By Erika Norton
Multiple workshops allowed for more discussion than ever at the annual Sex and the Cornfields event this week.
Throughout the week, students heard from a variety of speakers and discussed human sexuality from a Christian standpoint.
New to the event this year were workshops based on students' own interests. The topics of discussions ranged from sexual identity and addictions to birth control and sexual abuse.
The purpose of Sex and the Cornfields is to create conversation and get students to think about topics of sexuality, according to Sara Hightower, director of Residence Life Programs.
Conversations on specific topics were discussed in depth through the new workshops.
"We found that the large sessions are more broad and students often have smaller more practical questions about certain issues and topic surrounding sexuality," Hightower said.
Several of the student workshops featured were gender-specific, which encouraged more openness, vulnerability and clarity from the speakers, according to Campus Pastor Randy Gruendyke.
Presenters at the workshops consisted of Taylor faculty and staff. The main speaker for the event was Jenell Williams Paris, who is a professor of anthropology at Messiah College and author of "The End of Sexuality: Why Sex is Too Important to Define Who We Are." Every year Sex and the Cornfields looks at sexuality from a different vantage point, according to Hightower.
Last year, Taylor alum J.R. Briggs brought a pastoral approach while Paris' approach is more academic, Hightower said.
In the first session Tuesday, Paris discussed how sexuality has been distorted by culture.
"Our society offers an over-inflated interpretation of sexuality," Paris said. "Too often Christians counter an over-sexualized culture with an under-sexualized spirituality."
As a way to express our sexuality, Paris even encouraged us to smile.
"A smile is at the nexus of gender, sexuality and spirituality," Paris said.
Kinsley Koons, junior english and philosophy double major and president of Choros, spoke at yesterday's workshop entitled "Language and Sexuality: Fostering a Safe Environment with Words".
Choros started meeting on campus last year and is an organization created to give students a safe and healthy environment to discuss sexuality and gender.
Yesterday, Choros hosted Paris at its meeting, where students had the opportunity to ask Paris any questions they had about human sexuality.
Last night was "panel night," where students listened and asked questions of a panel of women and a panel of men. Sara James, English hall director, was moderator for the women's panel and Jacob Drake, Bergwall hall director, moderated for the men's.
Halfway through the session, the panels switched, giving each gender a chance to hear from each panel.
Many students have noticed an increased emphasis on the topic of sexuality on Taylor campus lately.
Pastor Randy Gruendyke's reason was simply, "providence." He explained how the chapel series on sexual identity this semester had been in the works for a couple years. His chapel message on Genesis 2 last week just happened to dovetail with Sex and the Cornfields this week.
"I've heard some students say this is too much, I'm tired of talking about it," Hightower said. "But it's always helpful to hear a ton of different perspectives, instead of just one story or one vantage point."
Student feedback about Sex and the Cornfields this year has been a mixed.
"I think the event is a good way to remind us that sex is something beautiful God created, not just a sin to be avoided," said freshman art major Maddie Schoenherr. "I just wish I would have gotten more out of the sessions."
Susan Roth, senior Christian educational ministries and biblical literature double major, liked the workshops this year.
"I liked how this year they had a spectrum of issues on a smaller scale," Roth said. "I think it's a great idea to split things up into workshops and let people choose the topics that they're interested in."
The event will conclude with a banquet in the Student Union tonight, where students will have the opportunity to discuss and review the topics covered throughout the week.