The Sophomores Scholars in Residence program has generated creative capstone projects since it started 13 years ago, but this year it took on a new subject: sex.
Out of 19 submissions, sophomore Fabianna Morell Santiago’s capstone proposal went from an idea to a collaborative project after receiving the most votes from her fellow classmates. The students in Healthcare and Medical Humanities started working on “Spiders Have Sex,” a five-episode podcast series, in February. The first episode was finally published on Spotify on March 25.
“I didn’t want this to be another sex-ed class,” Morell Santiago said. “I want this to be a conversation between college students about something that everybody is struggling with.”
The podcast will discuss a range of topics including kinks, consent, identity and more, said sophomore Sam Elsakr, one of the podcast’s producers. The students consulted a variety of academic resources to responsibly educate listeners, but stressed that they weren’t professionals, Morell Santiago said. Instead, they’re students learning about sex just like their listeners.
“We’re the same people, and we’re all going through different experiences,” Morell Santiago said. “We just want to let you know that we’re just like you.”
The “Spiders Have Sex” team hopes to bring sexual education to students at the University of Richmond and beyond, Morell Santiago said. While each episode will be an educational conversation among the SSIR students, the team encourages listeners to follow the Linktree in its Instagram bio to submit questions anonymously.
A new episode will come out at 9 a.m. Mondays and Fridays. Listeners can tune in to the SSIR students demystifying sex myths on the first episode about sex misconceptions.
Each episode helps ease the tension that has followed sex-related conversations for too long, Morell Santiago said. The difficulty in openly addressing sex is apparent in many settings, including at UR.
Elsakr believes that openness to sex discussion on campus is long overdue and that “Spiders Have Sex” is a step in the right direction, he said.
“We haven't really conducted a forward progressive conversation,” Elsakr said. “A lot of times it feels like a performance act, which is really unfortunate because sex is part of your character, it’s part of your identity and we should be taking time to learn about it.”
Rick Mayes, their SSIR professor, shared that UR didn’t talk about sex with its students back when he attended in the late 80s.
“Shame, fear and anger was the bedrock of the sex-ed I got, and I’m like millions of Americans,” Mayes said.
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Today, UR provides wellness classes and initiatives that create sex-based conversations. The Center for Awareness, Response and Education has recently organized Pleasure Fest, a weeklong event promoting sex positivity on campus. Even so, sex still feels like a topic that’s rarely discussed, Morell Santiago said.
“A lot of students have completely inaccurate information regarding sexual health and their own autonomy,” Elsakr said. “We come to the collegiate level and everybody is having sex even if we aren’t necessarily sharing it.”
Mayes is a self-proclaimed cheerleader to his students, as he believes their project has the power to benefit students and UR alike, he said.
“It has the potential to fill a lot of gaps and holes in people’s education that should’ve been filled by the time they got here,” Mayes said.
Even though this class project is only set for a few episodes, Morell Santiago would love to continue the podcast beyond the spring semester, she said.
“It’s been an incredible experience, and with the continued support, I would love to keep pursuing this project because it’s such an important thing to talk about today,” Morell said.
Contact contributor Ale Egocheaga at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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