Yesterday, Sex Week at Yale got off to a racy start. Students attended a fetish fashion show, along with presentations on porn and kinky sexual subcultures. Today, things took an unexpected religious turn. The Rev. Debra W. Haffner, an ordained minister in the Unitarian Universalist church, presented a talk entitled “Sexuality, Religion, Faith, and Morality.”
Haffner describes herself as “a minister and a sexologist.” During her talk, she voiced her support for gay marriage, premarital sex, and abortion rights. Amusingly, however, she said that she felt like a conservative compared to the rest of the speakers at Sex Week.
Only at Yale can a pro-choice, feminist Unitarian be made to feel conservative.
Haffner opposes the freewheeling hookup culture that prevails on most college campuses. However, she added that it was important for people of faith to remain “sex positive.” And she criticized religious restrictions on premarital sex. “As a religious leader,” she said, “I made the decision that I would not marry virgins. . . . I think sexuality is too important to a marriage.”
She also emphasized her support for abortion rights. “It is precisely because life is precious that it should never be unplanned,” she said.
Later in the afternoon, I attended a panel discussion called “Love Junkies and Sex Addicts.” Panelists included Rachel Resnick, a self-described addict and author of a memoir entitled “Love Junkie,” anthropologist Megan Douglass, and clinical sexologist Michael Rothenberg.
During one memorable portion of the discussion, Mr. Rothenberg recounted the time he administered what he called “family therapy” to an elderly couple and their masochistic female “sex slave.”
“He had a need to beat,” Rothenberg said of the elderly man. “She had a need to be beaten,” he said of the sex slave. Meanwhile, “Grandma was just going along for the ride.”
The panelists closed by unanimously affirming the need for better sex education in America. The need to improve sex education has emerged as a regular theme at Sex Week. Several speakers have singled out abstinence education, in particular, as a leading cause of sexual dysfunction in America.