As always, this year’s CWA has hosted a number of discussions that hit right in the college-student-demographic ballpark. From reality TV to video games to drugs, many of these talks have done an excellent job of piercing through the noticeably older audience present on our campus directly into the gold spot our post-adolescent minds can’t get enough of.
Thursday’s sex panel, aptly titled “From Virginity Pledges to Nymphomania: Sex in College,” was no exception.
(CU Independent Illustration/Josh Shettler)
Moderator Ryan van Duzer led into the talk with enough enthusiasm and repeating of the word sex to get everyone laughing and comfortable with the topic at hand. First up on the agenda was sociology professor and author of “Straight Edge: Clean Living Youth, Hardcore Punk and Social Change,” Ross Haenfler.
Haenfler, noticeably the youngest of the three panelists, regaled the awkward tale of losing his virginity before discussing the impact that “hook-up culture” has on women as opposed to men. His main point was that despite the preconceptions of women needing a relationship and men having a clear upper hand in the world of hooking up, women enjoy sex without attachments just as much as men do.
This progressed into the main point of his involvement in the talk: virginity pledges. While Haenfler found it intriguing that college students would form a sort of “counter-counterculture,” he noted that these groups usually only worked under certain circumstances (such as having a minority of kids pledging abstinence as opposed to most students at school, or taking a pledge before reaching the age of 18). In many cases, Haenfler noted, by 18 months, the majority of students who have taken a pledge of virginity go against their word. Throughout his section of the panel, Haenfler was very respectful of students who do choose to take virginity pledges; his discussion was rather that of staying informed about the facts.
The next two speakers, Howard Schultz (CU alum named one of the top 50 forces in the field of reality television by The Hollywood Reporter) and Evelyn Resh (sex counselor and writer for the Huffington Post), gave monologues that kind of blurred together in message. The general idea was that sex is a topic that people need to ease up about, and as Resh described it, it is like a mouse that can fit through a dime hole; no matter how hard you try to avoid it, it will find you.
As people began to ask questions, several other topics got thrown into the general sex potpourri; Haenfler discussed polyamory and the “societal script” that’s hard to abandon when it comes to the emotional complexities of having multiple partners. Resh brought up the higher STI and teen pregnancy rates in the U.S. as opposed to Europe, and a possible connection with parents negative reactions to it here. Schultz discussed how the key to owning ‘slutdom’ is knowing thyself. He posed the young woman who asked the question, “are you doing it because it’s fun and it’s great, or is it because you’re trying to get something? Or get somewhere?”
One young woman asked the panelists to discuss the nature of consent, and after Resh and Schultz reinforced the critical message of “No means no,” Haenfler added in that the burden of sexual assault is disproportionately placed on women in society.
Besides having safety panels for women, Haenfler suggested a better idea would be having a “How Not to Be A Fucking Rapist” panel for men, to great applause. Another female-empowering message delivered by the panel included Schultz addressing the men in the audience to recognize that relationships are not all about them. Schultz asserted that if men want to be in a relationship that’s rewarding for them, they need to be aware of what women want and work to make sure their partner is happy if they expect to be treated the same.
While all the ideas discussed were important for anyone in college – or anyone having sex for that matter, there was a feeling throughout the room that the speakers were preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, having a public forum for sex discussion is important, and Thursday’s panel was able to cover a variety of topics while maintaining a light but effective attitude.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Sam Goldner at Samuel.Goldner@colorado.edu.
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