Danieley provides reflections on BJs in your PJs, its signature event of its annual Wellness Week.
Editor’s Note: The following column by Tanner Gill and Aly Weaver offers insight into how they approached this year’s Danieley Wellness Week and how students responded to the program.
What is BJs in your PJs?
BJs in your PJs is the signature program of Danieley’s Wellness Week. Now in its second year, Danieley Wellness Week is a layered programming sequence that aligns with Elon’s HealthEU initiative. Our Wellness Week encapsulates many dimensions of wellness, including physical, emotional, and community.
We wanted to discuss sexual wellness, and we played on the abbreviation of Ben and Jerry’s to entice our audience. Knowing also that residents enjoy food-based (ice cream) and casual, come-and-go (PJS/pajamas) programs, we decided on this concept and format. Based on our mid-year survey, we also knew that residents wanted programs that started later in the evening so that they’d be in Danieley after their day on main campus.
A growing body of research tells us that Gen Z students want “snackable content” that they can consume quickly. In “Marketing to Gen Z” (2018), authors Fromm and Read share that Gen Z typically has an 8-second attention span with preference for content that is bite-sized, punchy, and text-slim.
That’s exactly what this program was designed to be– provocative, unfiltered, and intriguing. The play on words in the title gets folks’ attention. In a popular mobile app, Fizz, an anonymous poster shared an image of our email advertisement of the program, which garnered 923 upvotes. It became clear that our residents and other Elon students were eager to engage.
You can see in our advertising that we played into the Gen Z marketing techniques further. We emphasized a sense of humor, graphics over text, and incomplete information. Asking the question and not giving the answer was intentional– we want to encourage students to come to the program to learn the answer, to talk with their peers, or research the question further.
When considering the important topic of sexual wellness, we knew that we needed to do this intentionally amidst the touchy subject of sex. Sex is often seen as socioculturally-taboo in today’s society, though sex positivity is increasingly becoming inherent in the Gen Z psyche. Sex is also often politicized, with legislation affecting many areas of society, including education and curricula.
Sex education in schools is often structured to pathologize sex as a problem or as risky behavior, and little to nothing is spoken of sexual desire. Examples of this pathologization include sex education that emphasizes abstinence outside of marriage as a positive choice, heterosexual and monogamous relationships, pregnancy prevention, STI education, and sex in terms of reproduction only.
For example, Alamance-Burlington School System’s essential health standards for grades 6-8 and 9-12 reifies these concepts and demonstrates the suppression of education surrounding sexual positivity and desire, same-sex and polygamous sexual wellness, trauma-informed education, and social-justice-informed education.
We must be concerned about the lack of holistic education around sex and its many facets given the current climate of sex education prior to college. We also must be concerned about the lack of diversity in current sex education curricula, knowing that Gen Z is the most diverse generation in history.
Talking about sex and sexual wellness is connected with healthier and safer sexual practices and increased self-esteem and sense of self-worth. And, there’s much to talk about— the type of relationship you want, sexual boundaries, consent, and more.
We know that the co-creation of knowledge with students is what creates lasting and meaningful impact in their learning, as opposed to a transactional approach to learning where we supply content in a vacuum without their input or interests considered. We wanted our residents on board with us in creating a successful program in which they steered the content.
In a survey sent to all Danieley residents asking for sexual wellness tips, content suggestions, or questions, we received plenty of interest in learning more. Salient themes centered around wanting to learn more about same-sex sexual wellness, how to communicate effectively in sexual relationships, about campus resources for sexual wellness materials and education, and more.
We partnered with Elon’s SPARKS Peer Educators in order to have knowledge about sexual wellness shared with our residents by their knowledgeable peers, which we feel enhanced the ability for our residents to converse openly about the topic at the event. SPARKS provides many resources regarding sexual health.
At our program, we were prepared with pints of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream; many safe sex materials provided by SPARKS like internal and external condoms, lube, and more; stickers with sexual wellness tips and facts (informed by our residents’ suggestions in our survey); glow sticks and dim lighting; our raffle prizes; and many staff to handle the crowd!
Fifteen minutes prior to the event, we had crowds forming in anticipation! Once we started, we ran out of ice cream in just four minutes. All in all, we had more than 100 students in attendance!
It was great to see the students engaging in conversation with SPARKS educators and with each other about sexual wellness and the materials available. Students were excited to point out the stickers with the information they suggested on them.
Though Danieley’s Wellness Week was in its second iteration, BJs in your PJs was new to Wellness Week this year. Based on our turnout and on student engagement, we plan to do this again!
We hope to expand the scope of the program by bringing in more campus and community collaborators, providing interactive educational opportunities, and more! And, of course, providing even more ice cream!
To collaborate with us in future iterations of BJs in your PJs or in Wellness Week generally, please contact the Danieley Neighborhood Office leadership team!