This fall, the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center, which is under the umbrella of the Multicultural Center (MCC), joined forces with the Health Center to launch its new sex and relationship advice website, “Sexpert.” The site is run by a committee of students, Health Center nurses and administrators who collaborate to answer students’ questions about sex and relationships. The website was designed specifically for students of the College and promises to provide well researched information in response to student queries. In addition to being posted online each week, one selected question and answer will be published in each issue of Incite/Insight, the MCC’s publication.
A subcommittee of the Committee on Diversity and Community (CDC) conceived Sexpert two years ago, but it took approximately two years for the site to get up and running due to technological difficulties. The subcommittee from which the idea for Sexpert originated was formed to discuss the issue of sexual assault on campus and the need for increased sex positivity in the College culture.
Justin Adkins, associate director for gender, sexuality and activism at the MCC, posted about Sexpert on Williams Students Online in order to solicit student applications for positions in the MCC. Part of these students’ job descriptions was to help write answers to questions submitted to Sexpert. Students who applied were asked to supply their answers to sample questions, and two students were selected based on these answers. The MCC has chosen to preserve the students’ anonymity to “avoid creating any issues for them in the future,” according to Adkins, but he believes that involving students in the process is important to dispatching Sexpert’s message. “By having students both asking questions and answering them, we can increase sex positivity on campus,” he said.
Similar forums exist at other colleges, though mostly in the form and content of advice columns. The MCC’s site is modeled loosely on Columbia’s popular health and relationships advice site, “Go Ask Alice!”
A lack of factual and reliable sexual information is a problem on many college campuses as well as in the larger culture, according to Adkins. Magazines and Internet sources are often inaccurate in their treatment of sexual issues. “We realized that many students were getting their sex and relationship information from peers, which can be a positive thing, but also leads to misinformation,” Adkins said. Eventually, the MCC’s goal is for the website to serve as an extensive archive, providing answers to questions on a wide range of subjects.
Sexpert addresses this problem through an extensive and careful answering process. Only five questions are answered per week to ensure accuracy. After submission, questions go directly to Adkins. From there, they are brought to student volunteers, who select and draft answers. Once the drafts are ready, they are forwarded to Donna Denelli-Hess, a health educator at the Health Center, and Deborah Flynn, a nurse practitioner at the Health Center. Denelli-Hess and Flynn verify that the information is accurate before any answers are posted online.
Questions are submitted to Sexpert via an anonymous online question field, and can be submitted by any student or member of the College community.