- Lily Angell/Daily
By Sophie Burton, Daily Staff Reporter
Published February 11, 2014
Do you think that you’re a sexpert? Well, think again.
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Two keynote speakers spoke Tuesday evening about sexual agency and the realities of college relationships to kick off Sexpertise — the University Health Service-sponsored event involving three days of workshops, lectures and discussions on sexuality and relationships.
About 40 students attended the keynote address in Rackham Amphitheater, titled “Creating Change through Sexuality Research and Practice.”
Chinyere Neale, assistant director of the Office of Global Health at the School of Public Health, started the event at the University in 2009 and opened the lecture.
Her discussion focused on issues regarding agency and taking charge of personal sexual choices. Based on research conducted in the Detroit suburb of Grosse Pointe, Neale found many young people are being forced or pressured into engaging in sexual activity.
“Lots of young girls are having sex that they are not choosing to have,” she said.
Neale also provided three main pointers for a happy, healthy sex life, including “knowing your body,” “granting yourself permission for pleasure, and understanding that pleasure is both your right and your responsibility” and “deciding for yourself what’s right and what’s wrong,” in terms of your sexual behavior.
She concluded her address by encouraging the audience to stop judging others on their sexual choices, and to instead become empowered to make their own.
Elizabeth Armstrong, associate professor of sociology & organizational studies, discussed her research, which she said was inspired by her students in her section of a sexual diversity class she taught at Indiana University. In her inquiry, she surveyed more than 20,000 college students across the United States about their experiences with hooking up and sexual relationships on campus.
Armstrong found that, on average, students reported about eight hookups, seven dates and two relationships by their senior year of college.
“The notion that relationships are dead, dating is dead on college campuses, is just not true,” she said.
Additionally, Armstrong found that not many students are engaging solely in random hookups. In her survey, 46 percent of students reported they knew the other person moderately to very well in their last hookup. She also found that both women and men reported a better sexual experience after repeated sex with one person, and that men and women actually have a similar desire for lasting relationships.
Both speakers emphasized the importance of students taking charge of their sexuality.
In an interview after the event, Neale said it is crucial for students to put what they know about sexual activity into practice.
“I don’t think the question is whether or not students are informed. It’s whether or not they use that information,” Neale said. “There aren’t many students who aren’t aware of the concept of safer sex, not all students know that safer sex supplies are available for free at UHS and not all students recognize that they are personally at risk for negative consequences.”
Armstrong said events such as Sexpertise are an important part of that learning process.
“I think what most of what people learn in college they learn from each other. I think one of the ways that people can become better educated about sexuality is talking,” she said. “To their friends, to their lovers, to their partners … and finding out what sex means to them.”
Over the next three days, Sexpertise will continue with a series of events, including presentations titled “Finding Pleasure,” “Kink for Beginners” and “Mobile Love.”
As part of the event, anonymous HIV testing will be held throughout the week at UHS and on Wednesday and Thursday at the Safe Sex Store on South University Avenue.