Virginity, the LGBTQIA community and consent are issues often avoided in conversation at Taylor. However, Residence Life addressed them head on through reading and discussion.
To accomplish this, round table discussions were held on Sunday, Nov. 17, attended by roughly 40 Taylor community members. Then on Monday, Nov. 18, Beth Felker Jones, associate professor of theology at Wheaton College spoke in chapel about the beauty of sex by design. This was followed by a Q&A session after her remarks.
In preparation for the events, hall directors sent out three articles on sexuality. The first was by Jones on the ramifications of purity culture, the next on the LGBTQIA community’s place and treatment within Christian community and the last about consent on college campuses.
Julia Hurlow, spiritual development coordinator, and Tyler Witzig, director of Samuel Morris Hall, recognize there are not enough times for women and men in the church to sit down and discuss sexuality with the intention of growth and understanding.
Even fewer of these conversations have an educational aspect, Hurlow said. She hopes the articles would offer such a foundation.
“There are no right answers or wrong answers,” Hurlow said before the round tables. “We just want you to have conversation tonight.”
Residence Life acknowledges that while sexuality is a conversation that is not often talked about on campus, many students are hungry for open and honest conversation.
Senior Alison Bell is the president of Choros, a student group which tries to have intentional conversations about sexuality and gender. She sees this need for open conversation as well, and is grateful for Residence Life’s involvement.
“People have a lot of fear around talking about controversial things,” Bell said. “They may be questioning things they've been taught, or run up against really difficult things that their theology might be telling some people.”
Peter Yeung,director of Breuninger and Gerig Hall said the church as a whole has traditionally had a narrow view of sexuality, and is grateful for the space the articles and round tables have created.
He recognizes sexuality is an incredibly personal topic and that everyone has a different understanding and definition of sexuality. Because this can cause hesitation or conflict amongst others, he said it is vital for individuals to address these topics gracefully.
Sophomore Matthias Dean, discipleship assistant (DA) of 2nd Berg said sexuality can be an awkward topic to talk about, but he believes it is crucial for Taylor students to push past the hesitation and have open and honest discussions.
Dean particularly wishes the themes were a regular topic of conversation across campus, especially in the classroom. Coming from a more traditional Christian background, he sees college as the perfect time to broaden his horizons and learn more about where others are coming from.
Through personal experience, Dean said he has found that offering a bit of his own story has helped open up dialogue with others. He encourages others to do the same if they are comfortable and hopes they would be willing to push past awkwardness to create a space for understanding and growth.
He felt encouraged by his experience with the round tables, he said. He feels he finally had those conversations and has already seen how they have opened up more dialogue on his floor.
However, both Dean and Bell don’t think these events should be a one-time thing.
Bell sees the value of all different groups and organizations on campus being willing to encourage conversation, in order to reach students from all different places in life.
Dean said he would love to see more chapel speakers like Jones, who are willing to talk candidly about hard topics to the entire campus. Further, with roughly 30 students in attendance at the round tables, he hopes more people will take the opportunity to join. While he hopes future sessions will be better advertised, he just hopes more people will attend, as the best discussions will have the most diversity of opinion and experiences.
“Sexuality is complex,” Yeung said. “It's layered. It's messy. It's also really beautiful. And I think it’s really important that we recognize that.“(I hope that) we recognize that sexuality isn't just this topic. It's a part of our identity and our stories.”