Speaker Series gives sex talk

Emily Ceithamer

Activist Jaclyn Friedman speaks to students about how sex should be integrated into our everyday communication.
[/media-credit] Activist Jaclyn Friedman speaks to students about how sex should be integrated into our everyday communication.

UW Oshkosh Speaker Series welcomed activist Jaclyn Friedman to speak about the importance of affirmative consent and speaking openly about sex on Sept. 29. Friedman is an editor, writer and performer who speaks to spread the word about how culture is presenting sex and the changes that can be made to help us live in a better society for everyone. The Speaker Series aims to bring speakers to campus who can benefit the student community and open up new ideas. Speaker Series Chair Christopher Owen thought Friedman fit very well into this mission statement. “It’s a tricky conversation to have with students, but it’s an important conversation to have as well,” Owen said. “She’s very funny. She makes it easy to talk about a tough topic.” While the topic of sex can often be difficult to talk about, Friedman set the audience at ease and incorporated humor while speaking to make it more of a conversation and less of a lecture. Friedman’s main focus was on the topic of the “commodity model.” Friedman prefers to use the word “commodity” over “objectify” because of the overuse of the word. The commodity model explains that women are responsible for “saving” their virginity, while men are responsible for taking it. Friedman said this is extremely problematic and makes sex seem like a business transaction. To make sex less of a business transaction and more of a social interaction, attendees were given information about how to start possibly awkward conversations about sex and the importance of having those conversations in the first place. Friedman used the metaphor of sex being like a jam session; you have to know what types of instruments you both play, or what type of music you both like if you want it to be enjoyable for both parties. You have to be paying full attention to the person you are jamming with. “If you aren’t able to show up and pay attention [to that other person] then you’re not ready,” Friedman said. UWO student McKenzie Valenta was very interested to see how Friedman would present her ideas to a crowd of students and realized adults have a hard time talking about sex openly as well. “I think a lot of people in the crowd were shocked when she was talking openly about sex,” Valenta said. “She talks a lot about how we’re not used to that and that we’ve never had adults talk to us about it like that.” Friedman also brought up that placing importance on virginity and abstinence is the same as sexualizing someone, as it stresses that a virgin is a more valuable commodity. “People don’t realize that the first one to sexualize Miley Cyrus was Disney by insisting that she be a pure, innocent [virginal] character,” Friedman said. Friedman said the way she handles such topics that play into the commodity model, such as Disney movies, are all a matter of a balanced diet. “I can critique a piece of media and enjoy it at the same time,” Friedman said. “It’s the difference between having a bag of potato chips every once in a while and if you went to the cafeteria and the only thing they were serving was potato chips. You would be outraged. You would demand better options.” Many of the ideas from the presentation can be passed along as tips for everyday life, and Friedman agrees with that philosophy. “Some of the tips I gave for good sexual communication are just good tips for communication, any kind of tricky communication,” Friedman said. “Sex should be more integrated into our lives. We think about it as this secret, apart thing, but we should be approaching it with the same ethics that we use for the rest of our lives.” Friedman wants to continue talking to college campuses and spreading her message as far as she can. “I want to model the shame I don’t have,” Friedman said. “I want to be like ‘this is what a lack of shame looks like’ and we can talk about this. It doesn’t have to be a big scary deal. I want people to feel like we are all in it together.”