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Lawmaker Decries GMU Health Fair, 'Moral Depravity'

By Annie Gowen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 22, 2005; Page B01

The clean-cut young man taking detailed notes stood out at a meeting of Pro-Choice Patriots at George Mason University on Wednesday night as the mostly female group discussed plans for its campuswide sexuality and health fair planned for next week.

Turns out the young man was a volunteer observer for state Sen. Ken Cuccinelli (R-Fairfax), who yesterday denounced Monday's planned "Sextravaganza" at GMU as promoting "every type of sexual promiscuity you can imagine." It was, he said, an example of the "moral depravity that has crept across this commonwealth and this country."

Campus officials defended Sextravaganza -- set for Monday afternoon in the university's Johnson Center -- as a positive event that will explore issues of safe sex, date rape and sexual health. It will feature presentations on emergency contraception, abstinence and free AIDS tests. Students will also be able to taste such alleged aphrodisiacs as chocolate and strawberries.

"The name sounds a little lurid," said J. Thomas Hennessey Jr., the university president's chief of staff. "But the bottom line is the students wanted to have something to create a dialogue about the positive part of sex and the pain. That's why it's billed as 'the pain and pleasure of sex.' Students need to be exposed to the realities of sexually transmitted diseases and the risk."

Yesterday's hubbub was the second time this school year that a planned event at George Mason has provoked outrage from the area's Republican legislators. In the fall, the university canceled a talk by filmmaker Michael Moore after legislators protested that Moore was overtly partisan and that his $35,000 speaking fee should not be paid with public funds.

"I'm absolutely disgusted that GMU would be permitting that kind of thing to go on," Del. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) said of Monday's event. "They're going to ruin their reputation as a first-class university if they don't put a stop to this."

Hennessey said legislators could complain all they liked, but the school wasn't canceling the event, which he said would be put on for free. Pro-Choice Patriots had been given $375 in student activity funds for three events, including Sextravaganza, this year, Hennessey said.

Organizer Amanda Agan, 21, a global affairs major from Fairfax County, said groups from a variety of perspectives had been invited to participate, including the Feminist Majority Foundation and the campus's Catholic ministry.

"We're not trying to have a political agenda. We'll have all sides at this event, so everybody can feel comfortable coming," Agan said.

Cuccinelli disputed that.

"This whole thing is really just designed to push sex and sexual libertine behavior as far, fast and furiously as possible," he said.

He was especially concerned with one discussion at Wednesday evening's planning meeting -- which he said was reported to him by his observer -- about the possibility of using sex toys donated by a Tysons Corner shop to demonstrate proper condom use. The toys would then be raffled off. Agan said the raffle idea has been dropped.

A similar demonstration -- in which students donned rubber gloves and vision-distorting goggles to show the difficulties of dealing with a condom when under the influence of drugs or alcohol -- caused a ruckus at an event dubbed SexFest at James Madison University in 2003.

"Do we need to establish some statewide standards here?" Cuccinelli wondered. "It's pathetic we even need to have this discussion, but apparently we do."

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