THE BLOG
06/05/2014 10:30 am ET | Updated Aug 03, 2014

Sex Talk...Part 2

Let's Talk About SEX...Again.

In an earlier post, I wrote about when I first started speaking on college campuses it was about addictions: eating, drug, and alcohol.

Later on, my agents had asked if could talk about sexual assaults too and I said:
"If it will help anyone else, Yes."

It was a part of my story.
And I knew that if I could save one student from half of the misery and suffering that I had been through, then it was all worth it.

As I worked on my "new topic",
I had old feelings of shame come up, yet I continued to write and re-write the talk. I had lots of support as I geared up for my first "Sex, Drugs, and Alcohol Talk". I was scared but excited to hopefully make a difference.

What really surprised me though, was how everywhere I seemed to go, if I was open about what I was working on, and my "new" topic came up in the conversation, the other person would say: "Oh, yea, me too. That happened to me to, but I never told anybody".
Or
"Oh, that happened to my mom, my brother, my cousin, my roommate, my sister, my girlfriend, my neighbor, and on and on and on."
It was everyone: boys, girls, men, women, gay and straight. Everywhere I went, I heard stories of assault on campuses.

I could not believe it. I was shocked. The more I practiced my talk and got used to talking about sexual assault, the more that everyone around me seemed to be telling me about their experience.

Now I am a very open person. Some friends might say too open, but after years of baring my soul as a comic on the east coast and all over the country, I have developed a thicker skin. Even though, deep down, I am a huge "mush-pot" underneath the tough comedian persona I developed in order to survive.

My point is that because I was getting more comfortable with talking about this, the people around me were too, and they needed and wanted to talk about this painful subject.

The time came for me to do the gig and be the most vulnerable I'd ever been in front of hundreds of strangers. Because I'd put so much work into preparing, I felt relatively calm.
My first, smaller workshop that was just I and the RA's and we did some great work around body image and eating disorders. They LOVED it.
Then after lunch, we had a bigger orientation in front of the freshman plus the RA's and staff.

I launched into my story, and then a few jokes, just to get connected and engaged with the audience.
Remember this was the first time I'd done the sexual assault part in public. Thankfully, I'd bonded well with the audience, but the second I switched to sexual assault, I literally felt everyone's butt clench and the oxygen went out of the room.
Literally.
It was an energetic, collective swoosh, like a big black hole. I felt it in my gut. But I kept going.
I said we need to talk about this so we can educate ourselves and STOP these statistics.

I kept the audience engaged and we all got through this difficult subject together. Afterwards, I had many students come up and hug and thank me, and several shared their assault experiences with me. One guy in particular stands out in my memory.

I'll call him Mark to honor his privacy. He told me: I was just assaulted by another student 2 weeks before. Mark had just been through a break up and was vulnerable. He said: You give me courage to go get some therapy about this, and that I don't have to let it define my college time or any time in my life.
I stayed in touch with Mark and he has done the work he needed to do.

The next day my agent called me and said:
I heard you were great in the morning. And most of them loved you for the "Assault thing", but the booker did get 2 unhappy emails. One said I went too far into my story; and the other one said I seemed to be a bit too flippant about the topic.


At first, I was devastated to get this feedback. I'd put so much into it to try to be as balanced as possible.
They'd said they wanted me to go into my story.
They had said they were ok if we had some laughs together, partly because it helps people retain more when they are having fun.

Luckily, I was visiting some dear friends for the next few days and we processed the experience together.
I realized that sexual assault is a HOT topic. And because it's one of the most intense subjects, someone in the audience is ALWAYS going to get activated.
In other words, if I use jokes to make fun of myself, (never of anyone else or an assault) someone might get offended or perceive that I'm being flippant.

And if I go into my story, even just a little bit, someone might get reactive and perceive that I am being dramatic or wallowing.

I came to the conclusion that I will never be able to please all of the audience with this topic. The reactions are not personal anyway. And my commitment to make a difference in the world and get the statistics down to zero is Way bigger than a few negative comments.

This was a hard pill to swallow since I like to be liked.
But I think of the saying:
Would you rather be right or happy?
Would I rather be liked or make a bigger difference?

The miracle for me, was meeting Mark that day, making a difference with him, and continuing to talk about the tough stuff. I am so grateful that sexual assault on college campuses is such a hot topic right now. And I hope it continues to be in the news until we get it to zero. I am in Edinboro, PA where I will be doing 2day training at the Clery Center. I am excited to see how colleges are integrating the SAVE act legislation. And I will k

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