, while we also have students coming from backgrounds that have never openly discussed sex before,” Simpson wrote in an email to The Mac Weekly.

In addition to adding health promotion and sexual respect content into orientation activities before R&R sessions, the sessions themselves are facilitated differently. Andrew Snider ’24, who has been an HPA for the past two years, facilitated Sexy Trainings last year and R&R sessions this year. 

He noted the difference in the two trainings: “The curriculum has definitely changed — not so much in content, but more so in format,” Snider said. “I’d say the Sexy Trainings in general focused more on safe sex. We devoted more of the time to demonstrating the use of safe sex supplies and all that. Whereas [in] the R&R trainings, the bulk of it is devoted to discussions on creating a campus culture of consent and respect.”

Snider continued to discuss how the training sought to cultivate different environments for students. 

“In Sexy [Trainings], a big priority was making sure nobody felt uncomfortable or put on the spot,” Snider said. “And then, R&R was more about making sure everybody was engaged. I don’t think there’s one better or worse approach.”

The format is not the only thing that differentiates R&R sessions from Sexy Trainings: R&R facilitators are compensated for their time, while Sexy Trainers were not. HPAs and other student workers were hired and paid specifically to facilitate R&R sessions, a change from previous years.

“Offering to pay people for their labor is a huge step in expanding equity as well, helping us recruit students who normally wouldn’t have had the bandwidth to get involved,” Simpson said. “Paying students meant there had to be an equitable interview and hiring process and all students were supported in applying …The institution of Macalester should commit to funding these events, not relying upon repeated, unpaid passion of students.”

However, some of these changes are not without criticism. Former Sexy Trainer Sarah Phillippi ’25, who also facilitates sex education programming for middle schoolers, feels that R&R sessions are not as comprehensive as they could be. 

After reading the R&R curriculum, Phillippi felt that the session could have included a more nuanced conversation surrounding consent. 

“Consent is not one size fits all,” Phillippi said. “There are situations that you get into where the lines can get blurry. And within that gray space, I feel like we need to equip students to be able to navigate those situations appropriately.”

Instead of actively demonstrating how to use various types of contraception, such as showing how to put on a condom in-person as Sexy Trainers did, R&R facilitators provided a QR code that links to video tutorials of how to use various contraceptives.

“I feel like a lot was sacrificed that shouldn’t have been sacrificed,” Phillippi said. “So, they don’t do [in-person] demonstrations anymore. There was no condom or dental dam demonstration, which I feel [is] a huge hallmark of comprehensive sex ed, [answering the question] ‘How do you actually do this?’”

Another former Sexy Trainer, Mayana Ford ’24, has concerns about how R&R sessions may fall short without the institutional knowledge and experience that Sexy Trainers passed down.

“I think [it’s] very important that Sexy Trainers need to understand the first-year experience here and know generally what sort of questions need to be answered, what sort of resources students are looking for. [We knew this] both from our own experiences, and our collective experience of being Sexy Trainers and having the history of Sexy Trainers as well,” Ford said. “And that is not something [where] someone can just apply for this new position and come in. Even if they are a peer educator, they’re not going to have the whole understanding of what this community of sex education looks like on the Macalester-specific campus.”

Aside from changes in incoming programming for first-year and transfer students, new sexual health and respect promotion resources are available to all Macalester students. 

Advocates from the Saint Paul Intervention Project are available to provide domestic violence support resources to students every Tuesday, from 2:30 – 4:30 p.m., and advocates from Ramsey County SOS are available to provide sexual violence support to students every Wednesday from 1 – 4 p.m.. Both resources are located in Disability Services Workroom Room 039, in the lowest level of the Kagin Commons.

Additionally, resources previously provided by Sexy Trainers — such as Lusty Lunchboxes, now dubbed Safer Sex Kits, and the form used to request health resources — are now being managed by HPAs. Although Sexy Trainers are no longer officially active, their website still offers educational resources and tutorials.

 

 

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Cal Martinez, News Editor
Cal Martinez '26 (they/them) is one of the news editors and an English major from metro Detroit, Michigan. Their best friend in high school, who happened to be their English teacher, introduced them to journalism and annotating poetry with fancy highlighters, and their sleep schedule has never been the same since.

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