Armed with glow sticks and questions about sex, students gathered in Rosse Hall the evening of Oct. 27 for an immersive lights-off conversation with two national sex experts, Lindsay Fram and Marshall Miller. As hookups increasingly characterize the social fabric of college campuses in the United States, the Sex Wellness Club anticipated the need for more sex education at Kenyon. Hosting “Sex in the Dark” fit the bill perfectly.
Audience members were able to maintain their privacy at the event by submitting their questions live through an anonymous online platform, Wooclap. Queries with the most upvotes from students received priority in the discussion, with topics ranging from sex tips and consent to self-care pointers and body positivity.
Students learned from the experts that the female orgasm isn’t a myth — it just takes patience. For a person with a vagina, it takes on average 20 minutes of direct stimulation during partnered sex to orgasm, while it takes a person with a penis two to five minutes to do so. The experts further emphasized that, though not impossible, the probability of pregnancy from pre-ejaculate is highly exaggerated in common discourse.
Body positivity was a recurring theme at “Sex in the Dark.” Several students asked for advice on how to feel more confident in their body, especially when it comes to being vulnerable in front of another person. Fram suggested the audience members practice giving compliments to their bodies in front of a mirror every day. She also addressed the shameful way in which society talks about vaginas. “If there’s one thing you remember me saying tonight, it is that your vagina is practically perfect exactly the way that it is,” she said. “You know what? Let me amend that. Your vagina is perfect.”
One student asked, “What if you’re queer and you don’t know whether or not someone else is?” Miller responded that there are lots of ways to navigate the process of trying to gauge if a potential partner is also interested: “One is to be sort of super ‘out,’ yourself, so that they know that you’re queer and this doesn’t come as a surprise to them.” He elaborated that this could be as simple as wearing a rainbow design, placing a symbol in a dating profile or attaching a button to your backpack.
When it comes to navigating sexual encounters if both parties are drunk, Miller said that it can be very complicated. “One thing to be very clear on is that alcohol makes consent much more difficult,” he said. An incapacitated person, who may be vomiting, falling in and out of consciousness or slurring their speech, cannot give consent. Given that many sexual encounters do happen when alcohol is involved, though, Marshall highlighted that each person must take steps to ensure that the other party is enthusiastic about what is going on. He said, “If you’re the one pushing things along, taking things to the next level, you know, kicking things up a notch, it is your responsibility, no matter how drunk you are, to make sure that your partner is consenting.”
As the founder and leader of Kenyon’s Sex Wellness Club, Jesse Leener ’23 aims to help her peers navigate the community’s ambiguous hook-up culture through education and support services like “Sex in the Dark.” Her perspective on what hookups should look like for college students shifted after reading Allison Moon’s Getting It: A Guide to Hot, Healthy Hookups and Shame-Free Sex. The guidebook emphasizes that young people deserve to lead healthy sex lives — not just in serious relationships, but in casual sex interactions, too.
At Kenyon, students may be lacking in this department. Leener said, “There’s a lot of toxic hookup culture where people think that they know what they want, enter a situation and don’t have their clear boundaries established or expressed because they don’t know what their own boundaries are.” The club’s ultimate goal is therefore to help the Kenyon community gain tangible communication skills in various intimate situations.
In regard to tackling the issue of sexual harrasment and assaults on campus, Leener believes education is a crucial step. “In my opinion, the best way to combat sexual violence is to educate people on what healthy sexual relationships look like, not only in committed, monogamous, long-term relationships, but also in casual one-night stands or hookups,” she said.
All in all, Leener was proud of the way the event turned out. “What’s really exciting about these programs is that they remind people that they’re curious and get the conversation going, which is what we need,” she said.
Ultimately, the experts said that good sex has a lot to do with communication. Fram emphasized that humans have been having sex all throughout history, so there is no shame in exploring new things. “Literally in the year 2022, nobody is inventing anything sexual. If you have imagined it, other people have imagined it,” Fram said.
If students are eager to learn more about sex or missed the “Sex in the Dark” event, they can come to Rosse Hall on Nov. 10 at 7:30 p.m. for an event with the same experts, “I <3 Female Orgasm.” Students will receive a free Lion’s Den goodie bag if they preregister for the event.