The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Hamre Center prepares for respect and relationship week

Hamre Center prepares for respect and relationship week

During the week of Valentine’s Day, Feb. 12-17, the Hamre Center for Health and Wellness will be launching a series of workshops for Respect & Relationships (R&R) Week, the event formerly known as Safer Sex and Relationships Week. According to Director of Health Promotion and Sexual Respect Tiger Simpson, the purpose of this initiative is to “promote a culture of sexual respect through highlighting and normalizing positive acts of healthy relationships and personal sustainability.” 

At a place like Macalester College, where free contraceptives are available on every floor of each residence hall and the term “Consent @ Mac” has become a catchphrase amongst the student body, a question may come to mind: how much do we, as students, still have to learn? 

“Because there is this general acceptance of Macalester [students coming] from backgrounds where they’re all very well educated in sex ed; there are times when we are jumping three steps up when we do have students coming to us that have never talked about anything aside from abstinence-only,” Simpson said. 

“We have a lot of people who are rightfully ready to talk about pleasure-based sex … which is awesome,” Simpson continued. “But then if we start talking about how good masturbation can feel, somebody who’s never said that term out loud, and suddenly confronts it face to face, is going to shut down and feel very anxious.” 

Personal sustainability, boundaries, consent, survivor advocacy and pleasure are only some of the topics that R&R staff will cover during the week’s workshops.

 Some of the week’s activities are longstanding traditions from Safer Sex and Relationships Week, such as Consent @ Mac, PAWS Therapy Animals and Hunt for the Golden Condom. The rebranded R&R Week is also bringing completely new initiatives, such as the Safer Sex Olympics, Valentine’s Card Making and a dance class focused on acquiring consent in everyday situations. 

The Hamre Center for Health and Wellness worked very closely with the International Student Programs office, the Center for Disability Resources, the Lealtad- Suzuki Center for Social Justice, and athletics teams on this project. They also collaborated with off-campus organizations, primarily the Ramsey County’s SOS Sexual Violence Services and the St. Paul Intervention Project. 

The biggest aim of R&R Week is to explore the role of intersectionality in consent and sexual relationships. The R&R organizing team is aware that many students at Macalester do not identify as heterosexual, and the team is committed to making the conversations about intimacy and relationships as open as possible. However, Simpson also notes that when having sex-related conversations at Mac, it is also important to focus on identities other than sexuality.

“[Sexuality] can be just one factor of somebody’s identity,” Simpson said. “[We should focus on it] along with their gender identity [and] along with their racial or ethnic identity, [since] all these things can be a factor in somebody’s relationship dynamics.”

As a part of the week, the Hamre Center is promoting HPV vaccination and asymptomatic sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing, which is 100% covered for students with United Healthcare Student Resources (UHCSR) Insurance.

On Feb. 1, all students enrolled in the college’s insurance received an email notifying them of the option to reserve a slot during the R&R Week and get tested or vaccinated.

“These are things that keep us safe and well,” Simpson said. “Normalizing that [testing] is an okay thing to do is great, especially because of the stigma surrounding those tests.”

The Hamre Center offers STI testing throughout the year. Testing and vaccination are some of the easiest and most important ways of staying safe and ensuring a healthier sex life.

“On average, Mac students are very well-informed through college sex ed efforts and motivated to be empowered and empathetic sexual citizens,” Hamre Center Medical Director Steph Walters said.

Walters noted that practicing safer sex looks different for every student, but most Mac students take STI testing seriously. Although many students are aware of the option to get tested on campus, the Hamre Center is still committed to further promoting this service, and the professional staff hopes that having an open conversation about different ways of practicing safer sex as a part of R&R Week will convince even more students to get tested and vaccinated.

“Some people think the best way to practice safer sex is just ‘in the moment,’ but there is a lot you can do as part of your own self care that is part of safer sex.,” Walters said. “HPV vaccine and asymptomatic STI testing are great examples of this.”

The organizing team hopes that R&R Week will not only improve sexual health at Macalester but will also promote services at the Hamre Center. The health center has recently launched a feedback form that allows students to express any concerns or remarks after receiving assistance from any Hamre staff member. Simpson hopes that the information they receive empowers students to voice their concerns and improve the services offered by Hamre’s professional staff.

For more information about R&R week, students are encouraged to check the Mac Daily, follow the Hamre Center for Health and Wellness’ Instagram page and engage with the digital and physical posters promoting the workshops.


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