Some learned from older brothers and sisters. Others from movies such as “Titanic.” But the majority of the 27 women at Let’s Talk Sex said they learned about sex in fifth and sixth grade via a sex education class.
Caitlin Fuller, a psychology junior and Sexual Assault-Free Environment Resource (SAFER) female educator, organized Let’s Talk Sex to create a safe space on campus for women to talk about sex.
“Let’s Talk Sex is basically just a bunch of female students getting together and learning about sexual experiences, talking about things that they’re concerned with, and also, you don’t have to have had sex to come,” Fuller said.
Fuller feels very comfortable discussing sex and relationships; although, many women are uncomfortable talking about those topics, she said. Let’s Talk Sex provides women and female-identified people with an outlet to share anything relating to sex and relationships in a supportive, informal group, Fuller said.
Fuller first approached her colleagues in the Gender Equity Center with the idea for Let’s Talk Sex early in the school year. Katy Palmer, a biochemistry sophomore and president of the Women’s Leadership Council, said she was excited when she first heard about the group because it would offer women a safe, open forum for something that many people need an outlet for.
“Sometimes your girlfriends and ‘Cosmo’ just are not the best resources,” Palmer said. “It’s important to be able to get input and feedback from other people, not only about sex and all that, but about questions that are otherwise so taboo in our society.”
Nikki Lanshaw, a food science sophomore and Gender Equity Center Student Assistant, said most female students do not have a place to talk about these topics, so Let’s Talk Sex fills that void.
“I think that girls need a safe place to talk about sex and relationships, and also perhaps to get objective opinions — not just your friends who try to make you feel better,” Lanshaw said. “I think it’s important for women to get together, support each other and have these discussions.”
The group met for the first time Nov. 15 in the Gender Equity Center. Twenty-seven female students attended, and everyone participated in the conversation at one time during the evening.
Fuller’s planned topics for the evening’s discussion included: “What does sex mean to you?;” “What inspired you to come to this meeting?;” “Does anyone have any questions about sex?;” as well as open sharing of relationship problems and stories.
The conversation was not limited to those topics, though. The talk jumped from chatting about relationship problems to sexual pressure felt by female freshmen from upperclassmen. Fuller said she was pleased with how naturally the discussion progressed during the two hours.
“As people started stepping out and talking, other people got comfortable and started talking, so the conversation flowed more easily,” Fuller said.
When the meeting began, people were initially hesitant to talk, but eventually opened up as the evening went on.
“In the beginning, it was definitely a little awkward and tense because no one knew what to expect, and sex is such a taboo topic — no one talks about it,” Fuller said.
It’s often difficult for girls to talk about sex because of societal taboos; however, it’s a part of everyday life and how humans live, Fuller said. People should embrace their sexuality and know that if they want to talk about it, there’s a safe place on campus where they can voice their questions and concerns, she said.
The variety of topics talked about was mostly impromptu, which was actually beneficial, Palmer said.
“I was expecting it to be a little more structured, but it didn’t have to be at all,” she said. “It was really amazing to me how the mood of the conversation changed from super whimsical and funny, talking about masturbation and sex and what feels good, what doesn’t, to being more serious, talking about relationships and how sex can affect relationships.”
But many women feel that discussing sex is improper, Lanshaw said.
“I think we’re still recovering from our grandmothers who never, ever talked about reproductive health, their sex life, absolutely nothing relating to that,” Lanshaw said. “But over time, things start to change and I think you just need to know yourself and understand what’s going in your own body.”
The first meeting proved that Let’s Talk Sex has a lot of potential, Lanshaw said.
“I see Let’s Talk Sex being a permanent thing. I hope that it expands and draws an even larger group,” Lanshaw said. “We’ll see what happens as it grows.”
Fuller said she agreed the response was both positive and encouraging when taking future meetings into account.
“I definitely have the confidence that this can grow and become something even bigger,” Fuller said. “From now on, we will definitely have a topic that we start off the conversation with. We’ll talk about that, have questions based on that topic, but then of course it branchs off from that.”
Let’s Talk Sex is exclusively for women and female-identified students. However, the Gender Equity Center has talked about creating a similar program for men, Lanshaw said.
“At this point it’s just a matter of having a safe space for females, but I think that male-identified students also deserve the same,” Lanshaw said. “Eventually there could be a successful event involving both men and women, but if that will happen this year, I don’t know.”
Female students can learn a great deal from attending Let’s Talk Sex, even if they don’t have a problem or question to contribute to the conversation.
“We need a place for women to just be women. Being with other people talking about social justice issues and reproductive health, makes yourself more informed in general,” Lanshaw said. “Knowing more about your reproductive and sexual health is vital at this campus.”
This article was written by Christina Favuzzi.