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Aftercare: a SHAG Week Debrief

SHAG Week banner
Image Courtesy of KCLSU

Roar talks to Victoria, a Student Wellbeing and Welfare Manager, about KCLSU’s 2024 SHAG week.

Sexual Health and Guidance Week, stylised as SHAG Week, was run by King’s College London’s Students’ Union (KCLSU) at the beginning of February. Victoria highlights its broad aim of getting students to think and talk about sex and relationships, before outlining more specific goals:

“We had a few key aims for this time round. We wanted to increase understanding of consent and promote the Consent Matters training available to King’s students. also wanted to provide educational resources around having safe sex and healthy relationships including sexual health testing. Finally, we wanted to reduce the stigma and shame that many of us can often feel when talking about sex, relationships, and pleasure by having some really fun and engaging events.”

SHAG Week is not a new phenomenon. Although some students may not have heard of it before this year, Victoria states that last year it was run by the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience (IoPPN).

“My colleague in that team delivered an excellent week of events. We were really keen to help support the project and they kindly agreed to have it be delivered out of KCLSU this year and helped us out by being an integral part of the project team.”

Victoria notes that a gap in sexual health provision is what spurred the SU to help run SHAG Week. “The KCL Health Centre are brilliant and provide excellent information and support but we wanted something a bit more events-based.

“I think many people, students and non-students, can sometimes feel a bit uncomfortable talking about sex and relationships […] It’s important to say that it is totally fine if someone doesn’t want to talk about these topics, we just want to help create a space where those who do, are able to do so without feeling shame or stigma.”

So, did the turnout at SHAG Week events reflect a hesitancy to talk about sexual health?

“Our sign-up levels versus attendance were consistent with what we see across all wellbeing projects, which is that we tend to see about 50-60% of sign-ups attend,” says Victoria. To try to combat any shyness, SHAG week events were a mixture of online and in-person. Additionally, there were online resources available so that people could get involved without having to attend events.

In total, SHAG week boasted 11 events across a range of subjects, from a Positive Voices talk about living with HIV, to sex-positive zine making, to a Queer Dating workshop. Throughout SHAG week there was also a free condom and lube initiative across four campuses (Strand, Guy’s, Waterloo and Denmark Hill) which saw almost 1000 condoms collected. 

The most popular event was the SHAG Week Quiz night held in The Vault. However, the Porn Literacy and Pizza Workshop and the Sex-Positive Zine Making Workshop were the second most well-attended events.

There was also a guest lecture on Culture, Reproductive Mental Heath & You by Dr Anna-Rae, which Victoria says “ties into a bigger conversation around sex, relationships and society.

“King’s is such a big university with a diverse student body so whilst it might not be an event everyone is interested in, it definitely had its place in the week. Plus, it’s always great to have a KCL Alum come back!”

SHAG Week is not just a staff creation: students were also involved in its planning. Victoria highlights how “co-creation and consultation with students underpins all the work we do in the Wellbeing team and so we try to have students involved throughout”.

This meant understanding what students wanted to get out of SHAG week. “We got feedback from students via an online form and a physical suggestion box at the Welcome Fair. This was really useful and almost all of the events were based off of the feedback we got.”

Student involvement was not limited to SHAG Week’s conception, but also its delivery. The Queer Dating Workshop was a collaboration with Tea Time with Taj, and there was also a collaboration with the Intersectional Feminist Society. “We also have two student staff who worked on the project and led on creating the social media plan for the week, including all the different resources we promoted,” Victoria adds.

As SHAG Week coincided with the beginning of LGBTQ+ History Month, Victoria reflects on SHAG Week’s inclusivity. “Being inclusive, accessible and intersectional is always going to be a key consideration when planning any project.

“There are several ways we’re trying to be more inclusive including having events in different formats and ensuring varied resources are provided.”

This included digital resources. “We have loads of links on the SHAG Week page on the KCLSU website, including great videos about accessible sex toys, a discussion about neurodiversity and sex and relationships and exploring our understanding of asexuality. We also shared lots of great accounts and resources via our Instagram.” A highlight of all the themes discussed is saved on their page.

Looking forward, Victoria says that the Wellbeing team are ‘always looking to improve’.

“If we run this again, we’d like to have more students and more diverse voices on the project team.” That being said, Victoria states her team is “really happy with how the week went, especially for our [team’s] first time delivering it”.

Beyond SHAG Week, KCLSU continues to work with the IoPPN, which is part of the C-Card scheme, a programme run by Come Correct that allows people under 25 to sign up and collect free condoms from outlets across London. The SU also works with Brook, a sexual health charity, and the KCL Health Centre.

For more information and guidance around sexual health, students can visit the SHAG Week page on KCLSU’s website. For students who are in London, you can order a free test kit from Sexual Health London and find more information on sexual health on their website.

If you would like to leave general feedback or suggestions about SHAG Week, you can do so here. If you would like to leave feedback on a specific event, you can do so here.

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