'Sextravaganza' Draws Conservative Fire|
The GMU health fair offered students information on safe sex, abstinence, aphrodisiacs, STDs and date rape.
Thursday, April 28, 2005
A just-married female George Mason University student approached Elizabeth Schoenfeld, a medical school student on hand to answer questions at a sexual health fair Monday at George Mason University in Fairfax.
"She had waited until marriage to have sex," Schoenfeld said. "She had some serious questions about sex and sexual function."
Answering those questions underscored the value of Monday's sexual educational fair, which was officially called the Sextravaganza, Schoenfeld said.
"Anything educational shouldn't be too controversial," she said.
Yet the event has drawn criticism over the past week from Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-37) and other conservative Virginia lawmakers, who described the event as lurid and immoral.
"This is a how-to fun fair for sex," Cuccinelli said. "This isn't education. This is pushing sex. It's encouraging it."
Cuccinelli, who earned two degrees at GMU, said he was outraged to learn that $350 of mandatory student fees helped pay for the Sextravaganza's advertising.
"It doesn't swell me with pride to see my alma mater putting on a soft porn show," he said.
Groups from across the political and sexual spectrum were represented at Monday's event, which was sponsored by a student organization called the Pro-Choice Patriots.
"Our goal is to promote safe, healthy and informed decisions about sex," said Amanda Agan, a Pro-Choice Patriot and co-founder of the Sextravaganza. "Sex is a reality on college campuses. We just want students to have the information to make informed decisions."
At the event, the several hundred students who attended were offered free condoms alongside brochures on abstinence, sexual assault, sexually transmitted diseases and safe sex.
John More, the minister of GMU's Catholic Campus Ministry, manned a table at the Sextravaganza promoting abstinence and opposition to abortion.
"Abortion and pre-marital sex are a reality, but they don't need to be," he said.
Cuccinelli's complaints are not the first time in recent years that GOP lawmakers have taken issue with sex-related matters at Virginia universities.
Conservative legislators reacted angrily in 2003 to a sexual health fair — called SexFest — at James Madison University. That same year, complaints from the General Assembly took a student television show called "Sex Talk Live" off Virginia Tech's airwaves.
Distribution of birth control by JMU and University of Virginia campus health centers have also provoked ire among GOP elected officials.
Cuccinelli, along with Del. Bob Marshall (R-13), Del. L. Scott Lingamfelter (R-31), Del. Jeff Frederick (R-52) and Del. Dick Black (R-32), sent a letter Monday to GMU President Alan Merten that expressed their dismay that aphrodisiacs were distributed at the Sextravaganza.
"We appropriated $33.1 million in FY 2005 to treat STDs and AIDS," the letter said. "We are concerned that the frivolous manner in which human sexuality is being treated here with GMU approval is counter productive to the best interests of Virginia citizens."
Alleged aphrodisiacs were offered for free at the Sextravaganza, including Hershey's Kisses, cucumber slices, strawberry Jell-O, ginger snaps and oyster crackers.
"We were supposed to have real oysters, but I'm allergic to shellfish," Alexandra Nelson, a senior anthropology major and Sextravaganza organizer.