Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Let's talk about Sex (ed.), Baby

I first experienced Clark University's acceptance towards sex through a couple of activities: Vox (Voices for Planned Parenthood)'s annual "Sexfest", an event used to promote sexual health, TOPICS (Training, Outreach, Prevention, Intervention, Counseling, and Support) annual "Sex and Chocolate", an event to discuss dating violence and promote sexual health, and through an event that took place last year called "I Heart Female Orgasm", a sex education program hosted by Marshall Miller & Dorian Solot (link to their website here).

Despite my previous exposure to sexual topics, I was still a bit hesitant going into PSYC143: Human Sexuality for reasons that I presume to be fairly understandable and common; sex is quite a taboo in American society and to have a course devoted to the subject feels equally appealing and terrifying. We jumped into the topic matter right away (we watched some video clips, talked about sexual practices in different societies and historical times), but I recall that I didn't truly feel discomfort until our second discussion section. After a brief discussion about a male sex survey in a magazine and its general lack of integrity (found here if anyone is interested), the TA prefaced a video clip by saying "okay, this is a documentary called Breasts. The video will contain images of topless women speaking about their experiences and feelings towards their own breasts". And as soon as she said that, I remember feeling an aching sort of resistance to the whole idea, like "whyyyy? Why must I view these topless women in a class where men are present? And anyway, isn't this stuff private and inappropriate, for each individual woman's eyes only?"

Instantly my natural reaction made me somewhat infuriated with myself. I have always considered myself a feminist, so to be feeling uncomfortable viewing a natural part of the female body made me more upset than anything else. And for me to instantly (though not continuously) assume that men wouldn't take it seriously, was equally as oppressive. Luckily I shook off my negative feelings and throughout watching the video my discomfort waned and I learned a bit about these women's experiences.

My professor, Abbie Goldberg, kindly insisted on meeting all of the students in our 41-person class so as to put faces to our names. I was able to speak with her briefly about my discomfort and she suggested that I try to determine why exactly I maintain this feeling of discomfort while viewing these images. I recall she said something along the lines of "you probably wouldn't feel uncomfortable viewing noses, so why do you while viewing breasts?"

I am now seeing this class as, of course, an informative class that delves into the psychology and anatomy of human sexuality. In addition to this, however, I am beginning to see this class as an opportunity to push out of my comfort zone and reclaim ideals that have always been easier to maintain in theory rather than practice, e.g. viewing a nude body as something that is beautiful rather than bizarre or sexualized. I aspire, through this class, to learn much and feel more comfortable with the topic of sexuality, hopefully lessening the burdensome sort of reservations that have been placed on otherwise common and healthy human actions.

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