Health & Wellness hosts Pleasure Party for Valentine’s Day


Ryan Malloy

Students play “pleasure plinko” with Health & Wellness intern, Sam Ansart. 2/14/23

Aidan Bearor , Staff Writer

DURHAM- This Valentine’s Day saw another installment of Health & Wellness’ Pleasure Party. Serving as a smaller, more intimate counterpart to the fall semester’s Sexpo, it was met with a warm reception from the student body. The event featured booths from SHARPP, Health & Wellness, Eating Concern Mentors and Safe Zone; alongside interactive sexual education games and samples. 

Health & Wellness interns ran many of the interactive stations at the party. Working with Wellbeing Educator and Counselor Dawn Zitney, the interns represent a wide range of majors and interests. Cassie Eppler, a fourth year psychology major, spoke on the experience. 

“It’s my second year as an intern and I’m feeling very blessed. Usually, Dawn’s interns are done after one year,” said Eppler. “I feel a lot more engagement from people this year.” 

Health & Wellness Intern, Cassie Eppler runs “lubrication station” at this years Pleasure Party. 2/14/23 (Ryan Malloy)

Zitney, the architect of the Pleasure Party, spoke to the motivations behind the event. 

“I knew I wanted to do something on Valentine’s Day because for many of our students, Valentine’s Day could kind of be a difficult day,” said Zitney. 

“I wanted to do something affirming… and we had been starting to integrate more pleasure into our sex ed. And so it just came to me like, let’s have a Pleasure Party, and have it on Valentine’s Day and have it focus not so much on partnered sex.”

Students participated in a coloring activity station featuring different coloring pages surrounding sexual wellbeing. 2/14/23 (Ryan Malloy )

The concept of the event focused on many aspects of sexual wellness. 

“When we talk about sex education at Health & Wellness, it’s about safer sex, pleasurable sex, sexual decision making and communication skills,” said Zitney. “Then SHARPP is the other side of sex education where they talk about consent, which is an important part.” 

“I’ve been really proud of us really expanding our conversations around pleasure and how pleasure enhances mental health, and emotional well being,” said Zitney. 

With a strong emphasis on quelling the stigmas surrounding sexual wellbeing, Zitney’s 20-year career at Health & Wellness has been storied. Of her many triumphs, Zitney had two to spotlight. 

“I think just starting to normalize that sex is supposed to be pleasurable,” said Zitney. “Hopefully, it’s also consensual and safer sex,” she said. “I’ve been really proud of us really expanding our conversations around pleasure and how pleasure enhances mental health, emotional well being.”

Zitney noted that these conversations have not come without obstacles in today’s political culture.

“ So sometimes there is pushback, whether it’s from community members, state legislature members or parents, and so being able to navigate that, it’s a really stressful part of my job that’s meaningful,” she said. “I believe our students deserve to learn how to be sexual human beings in an authentic and healthy way.”