On-campus female orgasm workshop draws curious males

Thursday, November 30, 2006

As Veronica spread her vaginal lips, Win Bennett ’09 and his six male friends watched intently. When she climaxed, a few of them took notes.

Nevermind that Veronica was a vulva-shaped hand puppet; for the roughly 30 men participating in an on-campus “Female Orgasm Workshop” earlier this month, the chance to hear dos and don’ts of clitoral stimulation marked a rare opportunity to discuss what some men said they’re expected to know.

More than one-third of the students who fondled sex toys and spread lubricants on their fingers at the Nov. 9 program in Petteruti Lounge, sponsored by the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, were male.

“Men are supposed to be really macho and just know these things,” said Bennett, who, surrounded by his six male friends, admitted he wouldn’t have come alone.

“It takes a real man to come out and say, ‘No, I don’t know everything about this,'” he added.

Julie Flynn ’08, who works at the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center, organized the November workshop and two similar workshops last semester. Flynn said she tried to market the events to both males and females. She said males were consistently “a harder sell” and speculated that inaccurate gender stereotypes were to blame.

“There’s this belief (for males) that if you don’t know what to do as soon as you hit puberty, you’re lame,” she said.

Megan Andelloux, the 30-year-old Planned Parenthood counselor and sex educator at Miko Exoticwear who led the workshop, said societal attitudes about men’s knowledge of sex are largely inaccurate.

“There’s a belief that women have to learn how to be sexual, but men are just innately sexual creatures,” she said. “It’s very scary for men to approach sex education because society thinks of it as admitting defeat.”

Many of the men at the most recent workshop acknowledged that their presence there might, in some contexts, subject them to mockery from other men. But as Andelloux demonstrated common oral sex faux pas, male participants believed they would get the last laugh.

“It’d be immature to not take advantage of the opportunity,” said North Whipple ’08 of the workshop. “Brown is one of the few universities where you could go to a sexuality workshop like this and not be judged.”

The prevailing sentiment was: no guy knows it all.

“I guess there’s this idea that if you’re coming (to the workshop) you’re admitting that you have a weakness in something,” said Adam Siegel ’09, who said he hadn’t always been as confident as he’d wanted to be when performing oral sex.

“I think there’s always room for improvement,” he said.

Julian Cihi ’09, one of Bennett’s group of seven, said he understood why some curious men might stay home but added he had no qualms about being there.

“Maybe some guys aren’t comfortable admitting that they may want to learn more about the female orgasm, but there’s always more to learn,” he said.

A comfortable settingIn an environment where all guys were admittedly curious, men at the workshop said they felt minimally self-conscious.

“The embarrassment is deciding to come here,” explained Mario Micheli GS. “I feel pretty comfortable now that I’m here.”

For many men the key to making their attendance acceptable was arriving in a group. The back rows of seats were filled with a diverse array of males – ranging from the academic-looking, oversized T-shirt-wearing, bespectacled types to a group of Sigma Chi fraternity brothers – who came mostly in packs of three to seven. The majority of men were there with other males, though some arrived with their girlfriends. Most couples sat in the front row. A few men came unaccompanied.

“I wouldn’t come here alone,” said Josh Lehman ’09 another friend of Bennett’s.

If men’s willingness to ask questions was any indication, a considerable number of them felt at ease.

For the most part, men watched and listened attentively, and, at times, Andelloux addressed men specifically.

“Sex toys are your friends,” she told males. “They cut your work in half.”

As a series of sex toys made their way around the room, some men set the devices to the highest level of vibration and smiled to their friends while others examined them quietly.

Women who attended the lecture said they were impressed by the guys’ overall maturity and were glad males had shown up.

“It made me happy to see (guys) here,” Alia Lahlou ’10 said. “I’m happy they were comfortable enough to come.”

During a few parts of the program, men appeared uncomfortable. Many squirmed and grimaced when they watched a video of predominately elderly women of varying body types sitting in a circle, massaging their clitorises naked, legs spread. Some guys looked away.

Worth the eight bucks?The workshop was not entirely a “how-to” for males. Topics such as Kegel exercises and Ben Wa balls – which strengthen women’s pelvic regions – had few applications for men, and some guys wondered how much they could really learn from talk of female masturbation (though Andelloux maintained that it was one of the best ways for guys to pick up tips).

On their way out the door, many of the men said they were glad they had attended.

Han-Hui Ling ’09, who arrived with several of his fraternity brothers, said it was a worthwhile experience, even though he felt slightly awkward at times.

“It pushed my comfort zone, but I was willing to embrace that,” he said.

Several of the six sophomore males who accompanied Bennett said they would attend another similar program in the future if one were offered.

Siegel, who arrived with two female friends, said the event met his expectations.

“It was good information. I feel more confident and knowledgeable,” he said.

A number of men in attendance noted that tips for making sex pleasurable are seldom discussed in organized settings.

“It was very informative,” said Brett Camarda ’09, who attended with fraternity brothers.

“It definitely wasn’t a middle-school sex-ed class.”