By Audrey Corcoran
Grinnell students know the Sexual Health Information Center (SHIC) as a source of advice, support and free and discounted — $10 or less — supplies of all kinds. SHIC sells both “health products” and “pleasure products,” including everything from menstrual supplies to vibrators and handcuffs. Patrons can always ask about products they want to see. Since funds and time are finite, however, SHIC’s staff must make informed decisions about what to stock.
SHIC employee Vivian Cheslack ’19 explained that the organization prioritizes health-related items such as “… condoms, … lube, dental dams, pads, tampons, menstrual cups and pregnancy tests. She noted that “last semester, about 75 percent of our product budget went towards providing these health-related products,” most of which are provided to students for free. Menstrual cups are subsidized and cost $10, and these funding priorities seem to match student needs.
“Historically, menstrual cups have been incredibly popular,” Cheslack said. Emily Ricker ’18, who also works at SHIC, said she saw people coming in for condoms, pregnancy tests and Plan B especially consistently.
The rest of SHIC’s product budget goes to the more eye-catching “pleasure products.”
“Our mission for SHIC is to be a great place to go if you’re new to toys, you want to try something out for the first time, you’re not sure what you would like or you’re just curious,” Cheslack said. “[SHIC] aim[s] for breadth of options rather than depth.”
At any given time, the center usually carries at least one basic version of each of the following: vibrator, dildo, butt plug, masturbator and cock ring. There is a cap on the prices of toys bought so that SHIC doesn’t charge students too much, and toys need to be safe, usually “made out of porous materials (hard plastics or silicone),” according to Cheslack. Along with these guidelines, Nai’ya Willis-Hogan ’20 said that SHIC employees maintain a spreadsheet of products that they have researched or previously stocked so that it’s easy to see what to buy. Ricker also mentioned that each employee is assigned to “choose a topic and research it and come up with an information handout” so that SHIC has experts on a variety of sexual health topics.
SHIC also factors in student demand and preferences when purchasing products.
“If something sells out quickly, and we hear good things, we keep ordering that. If we get something that is crappy, we won’t order it again,” Cheslack said.
Ricker said she had fielded a wide variety of questions, some about products SHIC hasn’t previously carried and many about temporarily out-of-stock products; Willis-Hogan remembered selling “at least everything” carried. While SHIC can’t carry every product, Cheslack said, “we frequently try new things out to gauge interest.” There is also an email list where students can be notified when a product they wanted is back in stock.
As it navigates the practical and administrative requirements of a student organization, SHIC continues to provide what Cheslack called “accessibility and inclusivity” in its education and product decisions.
By Audrey Corcoran