Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


People of UW: Sex Out Loud Program Chair, Chair-in-Training discuss promoting sex positivity, destigmatizing heteronormative, gendered ideals

Stories of students: Read about students making a difference on campus
Courtesy of Rory Madden

Editor’s note: People of UW is a human interest series produced by The Badger Herald staff members. The series aims to highlight a student or student group at the University of Wisconsin making an impact on the campus community. These Q&As are lightly edited for clarity and style.

Where are you both from? What are you majoring in?

Rory Madden: I’m Rory. I use she/her pronouns. I am currently the Chair-in-Training for Sex Out Loud. I’m from Minneapolis, Minnesota, majoring in Spanish and communications.


Mia Warren: My name is Mia and my pronouns are she/her. I am a senior studying Gender and Women’s Studies and Life Sciences Communications from Chicago, Illinois. I am the current Chair of Sex Out Loud and Rory will take my position in the fall. I have worked at Sex Out Loud for four years and it has shaped my whole collegiate experience!

Tell us about yourselves and how you both got involved in Sex Out Loud.

Madden: My oldest sister went to school here and I saw she had a SOL sticker on her laptop. I remember thinking it was very relaxed and funny. Then, during my first year at UW, I attended a panty painting event. Immediately, I was hooked. It was a great time and I learned a lot, though it was only a crafting event. Then, in the second semester of my first year, I applied to be a program facilitator. The same year I came out as queer. I started working here in my first semester of sophomore year. It was the first queer-dominated space I had ever experienced, which was super important. It was extremely welcoming and open and I immediately clicked into the space and felt like I belonged. I have learned so much since I first stepped foot in the office.

Warren: I first heard about SOL my first year, so that was five years ago. I’m a fifth-year senior. SOL came to facilitate a healthy relationships program for my posse seminar and this taught me immensely about sexual health, consent and communication while providing a comfortable space to learn/talk about sex and sexuality. I had never seen or learned about these topics, coming from a background of not having much exposure to sex education. So I was just amazed and super excited about learning and then after I saw their facilitation, I just became obsessed and applied — and here we are a couple of years later.

What is Sex Out Loud?

Madden: We’re a peer-to-peer sexual health resource. You might have seen us on campus. We give out free sex supplies, like condoms, lube, sex dams and fun stickers. We also provide peer-to-peer counseling and we host a bunch of fun events. We have our sexual health carnival this week and we’re also hosting a pole dancing event, which is coming up! We also have some super cool speakers coming at the end of the month. At the core of SOL are our programs. We go to any organization, dorm, house, class, etc. on campus and they can request programs on things like Safer Sex, Birth Control, Pleasure, Advanced Pleasure, Kink & BDSM, Sex Jeopardy, Greek Life and QueerSex. Every student on campus has already paid for our services. Each student pays ‘segregated fees’ around $500 on top of their tuition, which goes to things like UHS, bus passes and SOL. So, all these condoms are free. Everyone on campus has paid around $1 for them because, on top of your tuition.

Warren: Our comprehensive educational programming is a large part of our work. We offer over 17 90-minute programs that cover a variety of topics about sex, consent, healthy relationships and pleasure that anybody can request. We pride ourselves on receiving extensive training from medical professionals to educate our peers, provide resources and create inclusive spaces. We also have a lot of other excellent resources, including a volunteer program, newsletter, events, a sexual health library, safer sex supply orders, anonymous questions, peer-to-peer counseling and so many more. Our office is also essential to who we are, as it creates space for anybody to come and build community. It is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday and is staffed with our excellent SOL employees! It is a very safe space for queer folks, gender-diverse people, marginalized groups and indeed anyone and everyone. I always like to mention our existing office because it’s an excellent place for folks to feel safe and welcome. And yeah, we have so many fun events and educational content on top of it all!

What are your roles at Sex Out Loud and what inspired you to take on these roles?

Madden: I’m training under Mia to be the chair next year. I’m learning a lot about administrative tasks and how best to support and coach our staff. But I started as a program facilitator. I would go to frats and sororities, sports teams or even dorms or college houses and I would go and facilitate these programs. As a freshman, I was horrible at public speaking and I didn’t know much about sexual health. Since joining, I have learned so much and I realized that though I thought that my sex education in high school was pretty decent, I still had so many gaps in it — it was not inclusive and it was not comprehensive. Our staff is working on updating all of our programs to make sure they are up-to-date, medically accurate and as inclusive as possible. I knew immediately that I belonged here and wanted to be more involved. So, I started taking on more responsibility. I joined the Gender and Sexuality Campus Center’s Queer Council as our SOL representative. In that role, I have planned and hosted several events, like Sex Jeopardy and Sexy Bingo, funded by the GSCC. The most recent sexy bingo even had over 200 attendees! I took on more responsibility, got to know the staff better and tried to be as involved as possible. And I’ve been having a blast doing it ever since. So, I’m excited to take on this new leadership role as Program Chair.

Warren: I am currently the Program Chair, so that’s the president, but it looks slightly different at SOL. A big part of my job is coaching and training our staff. We have a paid staff of 17 students taught by medical professionals, activists and community partners each semester, which is fantastic. Our staff consists of facilitators and coordinators who are all individually crucial to our organization’s success. So, a big part of my job is not only to schedule programming administrative responsibilities but also to help develop and update our programming while overseeing and supporting our staff, volunteers and members. I also work closely with our financial coordinator and I’m submitting budget proposals and working to ensure we’re buying our condoms and safer sex supplies and funding our events. I started as the engagement coordinator, took on a little responsibility for staff and worked with the volunteer program when I was hired. Then, I started organizing hiring cycles, revising programs and educating myself about sexual health and advocacy work and I became passionate about this field. I was pre-med and then I changed my whole major because SOL showed me what activism meant, what advocacy meant and what social justice meant. So then I applied to the chair position and was hired and I loved it. It has changed my entire life. So, I’m grateful for the experience I’ve had of leading SOL.

What are the goals of the organization?

Warren: I would say to promote accessible, inclusive educational spaces, to promote sex positivity and to destigmatize heteronormative and gendered ideals to ultimately challenge systems of oppression. Destigmatizing sexual health is why we host events like pole dancing, the Sexual Health Carnival, Q&A panels and panty painting. A lot of these events are appealing to students by making conversations about sex fun and inclusive, making folks more open to talking about sex and seeking support if they need it. There are extreme sexual health disparities predominantly affecting people of color, disabled individuals and LGBTQIA+ communities — thus, talking about sexual health, sexuality, pleasure and identity is a large part of our goals to improve access to information and reduce some of these disparities. A considerable part of our core mission is to destigmatize conversations around sex so that folks feel more comfortable getting tested and asking questions. Sex education is not a uniform policy throughout the United States. So, being resources and advocates, especially having peer-to-peer counseling, allows us to meet folks where they’re at. So we want to emphasize that we are there to destigmatize and promote education, support our peers and provide inclusive programming. A lot of sex education is not inclusive, so we want to make sure that we’re doing that for all folks of all identities.

What is your favorite event that Sex Out Loud has done?

Madden: I am biased because I hosted this event, but Sexy Bingo has been my favorite. It’s just super cool that we can have free food and free sex toys for a fun, educational event that was all paid for by the school. Seeing how much people are learning and how our engagement keeps increasing is rewarding. I’m also a massive fan of panty painting because it was the first event that I attended at SOL. I also love Miss Pole because it was super fun to be with my coworkers and new SOL members, but it was also an intense workout.

Warren: This is such a good question. I enjoy our keynote speakers. They are great opportunities for us to learn from professionals directly in the field who are truly changing our world. So last year, we had Hallie Lieberman, who has produced a lot of academic work and research about the feminist sex toy revolution and it was just exciting to hear about the patriarchy intersecting with sexual health and how all of these systems intersect. Last Tuesday, we had fat activist and sex therapist Sonalee Rashatwar come to speak about body politics and challenging anti-fatness culture.

Will there be any events or opportunities for students interested in learning more during Sexual Assault Awareness Month?

Warren: In terms of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, we work very, very closely with UHS. Our faculty advisor is the Associate Director for Survivor Services and Rory and I also serve on the Survivor Services Student Advisory Board. So we have a lot of events coming up. We will work directly with UHS on Denim Day to inform folks and educate them about what Denim Day means. We will encourage folks to participate in this art activism piece and decorate denim pieces while raising awareness about sexual violence. We’re also holding an open sex and healing workshop in our office and are doing a sexual health empowerment panel. Rory and I have led a major overhaul, including a lot of bystander intervention working with the Rape Crisis Center to integrate more allyship resources into our workshops and programs. So we’re going to start implementing those during this month as well. A lot of our sexual health week that I mentioned will center on empowerment and sex positivity. We always talk about how we can’t talk about sexual assault and sexual violence without also talking about sex positivity, what healthy relationships look like and what consent looks like. We want to acknowledge both because they coexist in society.

What are both of your favorite parts of Sex Out Loud?

Madden: My favorite part of SOL is working with staff and students, especially our volunteers. Though I’m in a leadership position as chair-in-training, I still have much to learn from every staff member. My favorite thing about being in the office is feeling like I am in a safe space. It was incredibly comforting for me as a queer first-year student who had no idea how to express my queerness in a secure way that felt most authentic to me. That space has opened me up and I’ve grown so much. I know Mia can attest to that. I’ve grown as a staff member and person and I am better equipped to help support our campus, especially with our programs. The work we do is so important because so many students come into college at very different levels of sex ed, some of them having had no sex education at all. It’s so rewarding to see our staff meeting people where they’re at and watching them grow.

Warren: I hate to give a boring answer, but I also feel a little bit biased because the chair gets to see a lot of tangible evidence that folks are growing and folks are learning and I would also say that that is probably my favorite part in terms of seeing that light bulb connect for some folks about, ‘oh, so I can talk about sex openly and that’s okay.’ And that’s celebrated. I enjoy seeing folks becoming passionate educators and leaders fighting in a heavily stigmatized field that intersects with many other issues. I enjoy facilitating learning and opening conversations on how sex and sexual health and sexuality intersect with so many different systems of oppression and how we can challenge those by talking about sexual health. I’m privileged to be a chair, to be able to work with my staff and volunteers directly and to empower people who come into the office one-on-one as activists, educators and leaders.

How can people get involved with Sex Out Loud?

Madden: So, any student can attend our events, request programs, pick up safer sex supplies and come into the office to ask questions or utilize our safe space. Our office is open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. every weekday and we have a safer sex supply station outside where folks can pick up supplies without having to interact with anyone. They can also order supplies anonymously online and we’ll pack them for them to pick up. Our Instagram page is the best way to stay engaged with our organization. But we also have an email, a website and a TikTok. Our volunteer program typically includes office hours, continuing education projects and fun bi-weekly meetings. Students can also become a condom conduit, which is just picking up safer sex supplies from our office and distributing them on campus. We are currently hiring staff members, too. We have a job opening for a program facilitator, an event coordinator and a financial coordinator.

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Badger Herald

Your donation will support the student journalists of University of Wisconsin-Madison. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to The Badger Herald

Comments (0)

All The Badger Herald Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *