Not all reactions have been positive to Sex Positive Week here at Georgetown.

The week, which ran from Feb. 23 to 28, has drawn both accolades and criticisms from those in and outside the university gates.

Hosted by GU Pride, United Feminists and the Georgetown Solidarity Committee, the week’s events ranged from “Torn About Porn?” and “Relationships Beyond Monogamy” to “Celibacy, Virginity, Abstinence and Sex-positivity.”

Olivia Chitayat (COL ’10), co-chair of GU Pride and an organizer of the event, said the week was designed to open up discussions about sexual expression and that it succeeded.

“Sex in general – it’s not something you talk about. There’s a lot of misinformation,” she said. “The idea is to open up a space where people can talk about sexuality and how that fits into their lives.”

The event, which took place during the week of Ash Wednesday, quickly received some negative backlash.

In a press release, the Maryland Coalition Against Pornography, a volunteer-based organization that aims to eliminate pornography, criticized the university for condoning sexual behavior.

“We condemn Georgetown University leaders for promoting sexual perversions that are physically, emotionally and spiritually harmful,” the organization said in the release.

The university officials maintain that with the exception of one flyer, which included the F-word in large letters, used to advertise the event, the week was within the bounds of the university’s policies on expression.

“We are committed to living our mission – which includes the free exchange of ideas and our Catholic and Jesuit identity – and balancing complex issues in thoughtful and appropriate ways,” university spokesperson Julie Bataille said.

Patrick Deneen, a professor in the government department who was unavailable for comment, also criticized the university in a comment on “Crunchy Conservative,” the Beliefnet blog of conservative editorial columnist, Rod Dreher.

“We should recognize that the same moral climate that contributed to the devastation of the worldwide economy is the same moral climate that informs `Sex Positive Week’,” he wrote in the comment.

Julia Shindel (COL ’10), a member of United Feminists and GSC who helped organize the event, however, said Sex Positive Week was essential at a Jesuit university like Georgetown.

“Around Catholicism it seems to me, [sex] is not talked about at all – silenced, [whereas] abstinence is preached,” she said. “Not everyone who goes to Georgetown is abstinent. There are other students and other viewpoints.”

“Around Catholicism it seems to me, [sex] is not talked about at all – silenced, [whereas] abstinence is preached,” she said. “Not everyone who goes to Georgetown is abstinent. There are other students and other viewpoints.”

David Gregory (COL ’10), editor in chief of The Georgetown Academy, a conservative student publication, said he agreed that sexuality needs to be discussed, but believes that it should be done differently at a Jesuit school.

“Have events during the same week that would have the Catholic point of view,” he said. “[Without that view] it’s not really education; it’s not conversation. It’s not a true discussion because it’s not a real debate.”

Chitayat said that initially organizers did consider involving Jesuits in the celibacy and virginity event, but to do so might have sacrificed the open environment organizers wanted. Other organizers, however, were outraged that the event would be condemned without a Catholic perspective.

“How often do religious organizations reach out to [GU Pride], GSC or United Feminists to co-sponsor?” organizer Chessa Gross (SFS ’10) of GSC said.

Shindel said she believes the negative reaction from some objectors is in part to be expected but that saying a Jesuit must be present is assuming that sex-positivity and Catholicism are mutually exclusive.

“The whole point is to open up dialogue and talk with people who don’t agree or don’t quite know,” she said. “Doesn’t Catholicism preach love? Love how people express themselves peacefully for their own happiness and accept it. It’s not mutually exclusive – sex-positivity and Catholicism.”

Chitayat said that for her Sex Positive Week upholds Georgetown’s ideals of cura personalis and social justice. Organizer Alessandra Rivell (COL ’09) also said that the week was in line with Georgetown’s mission.

“I think dialogue is a crucial part of Georgetown’s mission to promote diversity on campus,” she said. “People need to talk about sex in order for the subject to break free from the category of the taboo.”

In the meantime, organizers maintain that the backlash has increased the discussion of sexuality on campus.

“I think even the negative reaction has still opened up certain forms of dialogue,” Chitayat said.

She and Shindel said they hope the week becomes an annual event, possibly including a discussion on religion and sexuality in the future.

Fr. Kevin O’Brien, S.J. and Fr. Pat Rogers, S.J. declined to comment for this article.

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