New “Sex+BHS” page opens dialogue about sexuality

The description of the "Sex+BHS" page. The creators of the page set out to ensure that students were  educated about sexual health in a manner that did not encourage repressing sexuality.
The description of the “Sex+BHS” page. The creators of the page set out to ensure that students were educated about sexual health in a manner that did not encourage repressing sexuality.

A group of students crowd around a bulletin board in the hallway. Some take pictures with their phones. Others whisper heatedly to each other, or just laugh and point. Some want to take the poster down, and do so.

The poster, titled “Pleasure? What’s the buzz?”, was put up by sophomore Izzy Zutrau-Pell.

Zutrau-Pell said such reactions were common as she launched her informational campaign, which seeks to educate students about sex and create a more open dialogue about it. The posters included an invitation to like Zutrau-Pell’s Facebook page, “Sex+BHS.”

The description on the Facebook page says, “It doesn’t matter how much or how little you know about it; sex is everywhere. And no matter what, this is a page to promote knowledge and healthy, consensual choices, and to destigmatize sex.”

According to Zutrau-Pell, she first had the idea for the page while describing her summer camp to people at school.

“When I would mention the sex policy and how free it was and how great it was because no one had ever been sexually assaulted or hurt at that camp, the sex policy would overshadow everything else that was good about it,” Zutrau-Pell said. “They call it ‘sex camp.’”

Zutrau-Pell said that the camp, which teaches a sex positive program, has five designated tents people could use under a set of consent rules that emphasize respect about sex. The reactions she saw to this policy, along with her general observations, made Zutrau-Pell believe the general student body was sexually repressed. This led her to create the Facebook page and posters.

“Things people say just reinforce sex as being a bad thing a lot of the time,” Zutrau-Pell said.

Sophomore Vivian Eggleston, co-administrator of the page with Zutrau-Pell, said that she accepted Zutrau-Pell’s invitation to join her campaign. She said that a goal of the Facebook page is to help ensure that “youth are fully educated on not only the cons and bad things that can happen with it [sex], but also the pros.”

According to Eggleston, the creation of the page led to an initial reaction from students similar to the one that the posters garnered. However, she said this reaction soon died down.

“Everyone was super excited and commenting. But I think with a lot of stuff on the internet, it’s like, ‘Whoa! … Okay,’” Eggleston said. “I don’t think, even if people aren’t liking stuff as much, it necessarily is an issue, because it’s just that people have that stuff and it’s out there, not necessarily how excited about it people are.”

Although the reaction has diminished, Eggleston and Zutrau-Pell said they hope that their posts will gather more responses in the future.

“At the end of each post, we try to say, ‘Well, this is one view. What do you think?’ and hopefully start conversations. That doesn’t happen very much, because it is a big forum that people could be judged for,” Zutrau-Pell said. “That’s kind of a flaw.”

In addition, Zutrau-Pell said she plans to continue working on the posters. According to Zutrau-Pell, they stopped putting up posters after she met with Headmaster Deborah Holman.

Holman said the administration heard about the posters after some teachers saw one in the Unified Arts Building and noticed the posters were not approved by a faculty member. After hearing about the posters, Holman met with Zutrau-Pell.

“We met because I wanted to hear what the background of her initiative was and hear her explanation of what she was trying to do in terms of an information campaign and understand her interest in that,” Holman said. “We talked about that and it was a great conversation. At Brookline High School, we encourage students to explore all sorts of different topics in appropriate ways.”

Holman also said that she talked to Zutrau-Pell about the rules regarding putting up posters in the high school. According to Holman, student organizations need to be sponsored by faculty members, who must sign off on posters before they can be posted.

Zutrau-Pell said that she found a teacher who agreed to sign off on the posters after the meeting.

Eggleston and Zutrau-Pell agreed that a main goal is to simply encourage students to discuss the topic of sex. They said that the current culture promotes a variety of harmful attitudes about sex.

“The whole sex and masturbation thing can be a double-edged sword: If you don’t, you’re a prude; if you do, you’re a slut,” Eggleston said. “It’s okay to have a ton of sex. It’s okay not to.”

Eggleston said the text posts she and Zutrau-Pell write on the Facebook page are more informational or intended to start dialogue than the image posts, which are more lighthearted.

“But it’s not just, ‘Everyone should have sex!’” Eggleston said. “It’s: ‘Here’s how to be safe!’ Or even not having sex. We addressed asexuality, and hey, not having sex is awesome, too.”

Eggleston also said that they address different safety aspects that health classes do not have time to cover.

Zutrau-Pell said that in the future, she and Eggleston will continue trying to start conversations among the school community.

“Continue with the Facebook page, continue emailing people if they would like to email me instead of Facebook,” Zutrau-Pell said. “Also, once I get my adviser to sign off on my posters, keep posting those and make some more posters that are PSA-type things, that are a little bit controversial—just to get people talking around the school, even if it’s just about this one poster.”

Kate Finnerty can be contacted at [email protected]