Sex education program draws large audience of Lawrence students

Amy Sandquist and Emily Koenig

Lawrence students crowded into the Hurvis Room in the Warch Campus Center Monday, May 10, to attend “The Female Orgasm,” an event primarily sponsored by the Downer Feminist Council. “The Female Orgasm” was hosted by sex educators Marshall Miller and Jocelyn Benson.
Several campus organizations collaborated to bring Miller and Benson to campus. DFC, the Office of Multicultural Affairs, SHARB, the Class of 1965 Activity Grant, Wellness Committee, GLOW, V-Day and SOUP all contributed to funding the presentation.
Benson and Miller began the presentation by discussing cultural representations of and attitudes toward the female orgasm, including pointing out the way we can absorb information from magazine covers without even needing to read the articles.
Marie Straquadine, a member of DFC, believes that “The Female Orgasm” presentation was “important to bring to campus because women’s sexuality is rarely discussed.” She also noted that DFC was “interested in [Benson and Miller’s presentation] because of the way it tries to be inclusive of men and people who identify as LGBT” instead of just focusing on heterosexual women.
Benson and Miller attempted at all times to use inclusive language and emphasize their acceptance of the flexibility of the gender spectrum. In the middle of the program, the audience was requested to split into three groups: women, men and those who prefer not to separate or identify themselves in those terms.
These groups then took time to share more personal experiences and stories. The women’s group discussed what information they had received about masturbation when younger – ranging from “it’s a sin” to “it’s okay, but keep the door closed” to the vast majority of the audience having received no information at all – and shared stories of first orgasm experiences.
The final part of the program involved presenting more practical, anatomical information to the audience. Benson and Miller stressed that much of this information is frequently alluded to in popular culture and media but is rarely presented to women in enough straightforward detail to prove useful.
Benson’s interest in promoting sexual health began during her time as an undergraduate. While attending Wellesley College, Benson was president of the college’s Sexual Health Educator group. She went on to receive a Master of Public Health from Yale University.
Benson and Miller met when Benson brought Miller to speak about sex education at Wellesley. Miller explained, “I’ve been teaching sex ed at colleges for about nine years, and we hired [Benson] and added her to our team of speakers last year.”
Straquadine was excited to see so many Lawrence students attend Monday night’s presentation. She attributes the large turnout to the number of student groups involved in organizing Miller and Benson’s program.
“We tried to advertise in several different ways, and I think one of the reasons there was such a good turnout was because so many different groups helped fund and organize the program and were then able to promote it by word of mouth,” she said.
The two speakers were also enthusiastic about the large crowd. Miller said, “It was really fun to see that room fill up!” He added, “Apparently your school is all about the O!”
Early in the program, the speakers joked that pledging to stop faking orgasms should be the new “Lawrence Difference.” Reacting to the size of the crowd, Miller quipped, “I can’t wait to hear if the pledge to stop faking orgasms really does define the Lawrence Difference in a whole new way.”
When asked about the goals of their presentation, Miller stated, “I hope women and men will leave more comfortable with female sexuality, and more empowered to talk and learn more, regardless of whether they’re sexually active now or won’t be for a long time.”
In addition, Benson noted, “People grow up learning about all the things that can go wrong when it comes to sex: disease, assault, unwanted pregnancy. Those are important, but I want to make sure we don’t forget about to talk and teach about the importance of sexual pleasure, too. For most people,
that’s a joyful part of being alive.