When is sex in public okay? Why does my wee wee get hard when I smoke meth? How long do herpes symptoms last? Is it normal for him not to be able to...finish? Should I count the anal beads before they go in and when they come out?
These are among the questions asked and answered by Horny the Sex Box, which is both an Instagram account and a physical container located inside the student union at Fort Lewis College in Durango. And while the way the information is presented often employs humor, the project, administered by FLC seniors Matisse Monty and Kaidee Akullo, is no joke. Rather, it's a fun and accessible way to get important information to sexually active young adults, many of whom have sizable gaps in their understanding of human intimacy in its many forms.
"People aren't getting good sex education in middle school and high school," Monty contends. "And even though there's a lot of good information on YouTube and the Internet, there's a lot of bad information, too. We've gotten questions like, 'Can you get pregnant from anal sex?'"
Adds Akullo, "There have definitely been questions I've been surprised about — misconceptions about how to contract STIs and ways to practice safe sex. It shows that not everybody is getting the same information, especially in a college setting, where you get students from all over the country."
A native of Phoenix, Monty notes that "I came up to the Fort to play volleyball. But I've since quit the team and I'm focusing more on academics. I graduate at the end of April with a double major in public health and sociology."
Among the most influential educational experiences during her college years, Monty reveals, "was a senior project I did for my sociology degree based on sex-positive sex education — what's okay, what's not okay, how it can lead to sex negativity and why we need sex positivity."
Another key influence on Monty's scholarship was her internship at Planned Parenthood in Durango, where she worked on In Case You're Curious, or ICYC, which is both a text service and an Instagram account that is something like Horny the Sex Box for a younger audience. "I went through training to answer tough questions, mostly from teens," she points out. Recent examples on the ICYC Instagram page include "Since condoms are made out of a type of rubber, can you recycle them?" and "Can a penis get stuck in a vagina?"
Molly Weiser, FLC's Title IX coordinator and a major player in the FLC Wellness Peer Advisory Council, for which Monty is an executive officer, is credited with coming up with the idea of adapting In Case You're Curious for the college crowd. Late last year, Weiser "got a box and said, 'You could use this for anonymous sex questions. You ought to create a program,'" Monty recalls. "So I took it on."
Monty and Fort Collins's Akullo, a friend and fellow public-health student she recruited for her mission, quickly realized that they wouldn't have the same restrictions as ICYC owing to the age of their correspondents. "We kind of tweaked it so it would be more appropriate for college-age students, so we can really be more sex-positive," Monty notes. "There's no subject we can't talk about. Kinks, BDSM, bondage. Anything."
The actual Horny the Sex Box and its virtual equivalent were introduced in mid-December, with the former collecting about 150 questions to date and the latter offering a way to disseminate the responses far and wide. "By having a physical location, it's easier for the questions to remain anonymous, which is one thing we were looking for," Akullo says. "When someone DMs Instagram, the person running the account will know who's sending it, and that may make them less willing to do it. But we can get questions in the box and then present the information to a wider audience."
Akullo and Monty draw from a diverse variety of sources for their replies, with accredited scientific material supplemented by more user-friendly offerings such as the Instagram accounts @iheartericka, assembled by sex educator Ericka Hart, and @blkwomenshealth, which describes itself as "the only national organization dedicated solely to improving the health and wellness of our nation’s 21 million black women and girls."
"One thing we try to do is to recognize that a lot of times, the sex education system is made for only one population, the white male population," Akullo allows. "That's seen as dominant. So when we're presenting information, we make sure we're representing people of color, queer people, people with differently abled bodies."
Just as important, they take every question seriously, including ones that may not have been intended that way.
"Some of them are jokes, definitely," Monty concedes. "But people can hide behind humor. So we try and treat everything like a real question and make the most out of it in terms of educating people. And adding humor is good, because it helps people feel a little more comfortable talking about and hearing about sex. It's lighthearted while also being authentic and real about what people are actually asking. That helps change the conversation from one of negative humor and shame to one that's non-judgmental and shame-free."
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An example of Horny the Sex Box's tone can be found in the answer to the question, "Are butt plugs dangerous?" It reads: "If you use your butt plug correctly, they’re not! It’s always important to make sure you are buying body-safe toys, whether that’s butt plugs or something else. Experts suggest starting small and using lube because the anus does not self lubricate. It’s also NECESSARY to have a flared base so the toy can be easily taken out. Silicon, glass and stainless steel are good materials to use as they are easy to clean. Butt plugs are toys that create pleasure and are good to use as prep for anal sex. (WARNING: If your non-flared base sex toy gets stuck in your butt GO TO THE HOSPITAL)."
Not every query is so physical in nature, Akullo confirms. "We get specific questions about the proper ways to use condoms or sex toys. But we also get a lot of questions surrounding hook-up culture, like 'What do I do if I left an article of clothing at somebody's house when we were sleeping together?' and 'If your partner has an STI, how do you have a conversation about being tested and treated?' We also get a lot of questions about sexual preferences. And we feel that when you're destigmatizing sex in general, people are able to be more true to themselves and experience better health outcomes, too."
Like Monty, Akullo will be graduating later this month, and she's currently exploring a number of positions in the public-health field. Meanwhile, Monty has applied to the Peace Corps and is hoping to start work as a community-health specialist in Cameroon this September. Before they matriculate, however, they hope to find ongoing Fort Lewis students who will keep Horny the Sex Box alive.
"I'm excited to pass the torch," Akullo confirms. "And if there's anyone who's inspired by this and wants to start up a project at their college here in Colorado or wherever they are, we'd be happy to speak with them. I think if this keeps spreading, we'll see more education and more people being healthy."