Since the start of the Spring Semester, I, a junior at Columbia University, have been taking part in a peer-facilitated not-for-credit course called Femsex. First started at UCBerkeley several years ago, the program, designed to debunk the stigma surrounding the open discussion of female sexuality, has now spread to such institutions as Brown, Cornell, Carleton College and Columbia, among many others. In a safe "sex-positive" environment, female students (though the program is open to men, as well) introduce themselves, specifying their "Preferred Gender Pronouns" or "PGPs" and share stories, pose questions, and voice general concerns about what it means to be a woman living her life in the year 2013.
Femsex is meant to empower, to de-stigmatize, and to teach young women that sexuality is something to be embraced rather than suppressed.
In theory, there's nothing wrong with that.
We're in college: It's in our nature to want to flaunt the once hushed-up issues of our parents' generation; scoffing at them for having ever been so "repressed" as to not embrace the topic of female orgasm as easily as they would the weather. It's also in our nature to want to get angry, usually at what we are so quick to call "patriarchy" -- essentially a murky, stand-in term used to refer to anything or anyone that has "marginalized" us (marginalized being another preferred term). This can be anything from Mitt Romney to capitalism, to "hetero-normative" sex, to something which sounds like it pertains to the Occupy Wall Street movement. Is your head spinning yet? Because mine certainly was.
I am all for empowering women through an open discussion of sexuality. Really, I am. I think talking about sex is a healthy and positive thing, especially for girls in college. What I take issue with, however, is the ultra-radical, alienating tone which Femsex has taken. Before starting the program, I didn't realize that I was a "prisoner of the male gaze." I didn't realize that women in professional positions are much more "oppressed" than I ever could have understood. I didn't realize that "feminist" wasn't a term I could just claim -- it was one I had to earn, mostly by being angry about things.
I know that I need to learn about the challenges of being a woman in the 21st century. What I don't need, upon leaving the college bubble and entering the real world, is to be fitted with a mind-set of radicalized victimization. I don't need to be told that because I'm not angry about the use of the word "slut" as an insult, or because I don't masturbate daily, with multiple sex toys, or because I'm not generally more furious with the (as one Facebook friend put it) "homonormative white middle class cisgendered patriarchy," that my experiences are somehow less valid; my opinions less significant because they're too "conservative" for Femsex rhetoric. I want to leave college as an open-minded person. Not as a victim.
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