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OS Reviews: ‘Sex Toy Bingo’

Penn State’s Center for Sexual and Gender Diversity’s fan-favorite event, “Sex Toy Bingo,” returned once again on February 28, with the kind assistance of the Student Programming Association.

The event was popular when it was held last fall, and the CSGD noticed students’ willingness to learn about sexual health with a fun and engaging spin.

“College students like to engage in sexual activity, we all know it, but it’s about doing it safely,” said Ryan Strohl, the program coordinator for the CSGD. “Sometimes, it’s hard to reach students if we say an event is purely going to be lecture-style education. ‘Sex Toy Bingo’ is a really fun way to get them out and invested in participating, and also willing to listen to our more informational pieces we offer.”

I arrived at Heritage Hall at 7:30 p.m. with some friends and checked in with our tickets. The event was packed, with round tables filled with students all around the main stage.

On the outside were tables with water, cookies, and other snacks. There were also tables for SPA and CSGD, featuring a stuffed llama, free stickers, and condoms. I’d like to add that the XL condom box was the most full. Stay humble, Penn State.

Everyone who worked the event was super friendly and happy to answer questions when I walked to the booths to check out their merch.

The event definitely played into the more cheeky view of sex, blasting songs like Justin Timberlake’s “SexyBack” and Nick Jonas’ “Jealous.”

Once bingo started, I quickly understood why the elderly take the game so seriously. The sense of dread when other people are “whoo-ing” at their fifth number while I’ve got nothing; the tension in the room when it goes silent before a number is called; the envy when the number you needed two rounds ago just happens to be called now.

Everyone was hellbent on winning, and the room was humming with excitement. The game featured 10 rounds with five winners in each.

After a couple of rounds, there was a break, allowing the audience to stretch their legs and check out the different tables.

During the break, the CSGD hosted some sex-themed true-false trivia. Some questions were about how and when to use condoms, how to give consent, and UHS’ sexual health resources.

The trivia was just as popular as bingo despite not having a prize, as students passionately shouted out answers. It was surprisingly interesting, and I definitely learned a lot. Who knew UHS provided free and discreet UTI testing?

After I logged a couple more winless rounds, there was another break where we all got a slice of Papa John’s Pizza.

We got back into playing soon after. During round seven, it happened. I won.

It was a “four-corner” round where you need one in each corner of the board. My friends and I were struggling with those types of rounds the whole night. I started slow, filling two corners with some breaks in between with winners being called.

I was losing hope and didn’t think I would finish, but then they called “O61.”

I didn’t know what came over me, and I honestly probably startled the people around me with the volume of my “BINGO!”

The next thing I knew, I was ushered on stage with the other winners and behind the curtain. We took a look at the prizes, which was the source of most of my excitement.

The table still had plenty of prizes, even though it was a round late in the game. Some notable things were toys for male pleasure, lubricants, and various phallic shapes in different materials and sizes. There was an enormous one in a plastic bag that, to no one’s surprise, hadn’t been taken.

There was also a section for sex-positive books and accessories, as well as stuffed animals for winners who weren’t interested in the kinkier toys.

Most of the toys were from Early to Bed, an adult store from Chicago, Illinois.

“I actually ordered all of them,” said Strohl, proudly. “I wanted to ensure these toys were 100% body safe and not risking a student’s safety. It was important for me to learn what was interesting and inclusive for everyone, for students in queer relationships, students with disabilities, or even asexual students.”

I picked my prize, which I will not share here, and packed it into a discrete travel bag as I returned to my table.

The event received some backlash on social media when it was announced, but the organizers didn’t seem to be swayed by the negative feedback.

“I don’t want people to feel uncomfortable, that wasn’t my aim. I want people to feel empowered and happy and safe when they have sex,” said Cate Tupper, SPA’s Special Events Chair. “I understand people’s concerns. It’s something different. Everyone here had fun and was safe, respectful, and welcoming.”

The goal of the event seemed to be destigmatizing and informing students about safe sex.

“‘Sex Toy Bingo’ isn’t just about the prizes, it’s about learning about safe sex prizes, how to use toys, and finding healthy materials.” said John Davis, CSGD’s student programmer, “College students are probably the most important demographic to talk to about sexual health, and we want to show that it’s okay to be sex positive, and not to be ashamed of your own body.”

The entire event was a lot of fun. I also don’t think there’s a faster way to make friends with strangers than everyone being nervous and laughing during sex trivia. Most people seemed to feel very comfortable. And everyone, even those who seemed shy, was open to learning about healthy sex practices and getting a chance to win bingo.

“While I understand there is a lot of anger from people who may not be comfortable talking about this in public, we need to recognize that whether we talk about it or not, sex is going to happen,” Strohl said. “We want to ensure people are equipped with the knowledge to do so safely and respectfully.”

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