Fourth-year communications and media major Morgan Smith felt like she didn’t have anyone to talk to about sex. She felt the subject had a societal stigma around it that made open and frank conversation difficult.
There was nothing holding back the conversation at the Sex-Positive meeting on Mulberry Street on April 24. Everything from consent, sex toys and gender roles, orgasms and queer porn were discussed in detail.
Smith said she found out about the event through the calendar which her friends had showed her. She said she came to the workshop because she thinks it is important to talk about sex in a comfortable and open way.
“Talking about sex is taboo in our culture,” Smith said. “The reason it’s called the Sex-Positive workshop is because we are so sex-negative.”
Marena Mitchell, a first-year graduate printmaking student, and Alison Wilhelmy, a New Paltz alumna, held the Sex-Positive workshop as part of the Hudson Galaxy Gazette, a monthly calendar of free community “skill-shares” and events. They invited students and community members of all sexualities and gender affiliations to attend.
Mitchell said sex positivity covers a realm of ideas.
“Sex positivity is the idea that sex should be for enjoyment, safety and health of everyone partaking,” Mitchell said. “The Sex-Positive movement advocates sex education and safer sex as part of its campaign. It has roots in aspects of the feminist movement, and [it] endorses the pleasure and satisfaction of females, which historically has been ignored.”
Mitchell said our culture has an obsession with purity, yet sexualized images are constantly being pumped into the media and on advertisements. While women are “hyper-sexualized” in our society, it is deemed as dirty and shameful for women to be sexual — meanwhile it’s a rite of passage for men.
The discussion of sex needs to be more frequent and emphasized positively, Mitchell said. She said teaching “abstinence only” in schools and avoiding the topic all together damages youth, leading to increased teen pregnancies, higher rates of rape and sexually transmitted diseases. She said ignorance results in sex anxiety.
“We have a whole generation of young people who are terrified of sex because they have no idea what it means or what actually is happening to their bodies,” Mitchell said.
Wilhelmy said she volunteered to speak at the meeting for these reasons.
“I think it’s important to reach out to people and hold frank, open discussions about sex because there is still so much shame and secrecy around sex and kink,” Wilhelmy said. “Silence only makes things more taboo and makes people hesitant to reach out when they want to learn or need help.”
Both Mitchell and Wilhelmy hoped that people left the workshop more open-minded about sex and more willing to talk about it.
“My biggest hope is that people leave feeling more comfortable to ask for what they want, and to simply talk about sex in a more open way,” Mitchell said. “I hope they leave feeling more confident in saying ‘no’ when they need to. My goal is to provide a safe space for people to learn and grow. I just want people to be having healthy sex and not hurting each other.”