FemSex Comes to UB
The class begins and the students sit anxiously awaiting the guest speaker. The woman walks to the front of the room and starts to address the class. Her speech is littered with words that are rarely heard inside of a college classroom: pornography, orgasm, and fetish. No one in the crowd giggles or blushes; this is what they signed up for.
The Female Sexuality Workshop, or FemSex, is a free, non-credit, seven-week, closed workshop offered at UB this summer from May to early June, as well as during the Fall 2012 and Spring 2013 semesters. The workshop aims to create a safe and non-judgmental environment that facilitates the discussion of feminine sexuality and provides sexual education.
Kelsey Naughton, a senior in political science and philosophy, works in suicide prevention and often deals with individuals who have issues with their sexuality and identity. To help these individuals, Naughton has attended workshops about feminine sexuality and will continue to do so this summer through enrolling in FemSex.
For two hours every week, two student facilitators - Elise Blasingame and Michelle Wilczewsk, two graduate students in the school of social work - will choose the topics. The class will delve into subjects like anatomy and physiology, cultural influences on sexuality, body image, STIs and safer sex, reproductive choices, solo sex, partner sex and relationships, gender identity, orgasms and inhibitors to orgasms, pornography, and kinky sex practices.
"This is an important project that hasn't been done [at UB] before," Blasingame said. "It didn't seem there was a specific space here to both learn about it in a theoretical and intellectual level and also to share experiences."
Blasingame was introduced to the workshop when she was an undergraduate student at Cornell University, where she decided to check out the program.
She also works with the UB Society of Feminists (UBSoFem), a campus-based feminist organization that works to reduce misogyny. The participants aim to increase social justice by providing a forum for issues related to social reform and speaking out against and challenging sexism, racism, and other expressions of prejudice. The group also facilitates educational opportunities.
"To take control of your own body and to allow yourself to express desire is crucial to women's empowerment and development," said Kari J. Winter, Director of the Gender Institute. "In mainstream culture, we are exposed to a range of destructive images and ideas related to women's sexuality. Therefore, women need to explore and develop their own forms of self-expression and UB FemSex offers women at UB a valuable alternative space for such explorations."
Not only is this workshop open to all undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff and members of the Buffalo community, it also welcomes people of all genders, sexes, and sexual orientation to explore their sexuality and sexual identity in a safe and supportive community.
The one requirement to be in the class is that all members must be at least 18 years old.
Naughton plans to take FemSex over the summer. She hopes to be able to apply it to the Suicide Prevention Center.
This class will include a guided discussion with readings, assignments, introspection, short videos and a final project on female empowerment at the end of the class.
"There will be many guest speakers coming in throughout the class for all the different modules," Blasingame said. "Depending on the module, some of them will be sex workers and many others, to see their perspectives and see what they have to say."
Open-mindedness, confidentiality, and acceptance are some features required to be in the class, according to Blasingame.
"Don't yuck my yum," Blasingame said. "Be willing to learn and listen to perspectives that are different that yours."
The class was originally started by students at the University of California at Berkeley in 1993 and is now being taught at Brown, Harvard, Cornell, Columbia and other universities across the country. The program began as an initiative to build a strong women's community that focused on providing support and using empowerment as the basis for social change.
FemSex strives to bring those values of empowerment to UB - starting this summer.