The Body of Sex Approach

 

The Body of Sex Approach

Changing the conversation, creating a new culture.

The Body of Sex is a paradigm-shifting sex education program rooted in body-awareness and emotionally-centered teaching. Unparalleled and unrepresented in the current conversation about consent and sex, ,these teachings are built upon a foundation of compassionate humanity and integrity alongside body-based education. This work speaks to every facet of the whole person: vulnerability, emotions, intuition, pleasure, respect, communication. Sarah helps students differentiate between the silence they carry because of shame and the personal privacy that protects their deepest intimacy. This approach bridges the gap between conversations about consent, sexual safety, and real life sexual experiences, so that students are better equipped to navigate the pressures and realities of their sexual lives on campus. Our programming is the missing link between assault risk management, pleasure education, and personal empowerment.

“Even with all of our consent education, our sexual assault numbers have not gone down. Although [students] know they should talk about this, and know what words to say, they don’t have the confidence to say them or even the desire to – because they don’t know how [sex] could be better. ‘Consent talk’ is something that is teased about because it sounds scripted.” — School Psychologist, liberal arts college in Minnesota

Students lack accurate information and education about their bodies, sexual responses, and dynamics. As such, they are more likely to force themselves to endure confusing sexual situations and experiment under the pressures of what they have learned in pornography, the media, or misinformed peer conversations. Without trustworthy guidance about what is possible in sex, both physically and relationally, they tend to remain silent and push aside their own intuition in favor of fitting the “picture” and pressures of “hook up culture” that is ubiquitous on college campuses. Students often feel like there is something wrong with them, or they can be paralyzed by fear and shame. Either way, students are left in the dark about what they are consenting to and how to understand their experiences, both past and future. This is a dangerous position to be operating from in the toxic and socially-motivated sex environment of a college campus. Students need the proper tools to navigate this culture. College is a time of exploration and learning for students and has the potential to be a time of exponential growth and maturation that can become a foundation for the adult selves that they will carry out into the world.

The Body of Sex Approach and Curriculum

The Body of Sex gives students a map that brings together the reality of their physcial and emotional experiences and the infinite possibilities of a sexual exchange. Through the following approach, Sarah helps students to make sexual decisions from a more empowered foundation about consent, their bodies, and their own desires. This allows them to understand what is happening in their bodies and relational dynamics in the moments leading up to and following a consent conversation.

Sarah does this in three ways:

1. Slows down the pace and invites students’ vulnerability
Sarah slows down the conversation and educational pace in order to invite students’ vulnerability, questions, shyness, insecurities, curiosities, and humanness about sex which have often been pushed aside and subverted through cultural pressures, shame, silence or the legal/political aspects of sex and consent.

Learning outcomes: Students will realize that their feelings and emotions about sex are natural, important, and valid. They feel safe and invited to be themselves, rather than feeling as if they are supposed to know or be something they are not. When they understand that their emotions and vulnerability are a natural part of sex, they are less likely to attempt to subvert or erase them in their actual sexual encoutners (i.e. substance use, disassociation, forced silence, thinking they are “wrong”, pretending, posturing, etc.).

2. Outlines the cultural misconceptions that are at play in regards to gender dynamics and sex
Sarah clearly walks through the cultural pressures and miseducation about sex, helping students see the context in which they’re unknowingly standing. Students are often pulled between two core tensions: (1) a pendulum swing between objectification and repression and (2) polarities in gender performance and expectations. Both lead to sexual encounters that are unsatisfying, confusing, disempowering, and often dehumanizing, even in the context of consensual sex.

Learning outcomes: By explicitly exposing the cultural expectations of the masculine and feminine paradigms, as well as the falsehood of pornographic and media imaging, students begin to realize that the shame, performance pressure, and confusion they often feel about sex is largely stemming from distortions and unspoken cultural expectations. Students will learn that sexual interactions that have often felt unsatisfying, wrong, dehumanizing, and “off” are because they (and likely their partner) were attempting to realize these distorted expectations rather than what they truly desire.

3. Gives students an accurate and complete map about their bodies, pleasure and communication
Sarah gives students an accurate map about pleasure that is not about mechanics and sexual technique but instead helps them understand elements like timing, sensitivity, subtle cues, and the way that bodies actually behave when they are and are not aroused. In this context, Sarah introduces consent as something that happens in the body, giving students the tools to discern their sexual experiences and desires not by implementing a script, but by tuning into what is happening for them.

Learning outcomes: Students will understand that their pleasure is dependent on a myriad of variables like body sensitivity, eye contact, pace, communication, etc. They will learn that if they are engaged in sex that is not pleasurable, this is not normal or positive sex. They will have an approach to consent that empowers them to pursue mutually respectful sexual interactions for their own benefit and from an intrinsic motivation of what can come from that. Students will see that there is another option and will be able to redirect situations and more effectively advocate for themselves so that they can step away from social pressures and communicate their desires and emotions.

The dangerous backlash of our current approach to sexual consent.

What I have seen in my work on campuses across the country are 3 negative patterns arising in the conversations about consent on campus…

1. Students are beginning to turn a deaf ear to administrative messaging and outreach about sexual conduct on campus. In my interface with hundreds of students on campuses, they’ve expressed that the messaging and outreach about consent feel loaded with legality and not concerned with the human experience. The see these workshops as a way for their institution to merely protect itself legally, rather than confront the greater patterns that are at play. Students can feel that the push is policy-based, and at the end of the day, have expressed things like “get your handbook out of my bedroom.” Amelia Marren-Baden of the Consent Project at Middlebury College, in her meetings with males on her campus, has reported that some “boys don’t think consensual sex is ‘good’ sex”- because it feels like a phoney demand for canned language that is entering their sexual spheres. This is a response that we can’t afford on our campuses.

2. The consent push, in which the masculine feels largely implicated, is causing an even more polarized gender divide around sexuality education. Many males and male-identified individuals are immediately resistant to this education because they believe that this is a “female” issue and that sexual empowerment is not a conversation that concerns them. Men and male-identifying individuals are just as in need of holistic sex education as anyone else, and they are suffering without it.

3. In an attempt to provide more explicit sex education there has been a swing to the opposite end of the spectrum that is promoting “edgy and kinky” sex, focusing on more explicit mechanics, techniques, and sex toys. All of this can be valuable in a holistic context that includes the nuances of moment-to-moment consent and the reality of emotions and vulnerability in sex. When taught outside of a more holistic context, they become another “demand” or expectation in the bedroom (much like porn), even in consensual sex. What results is disconnected experiences in which students feel like there is something they “should” be doing and trying, rather than discerning what they actually want and need in the moment. The result of this is an epidemic of students wondering “What is wrong with me??”

One of the most effective and responsible step that institutions can take is to bring in a trusted third party to have these conversations with students, someone that to them does not represent legality or handbooks. Students need to feel that their sex education is interested in them as young adults who are navigating their sexuality in a college culture where sex is expected, often at the expense of true integrity and connection.

Our college students are exploring and thinking about sex, whether we like it or not. Sex is on their minds all of the time. This single subject greatly impacts their ability to not only be students, but to feel like functional, healthy humans that have value. Students are asking for these workshops because they understand that their physical and emotional health, safety, and wellbeing depend on this this new kind of education. Administrators are starting to ask for these workshops in order to protect both their individual students as well as the integrity, safety, and overall culture of their institutions.

Bottom line, sex education on this level teaches discernment and empowerment to all genders and orientations.

Through empowering, engaging, safe workshops and lectures, I bring unique and revolutionary spaces to college campuses. This work has the power to shift the sexual culture on your campus as a whole.

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