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PASH Center opens with free sexual health items for all

<p>The center, located in&nbsp;Griffin House on West Campus, gives out free condoms, dental dams and lubricant.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p>

The center, located in Griffin House on West Campus, gives out free condoms, dental dams and lubricant.  

The Peer Advocacy for Sexual Health Center celebrated its grand opening Friday evening with pizza, music and lots of free condoms.

Funded by Duke Student Government after a dispute in the DSG Judiciary, the PASH Center provides peer counseling as well as sexual health and pleasure products to students. After a few days of “test runs,” the center is now officially open in Griffin House on West Campus in a repurposed common room.

“We’re still trying to figure out what specific niche on campus we’re going to fill,” said DSG Executive Vice President Ilana Weisman, a senior. “We’re hoping to be an after-hours location.”

The center currently has 16 peer educators—14 of whom were trained through a house course taught by Weisman and junior Riyanka Ganguly, vice president for equity and outreach, last Spring. It is open Thursday through Saturday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.

The center is freely distributing condoms, dental dams and lubricant, which the Wellness Center orders for them in bulk. In addition, they have a range of vibrators and other sex toys, which Weisman said are “demonstrative”—the center does not actually sell them but educators can provide info on how to purchase them elsewhere. In the future, Weisman explained that they are hoping to be able to conduct transactions for sex toys on the premises. 

Funding toward sexual pleasure products drew initial criticism from members of the student body and heavy debate within DSG. The meeting after the PASH budget was passed, a second bill reduced funding for sexual pleasure products. That bill was eventually struck down by the DSG Judiciary, restoring the initial funding.

Weisman stressed that the center is designed to be purely an educational facility because research shows that college students are more comfortable talking to their peers about sex than with adults. 

“Anything said in the room stays in the room,” Weisman said. “We are not mandatory reporters.”

The center hopes to hold discussion groups about sexual issues and provide resources for “all different bodies,” she added.

They currently have a question box both in the center and in the West Union where students can submit their queries about sexual health issues. The PASH educators respond directly to the individuals, but names are not otherwise revealed without consent. However, Weisman noted that the peer educators are not there to give medical advice but to provide students with information.

To assure anonymity for those at the center itself, names will not be taken down during counseling or using products. Instead, students’ unique ID numbers will be used to track credit balance.

Although the center is located in the Clocktower Quadrangle right now, it hopes to have a spot in the new Student Health and Wellness Center set to open in January 2017, she added.

Ganguly said that she was happy with the about 100 people who attended the grand opening, noting that their current location in Crowell is convenient for students.

Several students at the opening said they were excited about having this new resource on campus.

"I think it's amazing," said sophomore Virginia Reid. "I think it's very needed—a place to open up conversations about sex."

Sophomore Adam Bullock, who is currently taking the house course taught by Weisman and other peer educators, said that he got involved in the project because he is passionate about combatting sexually-transmitted diseases and the "rampant sex negativity at Duke."

Others noted that they like how the center provides sexual resources right on campus.

"I'm excited to see what it turns into," said junior Mellie Bonanno. "Especially when it has the opportunity to start selling products."

Correction: About 100 people attended the grand opening. The Chronicle regrets the error. 


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