A crowd of Millsies and visitors, a table full of refreshments and cookies, and a classic panel setup – it seemed like pretty typical Mills event – except for the giant vagina poster outside and some guests speakers who more than just a little bit “gay famous.” The room was packed with about one hundred attendees, all eager to learn how to be “sex positive.” Students and visitors gathered in the Fine Arts Annex last Friday the 21st for a Sex Positivity Panel, hosted by the Women’s Health Resource Collective (WHRC).
“Sex positivity is the ideology that all consensual and legal sex is good sex,” said co-coordinator Colleen Kimsey, a junior at Mills. “Whether it’s a couple who’s been married for two years having intercourse—gentle and loving—or whether it’s two strangers having consensual needle play (the practice of piercing a partner with needles, not to harm or decorate them, but to pleasure them). As long as everyone is safe and happy, it’s all good.”
Panelists came from a variety of backgrounds and experience – even from the College itself – to discuss the sex positivity movement, which extends beyond Mills. More widely known as the Kentucky Fried Woman, former Mills employee Krista Smith leads a plus-sized performance troupe called Flabulous and also regularly teaches a workshop for other queers called “How Fat is Your Gender?”
She began her talk by bluntly asking the audience to raise their hands if they had ever slept with a fat person, which elicited responses like, “Well I’m just not really attracted to fat people.”
According to Smith, fighting to ensure society treats all bodies – including “fat” ones – with the same respect is one of the things sex positivity is all about.
“They answer as if the question took place in a vacuum, as if we didn’t live in a society where fat people were shamed and presented as being ugly,” Smith said.
The panel consisted of a Q&A session featuring student questions asked on the event’s Facebook page, questions on topics like polyamory – having more than one intimate relationship at a time with the consent of all involved – and the relationship between feminism and sex positivity.
“Everybody thinks they have a right to have an opinion about ‘alternative lifestyles’ whether they have any information or not,” said Dossi Easton, panelist and author of the book The Ethical Slut.
Easton argued that people have many misconceptions about sexual practices outside of the cultural norms. Easton, as well as other speakers at the Fair, hope to promote sex positivity by educating people on such alternatives to mainstream sex practices.
Attendee and senior Veronica Beatty found the panel informative.
“I learned that porn is a sex toy,” Beatty said, “and that I should interrogate my desires.”
While she found the panel equally enlightening, freshwoman Shanay Salais was disappointed by the lack of diversity between the panelists.
“I thought it was a fantastic introduction to the world of sex positivity,” Salais said. “However, I’m bummed out that the panel was dominated by white folks. If I was not already comfortable in a sex positive world, I would have felt alienated as a queer femme of color.”
Nevertheless, Kimsey and other WHRC members were pleased with the turnout and hope that the Panel will be an annual tradition to help promote the WHRC’s other efforts to support the Mills community.