With Northwestern Sex Week 2011 in hindsight, SHAPE’s Rigo Fernandez reflects on why he became involved in sexual education.
It was only a few years ago when I first became interested in helping to foster a more sex-positive environment. The main reason I became involved? Starting in high school, I began to notice the absurdity the sex education system.
I figured high school sex-ed classes might prove beneficial to students, but I turned out to be wrong. The main focus of the class was abstinence, and I immediately began to doubt the usefulness of the message. Yes, abstinence is the only certain way to stay completely safe from pregnancy and guarantee that you will not contract any sexually transmitted infections (STIs). But the fact that they wouldn’t teach anything about birth control, condoms or lubricant was wrong, at least in my mind.
The class emphasized the fact that sex could be a very emotional activity, but only between a male and female. It failed to include the idea that sex could be any other way, which encouraged the idea of treating LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) people poorly. And it was not just my non-heterosexual friends who had to defend themselves because of their orientation or identity. I soon felt the need to “prove” my sexuality, even though I identified myself then, as I do now, as a male solely interested in females.
It was not just the misinformation regarding sex and lack of tolerance for the LGBTQ community that caused me to get involved in creating a sex-positive environment. I also found myself quite disturbed by the amount of sexual assault that had evidently been occurring around me. I found out about girls who were physically forced to have sex, or who were being coerced by their “friends” and boyfriends, and others who were traumatized by the memories of being molested when they were young.
It was when I got to Northwestern that I became excited about not having to prove my sexuality, but I soon ran into the same issue I had in high school — people thought they knew everything there was to know about sex when they absolutely did not. I still heard about guys “doubling up,” for instance. I heard people saying that it is an abomination for girls to have sex on their period, and others discussing the vices of watching pornography. I also heard sexual assault victims making excuses for the perpetrators.
All of these issues culminated in me joining Sexual Health & Assault Peer Educators, or SHAPE. People need someone to relate to and talk with that can answer their questions about sex, as opposed to someone much older who may only embarrass or intimidate any curious person. Naturally, once my fellow SHAPEr, Sara, suggested extending ourselves to answer questions anonymously in order to make people more comfortable, I jumped at the opportunity to help start up “Northwestern Nookie” on North By Northwestern.
But this was not enough for me, and I found my newest calling when I experienced my first Sex Week. I went to every possible event and even took notes. Once I was offered the opportunity to contribute to Sex Week, I could not refuse. I used the opportunity to offer whatever sex-positive advice I could muster that I thought others would want to know.
Some may think that I’m not making much of a difference — and they may be right — but I’m doing what I can, and I feel like that is a much better alternative to letting false information about sex spread around our community.