"If You Can't Love Yourself … (How Can You Love Anyone Else?)" was the question posed at the Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council's workshop yesterday. The event — the second of the group's annual Sex Week — addressed body image issues like body mass index and shaving pubic hair.
Shanna Katz — a professional sexuality educator, consultant, writer, sex coach and self-described "professional pervert" — led the presentation.
The audience was rather small, but it provided for a more intimate, comfortable setting. "Our goal is not to pack 500 people in a room. It's to touch on issues that aren't often talked about, so attendance isn't a major goal. These events usually benefit from a more intimate setting anyway," said Aida Manduley '11, the chair of the Sexual Health Education and Empowerment Council.
Katz emphasized "body positivity" in her presentation. "Body positivity is about loving all bodies. It's not about being anti-thin, anti-skinny or anti-anything," she said. She noted that body positivity is often misconstrued as being one-sided — that people who are body positive only believe that "real women have curves" or "real women have real breasts." But she emphasized that people who are body positive love all bodies. "We're looking at authentic people," she said.
Katz touched on a variety of topics in her presentation, including breast and penis size and the benefits of masturbation. She emphasized that people should do what makes them feel comfortable and should aim to understand their own bodies. This way, they can tell when something is not right with their bodies and ask for what they want sexually. "Positive body image is about feeling sexy whoever you are and at whatever stage you're at in your life," Katz said.
At the end of the presentation, Manduley raffled off sex toys and body oils and offered everyone condoms, lubricant and small vibrators. "We want people to have access to good, body-safe things," Manduley said. "We want to normalize them and inform potential consumers about what companies are ethical and what products are safe for their bodies so they can be more discerning in their purchases."
"The main goals of Sex Week are to inspire conversations, to provide places for these conversations to take place and to provide education. The theme of this year's Sex Week is freedom of choice — not necessarily reproductive choice — but choosing whether or not to engage in sex and finding out what you want," said Manduley. "This event focused on the freedom to love yourself and your freedom to have a body image that makes you feel comfortable."
Many audience members said they enjoyed the event and might attend future Sex Week events. "I was looking at Sex Week events, and I thought this one seemed interesting. It was so much fun," Brisa Pena '13, said.
"I thought it was interesting to say the least," said Dan Rho '13, adding that he is thinking about taking MSex as a result of the event.
Katz, who ran four events at Sex Week last year and will run an event tomorrow, said she thought the event went well. "The people who showed up were very engaged and had interesting things to say," she said. Brown reminds her of her own undergraduate experience because the students have great ideas that do not fit the cookie-cutter mold of society, she added.