Friday, March 1, 2013

Sex Positive event tackles the taboo

by Lina Aas-Helseth, Guest Writer

Nearly 50 people gathered in the Diversity Center Monday for one reason: sex.

The Diversity Center, Women’s Center, Lute Fit and the Health Center teamed up to bring students the latest event in the Sex Positive series, a Q-and-A session with a panel of "sexperts" entitled "Let’s Talk About Sex."

Panelist Allena Gabosch, director of the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle, shared stories of her own sexual experiences. Matt Freeman, director of the Health Center, and Matt Munson, health educator the Health Center, took the lead on the science of sex such as physical and anatomic concepts.

Gabosch was open about her own sexuality during the Sex + event, telling the 30-person audience how she thinks her sex life has made her into a self-confident woman.

"There is something about kinky sex that is intriguing and exciting," Gabosch said. She gave examples like bondage and sadomasochism. She also said she lives a polyamorous lifestyle, meaning she has multiple lovers simultaneously.

Freeman and Munson discussed things such as genitals and masturbation. During the event, a hat was sent around for the audience to submit any of their questions on paper anonymously, and panelists Freeman, Munson and Gabosch answered these.

The three answered questions such as, "how often is too often?" and "does masturbation hurt or cause injury?" Often they said it simply depends on the person.

"Masturbating doesn’t hurt as long as you’re doing it right, and masturbating 13 times a day is okay as long as you have time for school or work," Freeman said.

Actually, when it comes to masturbation, the implications for not masturbating are far greater Freeman said, explaining it is healthy. Inflammation of the prostate can occur if a man does not masturbate.

Gabosch said there are more psychological issues for women in
relationships when they do not masturbate. "Women have a higher risk of becoming detached from their own body, and that can ultimately lead to a life where sex is no longer enjoyable."

Masturbating in front of partners and learning how another’s body works is part of a healthy love life, Munson said. "Communicating with one another, talking and using non-sexual body language can be just as erotic as the actual intercourse."

He continued by saying, communication with a partner — what works and what doesn’t work — is key. "You just have to get out there and tell your partner what you like. They aren’t mind readers, no matter how well you know each other."

Some questions centered on defining sex and what it is. Gabosch said sex is not necessarily penis-in-vagina intercourse. "There are many nuances attached to the notion of sex, but if what you’re doing gets you horny and excited, then it may as well be sex — or at least pretty close to it."

Other questions revolved around having sex for the first time and how that can change you.

Gabosch said, "losing one’s virginity has a negative connotation to it by referring to something being ‘lost,’ especially when it comes to women. It’s as if men do not have anything to ‘lose’ when having sex for the first time."

Munson said it is "a social construct in today’s society due to the female’s hymen being breached," a fact that leads people to think "something is therefore automatically lost."

Panelists also discussed abstinence as a practical and completely positive option that helps prevent pregnancy and STDs.

There were also several questions on whether birth control causes cancer, such as breast and cervix cancer, or not.

"Birth control is the most studied medical component in the history," Freeman said. "There is no risk of it causing cancer." Freeman did say the risk is greater when the user smokes or if there is a history of cancer in the family or other medical issues.

Following this discussion, the question of why there is no male hormonal contraception arose.

"It is easier to stop one ovulation once a month than 400 million sperm cells up to several times a day," Munson said with a smile.

After the event, many students stayed behind to talk about what they had heard from Freeman, Munson and Gabosch.

Sex + began at Pacific Lutheran University when it became clear students needed access to a more complete view of sex.

Angie Hambrick, director of the Diversity Center, and Jennifer Smith, director of the Women’s Center, had attended a women’s conference in Wisconsin in 2009 where they realized this.

The emphasis, Hambrick and Smith said, needed to be on healthy relationships and the prevention of relationship violence.

From there, Sex + was born and has since been an annual event and a forum for discussing sex in a positive way. Its focus is on promoting a satisfying image of one’s own sexuality and self-identity at PLU.

Sex + events were already happening on a nationwide scale, Hambrick said, but they all dealt primarily with the fun part of sex.

Sex is fun, she said, but events on sex should also be educational, particularly in a college. Hambrick and Smith said they "would hear about condom parties, but the educational aspect of it all was severely lacking."

Hambrick said they "wanted the sex positive culture and its message to be not only fun, but also communicative." A major focus would be on expressing needs and communicating with one’s partner or partners.