Located on the terrace level of the Cesar Chavez Student Center, the Educational and Referral Organization for Sexuality provides a safe space for students. Inside their quaint office space, free condoms, internal condoms, dental dams and gloves are sorted into small bins for students to take. A tall bookcase stands with shelves of colorful dildos lined up next to a copious amount of books, porn videos and educational resources for students. Flyers and sexual education pamphlets decorate the desks and walls, promoting EROS’ goal of teaching students about safer sex.
EROS, an Associated Students, Inc. program, is a sexual health education group that’s philosophy is to provide judgment-free and inclusive safer sex education for all, according to Director Reyna Aguilar.
“Our goal is for students to have a healthy attitude about their own sexuality and their own sexual health,” Aguilar said. “We believe that being open about sexuality and having these discussions help de-stigmatize and take away the taboo of sexuality, which in turn prevents shame, stigma, sexual assault and violence.”
EROS was founded at SF State in 1972, and has since offered free sexual health services to the campus community, according to Aguilar. The organization hosts a variety of workshops and events every semester, and has a referral database to help students find services EROS is unable to provide, such as STI and pregnancy testing, abortion services and information on how to get involved with other particular groups, such as the kink community.
SF State Vice President of Student Affairs and Title XI Coordinator Luoluo Hong said that changing the culture is heavily linked with the effort to end sexual violence.
“The work of organizations like EROS helps to promote more open and honest dialogue about topics like sexuality, relationships, consent and violence,” Hong said in an email. “EROS further adds value because it is about students engaging with students; this peer-led model of promoting social change is very powerful!”
Rumaldo Godinez, a sophomore and the office assistant for EROS, said he joined the group as soon as he learned about the program during his first semester at SF State. He said he started off as a volunteer and slowly moved up within the program.
“EROS, from my view, allows students here on campus to feel more comfortable talking about sex or to begin to have open conversations about sex or sexually related topics,” Godinez said. “Sex is seen as a taboo, and that should be kept behind doors and not talked about, but whenever EROS tables, we always have our dildos out ready to start up a conversation and have you learn more about us and whole SFSU community.”
Like Godinez, Sophia Lionberger, a 29-year-old biochemistry major, found the community during the first couple days of school.
“There’s a lot of hang-ups and taboos around just educating people on how to take care of themselves,” Lionberger said. “Fortunately SF State seems to be the environment where information like that isn’t quite so taboo.”
Aguilar said since there are very few high schools that offer an inclusive sexual health curriculum, EROS is able to open up students eyes to ideas that they wouldn’t think about regarding their own health and sexuality.
“For me as a director, the most rewarding thing is when students come into my office and want to talk about things, because I know that it means that they trust us,” Aguilar said. “Some students come in and talk about their experiences getting diagnosed with an STI and how hard and stigmatizing that was, and they said that the only place they found any comfort was our office and our staff.”
Aguilar said EROS often collaborates with numerous other organizations within the Bay Area such as Kink.com, SF Women Against Rape and various authors and performers in the field of sexuality.
Every year, EROS and the Legal Resource Center have a consent event. This year, Aguilar proposed devoting an entire week to advocating consent, since it would be easier for the entire campus community to access than a one-day event.
“We want it to be up in everyone’s faces, because these issues affect everyone on campus,” Aguilar said. “Sexual assault and sexual violence can affect everyone.”
Lionberger shared the same notions as Aguilar in that understanding consent is very important.
“People deserve to be able to make their own decisions, and we kind of live in a culture where we’re discouraged from making our own decisions,” Lionberger said. “We need to understand how to draw boundaries and what our rights are.”
Aguilar said that, since she wants to become a clinical psychologist one day, being involved with EROS is very meaningful to her.
“Knowing that I am helping students in their individual lives and trying to make a change as a larger campus community means the world to me,” Aguilar said.