“Let the sex show begin,” said William Jellison, professor of psychology, to the crowd at the start of the Gender & Sexuality Alliance’s (GSA) annual event, “Let’s Get it On.”
The event took place on Wednesday, March 4, and not only included a sex toy raffle, but also brought attention to the importance of consent, sexual expectations and sexual minorities through a discussion and Q&A panel held by both Jellison and Lauren Sardi, associate professor of sociology. The topics brought up during the presentation were those that the two professors felt college students would connect with as well as want and need to learn about.
“OK, so each year we do a little bit of an info session,” Jellison said. “We talk a little bit about stuff that we think is relevant to college students. So, we put together some topics we think we would like you to know that you don’t know.”
Jellison began his portion of the discussion by bringing up the differences between biological sex, gender and gender expression and how students should learn that each of these terms are vastly different and have each evolved to support societal changes when it comes to identity.
“Women should look like women and men should look like men to put it bluntly,” Jellison said. “However, you know that people do not fall into these nice neat categories. Thank you for your generation for finally putting that forward. The fact is that people do not fall into these nice boxes.”
Knowing the various reasons why people do not fit into defined categories when it comes to their identity is important for students to understand, according to Jellison. During the discussion, Jellison brought up the idea of when people decide to transition from the gender they were assigned at birth and how that is always an important factor to consider.
“When you think about people who are transitioning, people don’t always fully transition,” Jellison said. “We may have, for example, female to male transgender individuals who may pass as male, may have top surgery in which they have their breasts removed but still have a vagina. So, we can no longer continue to put people in say, man or woman, we have to start thinking to the extent to which people have male biological characteristics that identify with a man as well as characteristics we associate with a woman.”
Emotional connection is imperative to consider when understanding a person’s identity and sexual orientation. Thinking about who a person is emotionally and romantically attracted to is always something to consider, according to Jellison.
“Also, when we think about sexual orientation, we no longer think about just sex. We also have to think about emotionally, romantically who we are attracted to,” Jellison said. “So, we can no longer continue to think about people fitting in these nice neat ovals, right? A person can be biologically female, can identify as a man and their gender expression can be somewhere in the middle.”
Sardi’s part of the presentation began once Jellison brought up how people who do not fit into the set categories of identity tend to be victims of scxual violence. Consent was a main topic during Sardi’s discussion as she went into the differences between sexual violence and sexual assault.
“Sex without consent is in fact not consensual sex,” Sardi said. “It’s assault.”
Sardi then brought up how well over 10% of college students experience some form of sexual assault while on campus and how she believes that this percentage is concerning and needs to be lowered.
“These numbers are actually alarmingly high,” Sardi said. “They are unacceptable and on top of it, they are also underreported. Most likely, these percentages are unfortunately a lot higher.”
After a short video about consent, Sardi discussed just how important it is to give consent and respect others’ choices when they decide to not give consent during a sexual act.
“It is something to kind of keep in the back of your mind in terms of yeah, consent can actually be that simple,” Sardi said “So, here are some aspects of consent. Being informed, being competent, affirmative, recurring, unpressured and specific.”
The discussion ended with Sardi explaining the different aspects of consent while switching into the next part of the event — the Q&A with the two professors.
Students were given notecards to write an anonymous question about anything regarding sex, identity, consent, romance and communication. Some of the questions received humorous answers and others allowed for the professors to talk deeply about serious issues. A lot of the answers revolved around communication and knowing what a person wants when it comes to a relationship and one’s sex life.
“What works for one person may not work for another person, so it’s important with this that you have to communicate with that person and tell them what works for you,” Sardi said while talking about why women sometimes fake an orgasm during sex. “I know that might sound super awkward, but you have to tell the person because if (the orgasm is) taking a long time and they are not doing it right, you need to tell them.”
Sardi and Jellison also explained the importance of knowing your own body and what you like and to be able to communicate that to another person. However, connection is what is essential. During the Q&A, Jellison made it clear that understanding your body is important, but only getting a sexual release from yourself in a fear of feeling connected to another person is not necessarily healthy.
“One of the things you go to be careful of is that are we doing (masturbating) for reasons that might not be affirming.” Jellison said. “Is that the only sexual release that you are comfortable with? When you would like to be able to interact with others, in that case, no that’s not healthy.”
Along with asking questions about sex and romance, some students wanted to learn more about if it is bad if they do not feel sexual or want to have sex at this point in their life. Both Sardi and Jellison assured students that it is OK if they are not ready to have this type of relationship.
“It’s OK if you’re at a point in your life where you don’t feel sexual, you don’t feel romantically connected to other people for whatever reason,” Jellison said. “Either the fact that sex and romance is not an important aspect of your identity or something that you want right now, or if you’re just not ready. If you’re just not ready to have sex, that you’re not ready to have that experience with another person, that’s OK.”
An important factor regarding a person not feeling sexually active is understanding terminology to figure out which category one fits better in.
“What is being demisexual and how does it differ from being asexual?” Sardi said. “So, being asexual means that you don’t have a sex drive and you’re not sexually interested in anyone at all. Being demisexual is generally speaking, and there are variations on this. Being demisexual generally means that you don’t form an instant sexual connection with someone, that it takes some sort of emotional attachment to them first and then you can develop the sexual feelings toward them later on.”
Other topics such as understanding a person’s sexuality and understanding how to perform certain sexual acts were discussed, but then it was time for the sex toy raffle. There were 46 sex toys that were raffled off ranging from dildos to flavored condoms that attendees were able to put tickets in for.
The attendees received three tickets for attending the event and then could get one more if they followed @gsa_qu on Instagram. Even though raffling off these sex toys is fun, GSA aimed for the event to be more than that by hosting the discussion and Q&A with the professors.
“I think Let’s Get It On is definitely a unique event,” said Lindsey Downey, president of GSA. “It seems a little ridiculous to raffle off sex toys, but the event serves a bigger purpose than just sending people home with dildos (although we do love being able to do that). For a lot of people this might be the first space where they can learn about topics like gender identity, sexual orientation or consent without feeling judged.”