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February 16, 2006

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Wendy Shalit

Meghan, much as we'd all love to get regular updates on FemSex, I have to admit that it sounds like you made the right decision.

It's great to try to open people's minds to options they might not otherwise consider, but at best, it sounds like your perspective would not be well received. More likely, you would encounter outright hostility and perhaps be asked to leave anyway. You are, after all, challenging the very premise of their gatherings (sorry, I can't really bring myself to write "seminar").

How about starting a seminar that would be competitive, and would run at the same time? Call it ModSex. I'm serious, it could be funny and draw a lot of students. The Princeton students have had a lot of success with their Anscombe society, and I'll bet there is a demand at Harvard for an alternative as well.

Instead of watching porn films and visiting sex shops, you could visit local Orthodox families and watch "Ushpizin." (In case you've never heard of the film, I recommend it highly:

http://www.opinionjournal.com/taste/?id=110007628

If you want to talk about more ideas or need some help in making flyers, etc., I would be happy to help. I also know a few female Harvard undergraduates who might want to get involved.

Let me know!

Mary B.

I'll second Wendy's suggestions. You have made a wise decision not to attend this freak show and you obviously have the motivation, compassion and intellect to implement a constructive seminar of your own. How much longer will these people drag out the 70's-I-Am-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar-Sexual-Liberation garbage? Their message is old and worn and tired. Bringing it to the academic level and forcing students to sign a contract is not going to enlighten people. I look forward to your fresh message turning into a meme real soon.

Ron P.

Great decision! When trying to catch lions, it is better to take them one at a time rather than wading into the middle of the pride! Love your site! My wife & I both waited until marriage and have enjoyed 42 years of very happy marriage. Your site will help us steer our grand daughters in the right direction.

L.B.

I have to agree with the other commenters that you made the right decision. It also amuses me that in surveying the entire sexual landscape available to "liberated" young women, there isn't a peep about abstinence or consecrated celibacy. Why? Those are part of sexuality, too. Is it boring? Not hip enough? If this event were at my college, I would have written to the organizers asking why this is.

SRM

Jesus stated: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves." --Matthew 7:15

Good advice for anyone of any faith.

The organizers of this class are the "false prophets" of sexual freedom. True sexual freedom comes from a total committment to one person within the bounds of marriage.

In Thessalonians 5:22, the apostle Paul wrote: "Abstain from all appearance of evil." And in this particular case, I can't find any better advice to give.

Don't go there...

Keep up the good work ladies.

Reid

auds

Not being in a arts faculty, I haven't experienced those kind of assignments - thankfully! I don't think they're part of academia in Ireland anyway.

I posted on my experience of romance, sex and Valentines at my blog -
http://realitycheckdotie.blogspot.com/2006/02/chocolate-sex-valentines-and-popes.html

The idea of an alternative seminar is an excellent idea, one I hope you have success with.

lizriz

Man, I'm fairly liberal, and I find this whole thing pretty shocking. Just... UG, you know?

The idea of an alternative seminar is a good one.

Meghan Grizzle

Thanks for all the comments! Hmm, an alternative seminar sounds like a great idea. It also sounds like a big undertaking. I'm definitely interested in modeling something on the Anscombe Society at Princeton--I've been to its website before and I admire and respect what Nene and Cassandra do. I would need a lot of support though . . .

I'm not sure what its role will be, but the Harvard Republican Club has just created a caucus called "Republicans for Traditional Family Values." Maybe they will be able to deal with something along these lines with my input.

sunnyday

So when is the 1st ModSex seminar? =)

It sure is amusing that people actually attend those FemSex things considering the topics they take up. I think "Twilight Zone" is a fitting term...

When the ModSex seminar schedule is drawn up, be sure to post it here! It's a wonderful idea and I'm sure you'll get even the support of many parents who genuinely care about their children!

The best of luck to you, Meghan! And congratulations for deciding to pass up the FemSex thing.

Margaret

Hi--

I was actually passed this link by a friend. I am a brown student, and took femsex two years ago.

I can understand your shock at this, but the whole premise of the workshop is to meet with other people who have different experiences and different ideas. The idea of the safe-space is that people are respectful of other peoples ideas. You certainly would not be kicked out of the class, or ridiculed for any reason. We had many religiously and socially conservative members of the class, in addition to the people that you are referring to as "i am woman hear me roar" types. sexuality is a fact of life, and if you wait to have sex until you get married, then that is great for you, but maybe not for everyone.

i think you are being pretty harsh in calling it a "freakshow." you criticize other people for not wanting to listen to your ideas. how about in turn you listen to other peoples'? theyre not trying to bring you to a "dark side" but rather to become comfortable with yourself, your body, and your sexuality, however that may be.

Mister Nice Guy

If you were to organize your own seminar, would you be willing to allow it to be a safe space for women to speak their minds and voice any opinion on the subject?

Since you never attended, you don't know how "open" FemSex is, but be sure that someone will attend both seminars, and will draw comparisons.

Anonymous

Watch out girls, Mister Nice Guy is no Nice Guy--the kind of guy we actually all prefer avoiding. Don't bother visiting his site--according to his website, he's just an aimless man with no goal except to have uncommitted cheap sex. And he admits he's married.

As for Margaret, maybe you'd like Mister Nice Guy.

Meghan is very open minded! Thanks Meghan--great remarks. And great decision to avoid a ridiculous event.

admin

Good point, anon--link to 'Nice Guy's site and to his invitation to adultery has been removed. We definitely don't want to help him out.

Sean

Megan,

Although I find your writing style and conveyance of information engaging, I find the pronounced lack of actual experiences or data to back up your claims somewhat troubling. Specifically, you admit yourself that you went to an introductory meeting at which you asked no questions, spoke to nobody, and left without having your world-view challenged in any significant way (by conventional standards in social psychology). Despite the religious rhetoric in the comments above, I would recommend that you take an open-minded look at those things that make your "jaw drop." Do you know anybody from femsex? Do you have any empirical data that suggest that classes like femsex result in the negative outcomes you've described? I would venture that the answer to both of these questions is unfortunately no.

The reality is that the vast majority of the empirical data out there have demonstrated incredible gains in self-esteem among women who have engaged in sexuality workshops. I know it is uncomfortable for people in America to talk about sexuality, and much more comfortable (and less threatening) to explore one's sexuality much later in life, but ignoring one's sexuality is psychologically damaging.

I will admit that some of the assignments and guest speekers in femsex could be percieved as questionable, but the same could be said of theories described in classes taught by Mankiw and Sandel. I would no sooner get rid of these valuable classes on morality and economics than make the sweeping generalizations you've made here about femsex. Perhaps what sets femsex apart for so many people is its focus on female sexuality. That, in and of itself, is not a legitimate reason to describe a class in the manner you have chosen to above. Perhaps what makes it "questionable" is a misguided belief that one can be "harmed" by information. It is my understanding that more information can only further inform us, helping to make us better, more knowledgable, more caring, and more self-respecting individuals. If you do not find the views expressed in femsex to be useful to you, you have the right to ignore them. But it wouldn't hurt you (at all) to try to be open minded about the content and purpose of the class (increasing self-esteem through sexual empowerment).

Finally, to the individuals who have posted comments, please do not forget that the guest speekers and participants in the class (no matter how much they differ from you in their views and behaviors) are people too, and as such are also God's children.

Maja Parla

So,

Frankly, all you guys are morons. I know my post may not be published as the author has the ultimate privilege of deciding to post it or not, but I'll give you my two anyway.
The thing is, women have frequently confused sexual liberation with sexual lewdness. That's fine. But the feeling I get is that this workshop actually attempts to free small-minded, anti-feminist provincialists like yourselves from the chains of patriarchy. That doesn't mean going out and becoming a stripper--in most cases, those women are oppressed, as well. (And I imagine the field trip to the strip joint is *actually *one of criticism--but I'll find out for you when I attend.) But it's amazing to me to see how oblivious and naive you all are about what's going on around you. Much luck. You'll probably do well in the world, because patriarchy wants you to buy *into* its fantasy that men are "not" oppressing women every day, etc. But to actual feminists, you'll never be anything but the oppressors' (and not *necessarily* all men's) co-conspirators. Traitors, if you will, of your own freedom: pliable, obsequious, sycophantic, servile--complicit in your own oppression.

j

Hi Meghan,

I grew up in a very conservative country, with a highly conservative family and have somewhat similar positions on some topics as you do, strongly believe abstinence is the best way to avoid STIs, that women are often objectified by the Porn Industry, that abortion may not be the best option in all cases, that we ought to work alongside with men...

BUT I did take FemSex, I did because I found it imperative to learn from others, to listen and understand why we think differently and if it is worth remarking our differences.

In return, I found an incredibly supportive and respectful group, where diversity was celebrated and everyone, yes, I said everyone, was encouraged to participate.

So I am sorry to say, you are missing out. FemSex, as many other spaces ought to be demystified and quite frankly I can barely think of other settings where both your opinion, mine and everyone else´s who could potentially participate, would be respected and barely, if ever, be judged.

If you still have a chance to get into the workshop for next semester, I would highly encourage you to do so. Not with the intention to open your mind or change your view point, but to share with others what you find important, learn from multiple perspectives and quite probably confirm your beliefs on issues you mention. But only after seeing and understanding that there is more to the World that our single way of seeing life. You would be surprised by seeing how much you would learn, how many times people participating in the workshop might agree with you and how far FemSex is from being your so-called "freakshow".

Much luck,

j

michelle

SO, for the femsex article- all the activities, speakers, discussions, and events are true.
While I understand why the author would feel this way about some of the stuff we do in femsex, I find this viewpoint to be one of the reasons why we do these activities. I think some of the shock and disapproval the author expresses comes from a social-norm-espousing point rather than a logical "why this shouldn't be done" reasoning. Also, some of the things the author points out seems to be out of ignorance of what the class does.

To go over the article in more detail:

"Assignments include coloring an anatomical diagram from the C*** Coloring Book, doing an erogenous exploration exercise, and let’s not forget the creative writing exercise—writing your sexual fantasy (don’t worry, it’s anonymous)."
Here the author doesn't actually provide any argument against what is listed, these unusual activities seem to be listed for shock effect and already introduces scorn for them without asking why the activities are performed.
The C*** Colorings were meant to show the women how they are all naturally different and to help eliminate this seemingly pervasive suppression of the woman's genitalia (do you remember when douches were widely encouraged because apparently the lady's private parts were "dirty" and "stinky"? There was no medical reason for this, turns out that douching is harmful)
The erogenous exploration exercise refers to finding your G-spot. The assignment was optional, in fact, all the assignments are technically optional because the class doesn't force you to do anything you're not comfortable with. The point of this activity was to familiarize yourself with your own body and to know what turns you on so that you can experience better pleasure. Again, this assignment is optional (in fact, I didn't do it, but mostly cus I never got around to it), but still, I find it good thing to understand your body (this appears to be socially unacceptable for women). Holistically, the consequences include both men and women not understanding the women's parts and not understanding how to handle them.
On a related note, writing a sexual fantasy is a way of accepting and being open with sex/sexuality instead of condemning, oppressing, and negatively portraying it. This is not the same as being sex-obsessed, promoting copious amounts of sex, or objectifying people in a sexual way. The class promotes healthy, positive sex. Which is also what porn night (also optional) is about. We discuss and distinguish mainstream and negative porn from sex-positive porn (I did not know this existed before the class).

"women wouldn’t need to be empowered if they stopped calling themselves victims and instead worked alongside men...But I do know that as long as we’re watching a film entitled “When Abortion Was Illegal,” being told how great polyamory is, and discussing self-love and masturbation, it can never be a safe, comfortable space for me."

The first sentence shows how little the author knows about the class and maybe about society as well. The fact is, women have been and consequently still are, oppressed to varying degrees and, in some cases, on subtle levels. To achieve equality, we have to recognize and be aware of the forms of oppression. This is what the class helps us do. We are not women simply calling ourselves victims, in fact, in class we try to disuse the word "victim" because it implies a sense of powerlessness and inequality. The author is implying that women calling themselves victims is the most oppressive force they face, that if they stopped and "worked alongside men" we wouldn't need to be empowered. First, we do work with men (men are definitely allowed and are in the classes). Second, to assume that our gender is to be blamed for our current, overall lower, social standing wrongly depicts the women's rights movement and really shows a lack of knowledge of the history surrounding the oppression of women.
We did watch a film called "When Abortion Was Illegal", which was supposed to be a historical documentary, but at the same time supported abortion rights. This film was educational, but it really ended up fueling pro-choice sentiments and while I strongly align myself with pro-choice, I can't deny that the film combined with the popular berkeley perspective of the class could be interpreted as propaganda. The polyamory discussion is really meant to provide knowledge to people because the general perception of polyamory is very ostracizing and uninformed. One of our sections is self-pleasuring, which again, is one of those things depicted as sex-obsessed, dirty, or even 'sinful'.

It becomes apparent that many of the dissenters of this class, including the author, come from a religious standpoint and possibly, also an anti-feminist standpoint (probably because feminism is negatively portrayed as extremist and too passionate). It may be that they oppose this class as an emotional response to what they perceive as a contradiction to their moral belief systems. Otherwise, I don't see a strong flow of logic in this article.

J (Femsex is a freakshow) U

Femsex is ridiculous. A couple years ago, at Brown, the female sexuality workshop advertised by putting pictures of vulvas on slips of paper and putting them in the Brown cafeteria.

When confronted with the fact that this is inappropriate, Femsexers were taken aback. For opposing the workshop, I've been called a misogynist pig, it has been insinuated by some that I am a closeted homosexual, and there have been other various insensitive accusation and name-calling.

Esme

I have a lot of the same opinions as you do, Megan. But I am currently a student in Femsex at Berkeley. I must admit, some of the topics do alarm me, but the point of the class is to explore each other's opinions and experiences. Although I tend to be more conservative than most, I have never felt objectified or offended in class. They really do make it a safe place, no matter how you view the topics being discussed. And as for the assignments, if you don't feel comfortable doing a particular assignment, they would never make you. You have the option to do alternate assignments. The point of the class is to give you different perspectives and make you feel comfortable as a woman. Our society is shocking, but knowledge is power, and I really believe that anyone and everyone would benefit from a class like femsex. It really isn't as shocking as your first impression. You will never be forced to do anything or made to feel uncomfortable, and if you do, speak up because it will be corrected. I have never responded to anything on the internet, but I feel that this was something that should be addressed. I'm not going to say you made the wrong decision by not joining, if you feel that you didn't belong in the class then you shouldn't be there. But I must say, this is by far the most enriching class I have ever been a part of and I think everyone would enjoy it and learn more about themselves.

Shanna

Femsex sounds interesting, I kinda wish I had the opportunity to go. If you weren't comfortable with the material, you probably made the right choice in not attending.

"I’m still trying to grapple with the fact that without me, these women might not hear a sensible, critical view of sexual liberation and total “self-ownership.” The onus is on me, I keep telling myself, to bring them out of the Twilight Zone."

You would be upset if someone called your modesty an excuse for being spineless, weak and ashamed of your body and sexuality, and thought it was up to them to bring you out of the dark ages. You would be upset because they don't actually know you, and are making judgements about personal parts of yourself that you have clearly done a lot of thinking and soul-searching on. So why would you make such a harsh judgement on other people, especially without getting to know them and their reasons?

I'm glad to say that the posts on this blog have grown alot in terms of maturity and grace over the years.

Ashley the FemSexy

Hello,

I am a former "FemSexy" (i.e. someone who has taken FemSex) of UC Berkeley. I came across your post and wanted to clarify a few points that you made. I appreciate your point of view and thank you for giving the class some, maybe unintentional, buzz. I get the feeling that you believe your views would not be welcome considering the curriculum "seems" to lean towards a more liberal view of sexuality. However, your views would be very accepted and appreciated if you truly brought them out in a way that kept the space "safe." Safe space doesn't mean a lack of diverse opinions, it just means that your opinions will be shared in a respectful way. To bring up a FemSex phrase safe space means, "you don't yuck anyone's yum." This means that If I like bondage and you don't, I can express that to you and you would respect my sharing by keeping out personal judgement. The same would go for you expressing your preference for sexual abstinence. The fact is, there were many students in my class who were abstinent and their decision to be abstinent was motivated by their Christian faith. The beauty of FemSex is that people with diverse interests and backgrounds can come together, discuss common issues dealing with female sexuality and learn from one another. Your view would be one of many that are appreciated and contribute to the richness and value of the FemSex program. That said, I hope you reconsider your decision and take a closer look at who is taking the class. Maybe start a chat with some former/current students. I bet you will be surprised how open people's minds are.

ilana

"But I do know that as long as we’re watching a film entitled “When Abortion Was Illegal,” being told how great polyamory is, and discussing self-love and masturbation, it can never be a safe, comfortable space for me."

Safe and comfortable are not the same. Safety is a matter of violence, trauma and something folks who are historically oppressed (eg, womyn, folks of color, transgender folks, etc) have had to routinely pay attention to in every space they are. Comfort is much less threatening and refers to ideas, images, and anything that challenges what we know or are used to already. It sounds like you were uncomfortable, but unsafe is quite drastic and a little dramatic.

The "Safe Space" that FemSex refers to is to ensure that judgement, bigotry and disgust do not continue to oppress people who are targeted daily by patriarchy, capitalism and our social institutions based on white, male, able-bodied heteropatriarchy. Like I said, after reading your post, it is clear that FemSex made you uncomfortable. But without the threat of violence, rape, exploitation that are disproportionally experienced by minorities of all kinds-- I'm sorry to say that a threat to your safety is much different than the discomfort you felt by your own bigotry.

FemSex has a political agenda. And that is to send the message that we can be whoever you want to be: sexually charged or modest and everything in between. That we all can sit at the same table and make space for one another's ideas. The problem is that the world is FULL of the Religious, wait-til-marriage (because everyone is heterosexual and has access to marriage) ideas, while TALKING and creating space for sexual women is in the minority. And since we all know the difference between equity and equality, FemSex serves to throw that disproportional use of space in the other direction. I won't judge your asexuality as long as you don't judge my hypersexuality (but we're a little late for that). I am not objectified, nor am I "small-minded." Not only am I in full control of my pleasure and body (and no longer constantly hating my body and in fear of rape like I was before FemSex), but I am about to graduate with a double masters in Public Policy and Social Work from UW (and graduated with my BA from Berkeley years earlier-- not to mention all the brilliant womyn who don't have the privilege of/access to higher education).

FemSex is a Revolutionary group. And if you have no interest in changing the way womyn are forced to live (ie, sexuality-less, self-hate-ful), then there is no reason for you to be there. Instead of acting superior, just walk away and acknowledge that something just isn't right for you.

Nurit Weizman

The discrimination that many religious, modest, and/or socially conservative women receive in society and in liberal and radical spaces is real and scary. Unfortunately, it is often unknown, silenced, ignored or seen as of secondary importance. I currently learn at a Jewish seminary and it is a well-known fact that pretty much every girl here who became religious received much discrimination for doing so. Much of my own humiliation came from women studies and liberal classroom settings. I have personally seen people attacked for even mentioning a more conservative opinion (myself included). My community is often portrayed as an abusive and Nazi-like group by liberal media--something which doesn't make us feel so safe.

A Myn

And the last two posts are your problem in a nutshell. I'm sure the Author would go hoping to meet people like Ashley the FemSexy but is probably going to get a lot more Ilana.

Shanna

Nurit, I really am sorry for the discrimination you faced. However the original poster gave a similarly abusive attitude and tone towards the FemSex program and participants. Just as it isn't right for someone to discriminate your choice to be modest, it's not right for Meghan Grizzle to claim that the participants in FemSex are in "the Twilight Zone" and in need of saving. How ((and sadly, someone probably did say something like this to you, and I'm sorry)) would you like it if someone claimed they needed to save you from the brainwashing of Judaism by sexing you up? You wouldn't, it would be cruel, and dismissive of your own autonomy, just like this post has been to the participants of FemSex.

And keep in mind, some of us were "liberal, non-religious, immodest" girls in religious/socially conservative communities. We've been discriminated against too.

NL

Nurit, I couldn't agree more. In my university, we are supposed to accept anything and everything in terms of lifestyle, sexual preference, and beliefs -- unless those beliefs are religiously conservative. In other words, if you are an animist, then you are okay, but if you are, say, a fundamentalist Christian or a Mormon, then forget about it, you are backward and crazy. I often felt like a wolf in sheep's clothing in my grad classes -- the "open-minded" people I was in class with would say very bigoted things about religious belief (which I get, to a certain extent, because some religious people are absolutely awful in the way they treat others). It just always struck me as quite a hypocritical contradiction, to wave the banners of free expression and liberalism, with a secret exception of no sexual conservatism allowed.

And let me just add that "sexual conservatism" does not mean "no sex" or "I prefer abstinence." Human beings crave sex, no matter what their religious beliefs. Sexual conservatism just means that we value a slower, more careful approach to sex and sexually-charged situations, because of the power they hold.
People who choose sexual restraint do not do so because they have nothing to restrain -- they do so precisely because they do have something to restrain.

Jenna

I took FemSex at Cal, and while many other commentators have already made most of the points I had while reading your article, there were some left unmentioned. (Sorry for this being so long, I just really wanted to share this.)

First, a disclaimer: I identify as Asexual. I am not attracted to any sex or gender, and I am not generally interested in having sex with other people. Having said that…FemSex is quite possibly the best thing that has ever happened to me. I went in to FemSex believing that it is all about sex. The difference between you and me, though, is that I hated my Asexuality (not to say that you identify as Asexual, of course). I felt like a freakshow, that I was broken or damaged or whatever, and I was hoping that FemSex would make me a sexual person—straight gay, omni, I seriously did not care—much like certain homophobic extremists hope to use the “scared straight” tactic on LGBT youth. But it was FemSex that actually allowed me to feel comfortable as a quirkyalone Ace, and that has given me so much confidence.

FemSex isn’t all C*** coloring, self-pleasure, and polyamory. Those units are some of the more fun units, and occur between the truly remarkable units of the class. One of the very first units was Power and Privilege, and it dealt mostly with the realities of sexism, racism classism, and homophobia. It had nothing to do with “I am woman hear my roar,” as you say, and more about breaking down boundaries and fostering open, honest discussion. It was about connecting with people around you and learning about humanity in all its amazing diversity.

Another of the “meatier” units was the body image project. Sure, sex was mentioned, and for some sex was inextricably intertwined with their body image. For others like myself, sex barely enter the picture, and yet all benefitted from examining on why we hold such hatred for the bodies that are our homes. The focus wasn’t on how to have a rockin’ bod so as to best get laid, but on nourishing our bodies as we do our minds, on finding the inner strength to love and respect and nourish our bodies as we do our minds.

The crescendo of the course was absolutely the Violence Against Women project. No matter what anyone’s views on sexuality or modesty may be, gendered and sexual violence is a reality, and the more informed and individual is, the more empowered she/he/ze is. I actually felt that this part of the class should be mandatory for all American children to be taught in school. Some of the commenters have accused you and your readers of being accessories to the patriarchy, and the discussions that occurred in this FemSex unit might have shed some insight onto why they feel so strongly. The most amazing experience of FemSex that I had came in this unit—it was the Violation assignment. Basically you all got together in a safe-space group and shared stories of how you had been wronged. Said as simply as that, it sounds like a bunch of whiners complaining about how life is hard, blah blah blah, but it wasn’t. It had a support-group feel to it. I shared my history of medical abuse, and FemSex was the ONLY time that someone did not try to blame me for what happened, belittle the utter terror I felt in the situation. FemSex was a safe space for everyone in that room, and everyone worked together to make it safe for everyone regardless of their stance on sex/modesty/etc. The experience was so powerfully healing and it encapsulates everything that FemSex is to me.

FemSex wants to help guide you on a journey towards self-love. FemSex is there to empower you by giving you knowledge, because while knowledge may be uncomfortable, it is never harmful. FemSex taps into your emotions and radically changes the way you see the world. FemSex will not hold you down and force-feed you the idea of sex-as-liberation, but rather it will challenge all the stereotypes and opinions you hold and make you think critically about them. Some of the convictions I went FemSex with were left behind, but others came out reaffirmed and served not only to empower me as an individual, but motivated me to bring my new-found confidence and self-esteem to others. FemSex made me not just a stronger woman but also a better and more open-minded human being who believes she can be a positive force in this world.

Frankly I see the other units of FemSex—the units you describe as being a “freakshow”—as a shock-value type hook for getting people into a program dedicated to women’s empowerment in all forms, much like “The Vagina Monologues” uses its attention-grabbing name for attracting an audience to hear its anti-violence message. FemSex IS radical because of how utterly accepting it is.

Obviously I can only speak to my experiences at Cal and I cannot say anything about any of the other FemSex programs, but it is the words of Audre Lorde come to mind when I think of FemSex: “The fact that we are here and that I speak these words is an attempt to break that silence and bridge some of those differences between us, for it is not difference which immobilizes us, but silence. And there are so many silences to be broken.”

---

[I also posted a comment on “Soft Violence Against Women,” and I just wanted to say that I didn’t notice some of the grammar errors until after I posted. I swear I’m not an uneducated idiot, and I apologize for the mistakes.]

JME

Meghan,

While I can't speak for FemSex at your college, I can say that your assumptions about "being told how great polyamory is," for instance, could not be farther from my experience.

I, a politically conservative, religious student, took FemSex at Brown quite recently, and can only say that it has been one of the best experiences of my life.

I certainly hear your qualms about being presented with beliefs that you find harmful. But, as long as I went into the section with an open mind and a willingness to allow others to speak for themselves, I found that, in return, others were entirely respectful of my personal choices and values. And, as a matter of fact, despite Brown's reputation as a bastion of [fill-in-the-blank], I was certainly not the only one in my fifteen-person section to express such views.

To quote your article, "I thought, perhaps naively, that I would be able to participate. That I could go in each time, listen to other women’s stories without judging, and then give my own perspective. That abstinence until marriage is the best way to avoid STD’s and is in fact a pretty liberating thing..."

This is, indeed, how FemSex works. The key, for me, was to avoid judging others. As long as I presented my beliefs as "what's best for me," rather than with the pretensions to universality of "what's best for everyone," I upheld the safe space and was welcomed with respect and attentive ears. But one thing that does make such a space unsafe is unilaterally deeming others to be living in a "Twilight Zone" - whether you believe so or no. It is not a space for telling others that they should not be having sex. However, neither is it a space for others telling you that you should be. It is perfectly legitimate, and, moreover, productive, to stand up for yourself and your own beliefs, and to say, "BDSM is not for me," and, "Abortion is not for me." My expressions of such beliefs were welcomed with respect and interest by my fellow section members, as long as I did not claim that these beliefs applied to all humanity.

Joe

Meghan, I rarely comment online, but I wanted to tell you I appreciate that you allowed all of these comments through, not just the ones that agreed with you (assuming you are still moderating the comments). There are many very thoughtful people with different values who've read this article! (Personally, I'd delete a few of the early poor comments because I almost didn't get to the more recent ones...)

I'd love to read a follow-up response from you on this topic, if you have one, linked to from here. How do you feel about this 7 years later?

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