The use of the words “sex” and “abstinence” in the same sentence may seem oxymoronic to some, but guest speaker Heather Corinna showed that, indeed, abstinence is part of the Sex+ vocabulary.

Throughout the presentation, Corinna emphasized the importance of affirming your personal decisions about sexual activity.  She described how every person should know what “criteria” are necessary to have a fun, safe sexual encounter, and that those criteria can be very different from others’.

“No one gets to decide this for us,” Corinna said in her presentation. “It needs to be a choice.”

The event was titled “Abstinence: You Don’t Have to Take Your Clothes Off,” but Corinna’s presentation demonstrated a desire to provide affirmation of all sexual decisions, not just the decision to not engage in sexual activity.

“Sex is optional, it’s not required. Ever,” Corinna said. She used this point to highlight the idea that since it’s optional, a person can –and should –be clear with themselves regarding what situations are okay to engage in and what situations are sexual deal-breakers.

To help in this process, audience members were asked to finish the sentences “I want/will want sex when/if…,” “I don’t want sex when/if…,” and “I guess I’d be okay having sex if…”

Sophomore Miranda Treutel said that she was pleasantly surprised by the presentation.

“I expected it to be ‘You should not have sex,’ but it was more open,” Treutel said.

Sex+ is in its fourth year of programming, but has never held an event centered on abstinence before, Jennifer Smith, director of the Women’s Center, said. Smith said that feedback from past participants had mentioned wanting some abstinence-centered events, but the idea was made especially urgent after Brad Henning’s appearance on campus last spring.

Henning, an educational speaker, was brought on campus to discuss healthy relationships.  Some who attended the lecture thought that he engaged in “slut-shaming” — rhetoric that blames and shames women for expressing their sexuality.

“After hearing what he had to say, it was clear a conversation needed to happen,” Smith said.

Corinna argued that any kind of shame attached to how a person expresses –or chooses not to express –his or her sexuality contributes to a culture that doesn’t value choice or consent in sexual decisions.

Monday’s event marked the end of the Sex+ events for the semester. ◼︎

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