How OWL Inspired Me to Convene a SEXPO
Being a Unitarian Universalist (UU), I was lucky to grow up with the Our Whole Lives (OWL) program. I started taking OWL classes when I was 5 years old, and continued to participate through high school. I always knew I was getting better-than-average Sex Ed, but its importance didn’t really hit me until I was in college.
I wasn't on campus long before I realized that most of my peers had been deprived of meaningful Sex Ed. During my freshman year, I joined a peer education group that gave presentations to student organizations about sex and sexual health. Giving these presentations was eye-opening: fraternity men weren’t able to identify the clitoris or prostate, women didn’t know there were birth control options beyond the pill or condoms, and many, many people felt uncomfortable even saying the word “sex.” But what really struck me was just how few students had a meaningful understanding of consent and the open dialogue it requires.
So many kids had been conditioned to think of sex as taboo, even dirty, that I realized what a gift it was to have been raised in a sex positive faith environment. It's hard to have meaningful conversations about consent when many people aren't even prepared to discuss healthy sexual relationships.
I wanted to bring the conversation about sex and sexuality to campus, just like OWL brought it to my life. SEXPO was an exposition intended to remove the taboo associated with openly discussing sex and sexuality. It challenged the established social norms by giving students a safe place to learn, discuss, and participate in sex-related activities and discussions. It aimed to open minds and push boundaries, enabling participants to ask questions they may not have been able to ask in any other setting, generate an ongoing dialogue regarding sex and sexuality, and encourage a sex-positive culture throughout Case Western University and the greater community.
The room was packed on the day of the event. We tried to have a booth on every aspect of sex and sexuality that we could think of, from sex toy vendors to Gender Identity to BDSM. The Christian group even had a table, and spent their time conducting a survey on marriage. I knew we had achieved our objective when I noticed that a lot of guys were visiting the menstruation table, where they could unwrap sanitary supplies and see how much water they could hold. Taboo, broken!
Overall, SEXPO was successful in its goal to start a dialogue on campus about sex and sexuality. According to one student, SEXPO was the perfect embodiment of what sex is: “fun and exciting, but also awkward and kind of uncomfortable.” I am so grateful that I was able to share a taste of OWL with the students, and I am excited to announce that the conversation will continue next year at SEXPO 2017.
Katherine is a 4th-year student at Case Western Reserve University majoring in Biomedical Engineering. When she's not in the library cramming, she's working to bring sex positivity to her campus. She's grateful every day for the lessons she learned from being in the OWL program, as well as from her 16 years of being a UU.