Tuesday, October 29, 2013

It's Time to Talk About Sexversations

Frostburg hosted an event focusing on sexual assault prevention, Sexversations, October 28, 2013 in the lane center. Students gathered in the Atkinson room at 7 pm to hear speakers Kelly Addington and Becca Tieder.  Male and female students all sat in the audience while the two women spoke about the taboo topic of sex. The goal of the program is to create a healthier campus environment by educating students about sexual awareness and consent.

The atmosphere of the room was very nonchalant and felt very personal. The program starts off with the audience making a pledge of respect and privacy. Everyone in the room takes an oath to respect the program and thoughts of everyone in the room. The room really became closer and one as the program progressed. Students could raise their hand to comment on the topics presented on a power point slide show. The power points were categorized into card suits. Clubs represented advancement or as Kelley put it, “Myths, condoms, and the big O and I’m not talking about Oprah.” Sexually transmitted infections and communication between partners was covered under the spade suit. The topic of consent was clearly defined and discussed with the heart suit discussing the topic sexual assault. “Questions for your conscious” or the diamond suit allowed for students to get any questions they had off their mind and really dig into how culture looks at the topic of sex.

The first suit discussed was clubs. The speakers stress that Frostburg, as community, is responsible for better the campus. By ending certain cultural stigmas associated with sex, those engaging in consensual sex are able to freely express themselves, but also victims of unwanted sexual advancements are able to confide in others without shame. Questions were used to break the ice and get the conversations flowing. The audience was able to text in their vote on true or false questions. Some of these racy questions included “ do most people have a nickname for their genitals,” “do both partners climax during sex every time?” and “does what someone eats effect the way genitals taste?” As expected, laughter and giggles were heard from the audience. The speakers were effective in getting students involved in dialogue though.

The point was not to embarrass or make students feel awkward, as Kelley said, “There should be no guilt or shame for making adult decisions.” The language used to describe sex influences the environment in which it is discussed. Using words like "whore" and "slut" keeps sex a taboo, and does not allow for an atmosphere of empowerment. As the program progressed, the topics got more serious. Sexual diseases, safety, what defines promiscuity, and gender roles were just a few topics the program went on to cover. 

Often used interchangeably, audience members were surprised to learn sexual assault can include rape, but does not strictly mean rape. Sexual assault means any unwanted sexual advancements and does not only apply to intercourse or penetration. However, rape means penetration with a weapon. The object used for rape is considered the weapon. The speakers included some starting statics not to scare students but make them aware. A couple of these facts were that “every 2 minutes in the U.S. someone is sexually assaulted,” and “1 in 5 women in college are assaulted.” For sexual assault survivors, creating an environment was sex is not viewed as obscene and dirty is important so they do not feel guilty. The common reaction to hearing a friend or family member was sexually assaulted is violence. When Kelley asked the audience to shout out how they would react, the most common remarks were “kill them,” “anger,” and “ have them arrested them.” The response to learning someone has been assaulted should not be violence, but support for the victim.

Becca shared her own personal story of how she was sexually assaulted in college with the audience. An amazing, strong woman, Becca explained sexual assault from the viewpoint of the victim. Someone struggling with revealing his or her experience with sexual assault does not want to be met with irrational violence. Instead, Becca said the victim need to hear, “It’s not your fault how can I help?” She went on to discuss resources on campus for anyone victimized. It is important for secondary victim, or friends and family of the victim, to realize there are options out there. Not everyone’s solution to sexual assault is going to be pressing charges. How the situation is handled needs to be left up to the victim.

The only way to make change is to talk about “IT,” sex. In 2006, Kelley and Becca founded the Unite for Change Campaign to spread information and promote sexual awareness. The program Sexversation is relatively new with its launch in 2009. Since then, the team have toured campuses nation wide discussing sexual assault, awareness, prevention, and empowerment. For more information about sexual awareness or Becca and Kelly, more information can be found on their website http://kellyandbecca.com. Frostburg needs to embrace change and spread the words. As student Whitley Burns put it in regards to Sexversation, “This school has a rich tradition, be a part of it.”

Here Kelly Addington (on the right) and Becca Tieder (on the left) are seen getting ready for the start of their presentation, Sexversations.

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