For the past seven years, NYU’s Student Health Center has offered a service they call “Ask the Sexpert.” Alyssa LaFosse — who earned her B.A. in psychology at UCLA and Masters of Public Health at UC Berkeley — acts as NYU’s resident sexpert, addressing student inquiries regarding sexual health, STIs and intimacy.
LaFosse is available through multiple forums, such as email and personal appointment. Perhaps most intriguing is her public booth at the top of Kimmel’s staircase l every Tuesday from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. With such a prime piece of real estate and a notably open-minded student populous, one might expect to see a fairly generous showing.
While students of all ages swarm past the booth, most only glance at it peripherally, some giggle under their breath and others approach coyly, merely asking for free candy. LaFosse remains undaunted, responding calmly and cheerfully to the student’s requests.
“Some students don’t feel comfortable coming up to a crowded table but at least they know the service is offered.” LaFosse said. “They see it and they remember.”
With eye-catching signs reading, “CANDY AND CONDOMS,” it’s difficult not to turn some heads. But upon closer examination, some students discovered that pamphlets with initially startling titles like “How to Find your G-Spot” and “Masturbation Tips for Men” can genuinely help students who wish to access safe and reliable materials.
Steinhart senior Emma Rooney was especially pleased to see the booth setup in such a busy part of campus and weighed in on the somewhat scarce amount of student participation.
“Even though we’re in NYU and New York City and we’re much more open about sexuality, I still think that it is a taboo subject,” Rooney said.
Rooney has long been a proponent for comprehensive sex education, hoping that displays like “Ask the Sexpert” make the process gradually less awkward and more common for young adults.
At a time when the Internet offers a colossal domain of information at your fingertips, it’s also unsurprising that students feel less inclined to speak publicly. It may feel strange to talk about what happens behind closed doors while in a room teeming with classmates.
Despite this, Rooney thinks that campus services like the Sexpert have their place.
“Everyone is going to have a different way,” Rooney said. “Whichever is more comfortable for them to receive the information, it doesn’t matter. The most important thing is offering accessible and accurate information for all people, all gender identities and sexualities.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 16 print edition. Email Riley Goodell at [email protected]
Note: A previous version of this article stated that “Ask the Sexpert” was a service of NYU’s Health Promotion Office. While LaFosse did previously work for that office, “Ask The Sexpert” is not associated with the Health Promotion Office and is instead based in the Student Health Center.