A young couple paused by the doors of the Student Center Monday, eyeing the red and black poster advertising the “Health and Love A-Faire” inside.
“Hey, wanna go in there?” the young man nudged the young woman on his arm.
“No,” she replied with obvious derision. “I already know everything that I need to know.”
City College’s Sex Positive Week, which took over the Student Center and Learning Resource Center Feb. 10–13, sought to change that view. Instead of addressing sex through a lens of frustration, guilt and shame, presenters and event coordinators aimed to show sex as a natural, good and enjoyable part of life.
“I think people are a little bit scared to come in,” City College Counselor Richard Yang said while sitting behind a table at the event.
However, those who braved the threshold seemed to enjoy themselves.
“The people who came in had a great time,” said Luis Martinez, a member of the Queer/Straight Alliance and the master of ceremonies of Monday’s event. “There was some surprisingly good info available out there.”
The sex-positive presentations began Tuesday. A series of eleven talks over three days ranged from gender issues to porn, and had a more robust response than the kickoff health fair.
City College psychology Professor Patty Blomberg, who moderated the discussion on gender issues, was pleased with the panels and discussions.
“I am really thrilled that we are on a campus in a community that supports these dialogues,” said Blomberg after the panel.
“Therapist Adam Zimbardo covered polyamory, non-monogamy and open relationships in a well-balanced manner,” said City College psychology student Sarah-Michael Gaston.
“I thought that he put it in a way so people could understand that polyamory and open relationships are OK, and also when they’re not OK,” said Gaston.
Zimbardo later said in an email, “I’m very much in support of talking about sexuality in the way we talk about other issues that impact our lives: openly, calmly and objectively.”
Wednesday’s topics were based on “Behaviors, Kink and the Media,” and culminated in an evening event featuring Janet Hardy, author of “The Ethical Slut: A Practical Guide to Polyamory, Open Relationships & Other Adventures.”
Hardy started by addressing the ever-changing definitions that are pervasive in her field.
“I have been a sex writer for 25 years, and I don’t know what ‘sex’ is,” said Hardy during her talk as she addressed topics that ranged from the simple to the complex.
In a week of labels and definitions, it became evident that nothing can be easily defined. As Hardy said in her talk on the gender binary, “The labels keep on slipping.”
The Student Center was packed Thursday night as the members of Sex + Live took the stage. Speakers Jay Cee Whitehead, Darrel Ray and Laci Green wrapped up a week-long tour of U.S. college campuses, delivering a night of sex education ranging from the basic to the bizarre.
Each speaker represented a different front of the battle for sexual freedom, with Whitehead for marriage abolition and the destruction of “moral” vs. “sinful” sex, Ray bringing in the evolutionary science behind natural sexual urges, and Green rounding things off with a fun crash course in how to have the Best Sex Ever.
“Bam! Vulva!” Green exclaimed as a massive photo of a vagina was projected behind her. The 24-year-old sex educator had a bubbly attitude and approachable nature, though some might call her demeanor shameless. Green said she doesn’t see that as a problem. Shame was widely discussed as a key enemy of the sex positivity movement.
“Sex positivity is really breaking out of the standard mold where sexuality is seen as something that is shameful and we hesitate to talk about it,” Green said in a conversation before her speech. “There’s a lot of silence and fear around it. [Sex positivity] is reframing that and saying this is a natural, healthy part of life.”
Green continued, “There’s no reason why we shouldn’t talk about it. There’s no reason why all of these social ills that are related to sexuality should exist, and I think a lot of those are perpetuated because we don’t talk about it.”
Overall, the sex-positive week was deemed a success by organizers. There are no official plans for another sex positive event on campus as of yet, said City College graphics design Professor and event coordinator Don Button.
However, Button said, “There is plenty of interest and support.” A student and faculty meeting is on the books to discuss the potential of bringing the event back for another run.
“I feel that this whole event is fulfilling its purpose of expanding perspectives on these topics,” said Martinez of the Queer/Straight Alliance.
Panelist Zimbardo said in an email after the week’s presentations, “I think the Sex + City event really fostered that idea that it’s OK to talk about sex in public, and that doing so can open up avenues of thought and communication within a community… The more we talk about sex as just another aspect of our lives, the easier it gets to think clearly about sex and to make wise decisions.
Originally published in the Express – City College’s student-run newspaper on 2/27/2014. Find the Express Story HERE.