Kai Depalma/Contributing Photographer

Last Saturday was the sixth-annual “50 SHADES” sex carnival, created to provide a fun space for an alternative sexual health education. The “50 SHADES” sex carnival was created by SHADES, a campus organization made for queer and trans people of color, which was chartered in 2011.

For the last two years, the carnival was held during the spring semester instead of October, which is traditionally national LGBTQ+ History Month, due to last year’s COVID-19 protocols. To celebrate the return to an in-person format after a Zoom event last year, this year’s event format was changed dramatically. Soledad Arianna Perez, president of SHADES and a senior majoring in Spanish, recalled last year’s obstacles.

“We had a lot of difficulties last year because we lost our SHADES office to quarantine housing, losing all our equipment in the process,” Perez said. “However, we were able to get most of it back and bring that interactive experience back to this year’s sex carnival.”

Apart from hosting the biggest sex toy and self-care raffle in SHADES’ history, three contests for audience participation with prizes were included, alongside three showstopping performances by drag queen Paris LuRux. The change in format also greatly improved the attendees’ experience. Although the in-person carnival two years ago was fun and exciting, there was only one interactive contest, two performances by drag queens who were the anchor for the stage show and a raffle at the end. This left long stretches of time before and in between these stages. This year’s stage sets opened with an impressive best outfit competition, after which the events became even more sensational. Lap dance contests let couples and strangers showcase their chemistry and skills, concluding with the cutest couple contest. Paris LuRux followed every contest with a high-energy performance. A sex toy raffle wrapped up each stage set before opening up games. The interactive elements also brought a unifying sense to the attendees. The room’s energy rose noticeably after the first set.

Anna Schaefer, a senior majoring in philosophy, expressed their excitement after winning the best outfit competition.

“It’s an amazing event,” Schaefer said. “I’ve never been to anything like this before. I’m very surprised by the quality stuff they have, as well as the games.”

Although “50 SHADES” was created and run by SHADES, other campus organizations were involved in hosting the game tables, creating an overall sex-positive environment within the carnival. Since the people gathering were open and eager to learn about sexual health, sex became a normal, commonplace topic at the event, like sports are in everyday life. Games included the famous “pin the clit on the vagina,” guessing kinks, guessing sex positions and condom races. Apart from the raffle, dental dams, condoms and lube could be earned by just participating in games and competitions. There was also a Valentine’s Day-themed selfie booth including a ring light so you could capture your memory of the carnival with the best lighting.

“This year I can confidently say had our biggest turnout yet,” Perez said. “Our goal is to amplify the voices of queer and trans students of color, to create a safe space for every student who needs one. ‘50 SHADES’ was an amazing event to end my last semester and I can’t wait to see how SHADES continues to grow and evolve.”