Health & Wellness’s month of Sextober is being held virtually this academic year. Sextober is a series of month-long events hosted by the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) Health &Wellness in October. The month offers a variety of activities covering a wide range of topics regarding sexual wellbeing for students. During the month, the idea of sexual positivity is spread across campus and the free events are open to all identities and genders.
Health & Wellness took Sextober over in the fall of 2017. Prior to that, the President’s Commission on the Status of Women had started the month of events back in 2014. The President’s Commission on the Status of Women saw the need at UNH to talk about sexual wellbeing, but saw this need fit best under the Health & Wellness department. Health & Wellness took on this task in cooperation with the Women’s Commission and later took on the full responsibility. Now, going into its sixth year, Sextober is run and planned by Dawn Zitney, who has worked at UNH for 16 years and currently holds the title of Wellness Educator/Counselor. During planning she has two interns helping her; this year she has two female seniors, Isabella Houley and Kate Amaral. Together the three women worked to plan the month of festivities and education alongside some other UNH departments.
“In a time where the CDC and WHO recommend severely limiting your interaction with close contacts, especially with individuals who you do not live with, Health & Wellness is trying to find a good balance of maintaining sexual positivity on campus for Sextober while still keeping cases low on campus,” said Houley. “Many of the in-person events from years prior have been changed to online only, or socially distanced outdoor events for some of the more interactive sessions.”
Planning for Sextober typically begins in September. Houley said that most of the planning happens with Zitney, Zitney’s other intern, Amaral, and herself; however, approval and contribution from other Health & Wellness workers is necessary for the series of events they have planned to run smoothly. They also team-up with other departments across campus to expand the activities and knowledge that can be shared with students.
“The process starts by using previous years as templates with the addition of new information and alteration of certain resources if they were not as successful,” said Houley. “This year due to COVID-19, much more brainstorming, innovation, and collaboration had to occur to plan a Sextober that fit UNH’s other pandemic messaging.”
While Sextober will not be as robust as it has been in the past, Health & Wellness is connecting with students virtually to make Sextober possible during a global pandemic. Each Wednesday at 12:30 p.m. the department will be hosting an Instagram Live from their account, @unhhealth. There will be other virtual events throughout the month that can be found on their full calendar on the Health & Wellness website. All events are free, but some do require registration.
“I love Sextober,” said Zitney. “I love that we front load a whole event at the beginning of the semester all about sex, but what I want to make sure we do is that we don’t just talk about sex in October, that we continue talking about sex every single month. Every opportunity we get and that the conversations sparked by Sextober, go beyond the work that Health & Wellness does and that everyone on campus gets comfortable talking about sex. It is not just a health issue; we could look into how sex intersects with so many other areas of our well-being.”
Photo courtesy of Dawn Zitney.