access

Where can I get free condoms on campus? Do I have to prove that I’m a student?

AA: Thanks so much for writing in to ask this question. We’re really proud that here at Harvard we provide (for free!) a variety of types of condoms and other barrier methods, such as oral (dental) dams, finger cots, and gloves.

LM: One of the most popular forms of birth control is the external (or male) condom. In addition to preventing pregnancy, external condoms can also protect against sexually transmitted infections (STIs), because they provide a physical barrier. There is also the internal (or female) condom, which is inserted into the vagina or anus before sex.

Below is a list of places on campus you can get free safer sex supplies, as well as a map.

Houses & First-Year Dorms: Most Houses and dorms have dispensers with external (male) condoms. These are generally located in laundry rooms, gender-neutral bathrooms, or near building manager’s office.

Health Promotion Office (6th floor Smith Campus Center): internal & external condoms, oral dams, finger cots, gloves, lube, & educational materials

Office of Sexual Assault Prevention & Response (Smith Campus Center, 6th floor): internal & external condoms, oral dams, finger cots, gloves, lube, & educational materials

Women’s Center (Canaday Basement): internal & external condoms, oral dams, & lube

Office of BGLTQ Student Life (Grays Basement): internal & external condoms, oral dams, & lube

AA: In answer to your second question, nope! No questions will be asked when you show up for condoms!  If a staff person is available and you have questions or you don’t see something you’re looking for, please feel free to ask!

LM:  Thanks again for your question!





Sexual assault and IPV in the queer community: finding support and affirmation after a harmful experience

SDS: Thanks for joining us for week 2 of 3 in our (the BGLTQ Office’s) guest post series. Just as we did last week, we’re lighting a candle to both acknowledge and center those who have experienced harm.

BJG: So, last week we talked about the context of queer communities and relationships and how that plays a role in how harm is experienced. As part of that, we explored some of the factors that might impact how individuals within the queer community access resources - factors such as outness or the size of the community. This week, why don’t we dig a little deeper into that and think more about how this affects someone within the queer community after they’ve experienced harm.

SDS: I think it’s so important to recognize that sexual assault can be an incredibly isolating experience. As we mentioned last week, shame, fear of retaliation, one’s degree of outness, and concerns about whether you can trust people to believe your story can all lead a person not to share what they’ve experienced. I’m reminded of the many people in the television and movie industry who’ve recently spoken out about their own experiences of assault, some going back as far as decades. That’s a long time to hold on to that pain. As difficult as it has been to hear these stories of sexual assault, it’s encouraging to see that people are using this opportunity to call for systemic change. Part of changing the culture around sexual assault and harassment means working to destigmatize the experience of harm.

BJG: It’s important for queer people to receive affirmation and acknowledgement of their experiences of harm. This goes hand-in-hand with the affirmation of the people and relationships that reflect a wide variety affections, intimacies, identities, and orientations. In short, to affirm and acknowledge harm, we must also affirm and acknowledge the people experiencing that harm.

SDS: That’s really well said, BJG. Unfortunately, there are a multitude of systems, such as homophobia and transphobia, that lead queer people to not feel accepted or affirmed. Can you speak to some of that, in your experience as a student?

BJG: Sure. The lack of education about gender diversity, the struggle to find all-gender bathrooms, the required gendering of first-year housing, assumptions that people will make about a person’s sexuality, and the ways gender and sexuality are included and not included in curriculums can all make queer students feel excluded and powerless on campus. To solve these structural problems, it’s not enough for individuals to just not be openly homophobic or transphobic. The default on campus and in society in general is homophobia and transphobia, so those outside of the queer community must put in extra effort to oppose those defaults and create an inclusive space. In addition, queer students’ experiences within the Harvard queer community may not always be the most affirming. Is the queer community accepting and diverse? What intersections of identities are represented at queer events? How can we avoid forming exclusive cliques within the community?

SDS: You’re so right. While we as a Harvard community strive to be inclusive and affirming of all genders and sexualities, there are reminders that we still have a long way to go. Part of our work in the BGLTQ Office is to educate the campus (staff, students, and faculty) about gender and sexual diversity, and to create space for building community across the various identities that we hold as queer people. But this is only part of the work. It’s also important to have people who are easily accessible and available when students want to speak with someone who they feel will understand their specific experience as a queer person. In regard to sexual assault, all of the staff and interns in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life are trained to be able to serve as a confidential resource. And every house and yard has its own BGLTQ Tutor or Proctor to serve as a local resource for queer students. While BGLTQ Tutors and Proctors don’t have confidentiality training, they are a great source of support and advice, and can help connect students with other resources on campus.

BJG: I’m actually on staff for Contact Peer Counseling, and we’re confidential undergraduates trained to listen to and understand the experiences of queer students on campus and provide information on additional resources. Queer Harvard students who have experienced harm are welcome to visit Contact or call us during our drop-in hours. Some students may also want to turn to their queer peers, such as friends or classmates, for support. For students who don’t want to access official campus resources, queer peers can be their first point of contact for getting support.

SDS: And let’s not forget that there are other great resources that aren’t queer-specific, but which are definitely queer-friendly and queer knowledgeable, such as our friends and colleagues at OSAPR; Emily Miller, the College’s Title IX Coordinator; the Bureau of Study Counsel; and Response Peer Counseling. This isn’t an exhaustive list! You can learn about these and other resources in the links we’ve provided below.

BJG: We hope that this has been a helpful start to a conversation about the aftermath of harm and how queer students who’ve experienced harm can access resources on campus for support in the aftermath of a sexual assault. We hope you’ll join us again next week when we’ll explore the ripple effect that sexual assault has on members of a small community.

Sheehan Scarborough, Director of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

BJG, Undergraduate Intern ("Quintern") in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

Additional Resources

Sexual assault and intimate partner violence in the queer community

SDS: Many thanks to the folks behind the Sexual Literacy project for inviting us as guest columnists today! We’re glad to have the space to speak to some of the concerns that have come up for the queer community in regard to sexual assault and intimate partner violence, or “rape culture” generally speaking. I want to “light a candle”, so to speak, to be mindful of those who have experienced this harm. We’ll try to hold this flame with care and respect as we move forward. But to start off, perhaps we should clarify who/what are we referring to when we talk about the “queer community”?

BJG: Sure! The queer community is made up of people who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or any other identity that is not straight or cisgender. It’s important to note that not everyone within the community identifies as queer, and people can hold multiple LGBTQ+ identities, such as being transgender and pansexual. Even amongst LGBTQ+ people, there is sometimes doubt as to whether it’s a “community” in the traditional sense, as there are a variety of identities and experiences that fall under this umbrella, and everyone doesn’t experience the same sense of connection to others in the group.

SDS: That’s right. It may be more accurate to talk about queer communities, plural. No two communities look the same, or have the same needs, or even advocate for the same rights and resources. But in general, there are some features that are consistent across communities: for example, they tend to be small, “where everybody knows your name”. Access to community isn’t always guaranteed, and this can depend on where a person lives and how open they are about their queer identity.

That said, when we talk about sexual assault or intimate partner violence in the queer community, we’re not talking about a new or heretofore unseen form of harm. Rather, it’s the same old, pernicious harm, but played out in a particular social and cultural context. It’s important to acknowledge that.

BJG: There are a variety of features that generally impact relationships in queer communities. There can be pressure for the relationship to look perfect or live up to a certain standard, particularly since the small size of the community can lead to fewer examples of what a relationship can look like. The smallness of the community can also lead to “two degrees of separation” so to speak, where others in the community are all aware of the relationship and the partners in the relationship have many mutual friends. There can also be relationships in which partners meet anonymously, particularly for those who are not out. All of these features can impact someone’s decision to communicate their experiences in their relationships.

SDS: Even if we just look at something like outness, for example, it makes sense that a person who has concerns about being perceived as queer may not share everything about their relationship with those who under other circumstances might be considered confidants. In reality, this can also prevent people from reaching out for help from offices or organizations that support those who have experienced the harm of sexual violence or assault. There are lots of reasons why a person would not want to openly identify or be identified as queer: for example, out of fear of reprisals or stigma, for safety reasons, because they haven’t decided or aren’t sure that they do identify as queer, or even because the language and labels (gay, bi, trans, etc) just don’t fit their experiences. This also applies to the language we use to describe those who experience harm: “survivors” and “victims”. The question for some people becomes, ‘Does this apply to my situation? If the language doesn’t apply, then is this a resource or a support system that is actually made for me, with my experiences in mind?’

BJG: Beyond the barriers for reaching out for support, barriers also exist on the other end by the offices and people who are supposed to be in a position to provide support, such as police officers and counselors. It can be invalidating for someone to have to explain themselves more than once or justify their situation, because others don’t trust it at face value or their situation doesn’t seem to fit the typical mold, or the stereotype. A person could also have concerns about their situation being given the care and attention it deserves, as prejudice, transphobia, and homophobia often lead people to dismiss queer experiences.

SDS: Wow, I’m glad this is just the start of this conversation. There is so much more to say! Next week, we’ll continue this conversation and consider the role that community has to play in supporting those who have experienced harm. As people who identify as members of the queer community, we’ve tried to shed light on an uncomfortable topic while also holding these experiences with sensitivity. Just as we lit the candle at the start of this post, we’ll carry it with us over the next two posts as well.

Sheehan Scarborough, Director of the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

BJG, Undergraduate Intern ("Quintern") in the Office of BGLTQ Student Life

For Further Reading: