Sex + began at PLU when Angie Hambrick, Director of the Diversity Center and Jennifer Smith, Director of the Women’s Center, attended a Women’s conference in Wisconsin back in 2009. There, they realized that Pacific Lutheran University needed a more complete view of sex where the emphasis was on healthy relationships and the prevention of relationship violence. From there, Sex + was born and has since been an annual event and a forum for sex and positive reinforcements attached to sex. Its focus is on promoting a satisfying image of one’s own sexuality and self-identity at PLU.
“There were already quite a few Sex + events going on nationwide, but they were all focusing on the fun part of sex,” Angie said. “Sure, sex is fun, but it should also be educational, especially in a college setting. We would hear about condom parties, but the educational aspect of it all was severely lacking. Jennifer and I wanted the Sex + culture and its message to be not only fun, but also communicative where communicating with your sex partner, or partners for that matter, and to express needs freely while exchanging information with one another would be in focus.”
So, what is sex? Well, according to Allena Gabosch, Executive Director of the Center for Sex Positive Culture in Seattle, Wash., sex isn’t necessarily penis in vagina as in intercourse, which many think. “There are many nuances attached to the notion of sex, but if what you’re doing gets you horny and excited, then it may as well be sex – or at least pretty close to it.”
Gabosch, which was very frank when it came to her own sexuality during the Sex +event, shared with open-heartedness how her sex life has made her into the self-confident woman she is today. She shared with the around 30 people who attended the event that she enjoys kinky sex, such as bondage, and sadomasochism due to its non-necessary sexual contact like penetration and oral sex. “There is something about kinky sex that is intriguing and exciting.” She also revealed that she lives a poly-amorous lifestyle, meaning she has multiple lovers simultaneously.
While Allena Gabosch shared many stories of her own sexual experiences throughout her years, Matt Freeman, Director of the Health Center and Matt Munson, Health Educator the Health Center, took a lead on the science of sex, such as the physical and anatomic concepts.
When talking about sex, genitals are bound to be mentioned and during the event, masturbation was frequently brought up. During the event, a hat was sent around for the audience to put a piece of paper with their questions on it anonymously, and the questions were answered by the panelists Freeman, Munson and Gabosch.
Questions such as, “How often is too often?” and “Does masturbation hurt or cause injury?” were answered and the panelists’ answers simply depended on each and every person.
“Masturbating doesn’t hurt as long as you’re doing it right and masturbating thirteen times a day is okay as long as you have time for school or work,” Dr. Freeman said. “Men can get swollen lymph glands from the chafing of the skin of the penis, but masturbating has no physiological danger attached to it.”
Actually, when it comes to masturbation, the implications for not masturbating are far greater. According to Dr. Freeman, “Masturbation is healthy and inflammation of the prostate can in fact occur if a man does not masturbate.”
Allena Gabosch says that there are more psychological issues for women in relationships when they do not masturbate. “Women have a higher risk of becoming detached from their own body and that can ultimately lead to a life where sex is no longer enjoyable.”
She continued by saying, “Despite this, here are many women out there who know their own body and who know how to get off, and it is important to tell their partner what works and what doesn’t work. It’s funny, I had this friend of mine as she once said to her partner in bed, ‘What was that? Do it again.’ I mean, you just have to get out there and tell your partner what you like. They aren’t mind readers, no matter how well you know each other.”
Defining sex and what it is, especially having sex for the first time and how that can change you, was a question that was brought up. Allena Gabosch said, “Losing one’s virginity has a negative connotation to it by referring to something being ‘lost’, especially when it comes to women. It’s as if men do not have anything to ‘lose’ when having sex for the first time.”
Matt Munson, Health Educator the Health Center, said it is, “A social construct in today’s society due to the female’s hymen being breached, therefore society has us thinking that something is therefore automatically lost.”
Abstinence is practical and completely doable and helps preventing pregnancy and STDs. Masturbating in front of each other and learning how one another’s body works is key in a healthy love life,” Munson said. “Communicating with one another, talking and using non-sexual body language can be just as erotic as the actual intercourse.”
“Size doesn’t matter. It’s how they are as lovers and how they act on their sexuality that has the ultimate saying,” said Gabosch.
There were also several questions as to whether birth control causes cancer, such as breast and cervical cancer. “Birth control is the most studied medical component in the history,” said Dr. Freeman. “There is no risk of it causing cancer. The risk is however bigger when smoking or if there is a history of cancer in the family, as well as medical issues.”
Followed by this discussion was the question of why there is no male hormonal contraception.
“In society, as long as we have known it, there has always been the notion of power, especially power relations. Besides that, it is easier to stop one ovulation once a month than 400 million sperm cells up to several times a day,” Munson concludes with a smile.
After the event, many students stayed behind and talked about what they had heard from Dr. Freeman, Munson and Gabosch.
“I thought the topic [of sex] was approached in a very open and professional way. The discussion on virginity was very enlightening and it was approached in a way I had never before thought of. I also liked how the panel represented different areas, from medical, educational, and the diverse perspective of Allena Gabosch. It was a valuable opportunity for students to engage in thoughtful discussion in a welcoming atmosphere.” – Tommy Flanagan ’14
“I thought that it was very informative, nothing was off limits. I think my favorite part was the fact that all of the guest speakers were really candid.” – Dan Stell ’15
The following day, Angie Hambrick was asked what she thinks makes the U.S. so queasy when it comes to the topic of sex. She answered, “Sex is individualistic and although it is shared with someone else, it is still very personal. Sex is personal, not communal, so the thought of sharing something as intimate like sex with a community of people can be somewhat intimidating. There is almost a stigma attached to it where it is a form of societal taboo. Sex is a part of being a human and it is shared, so talking about it so also be shared.”