By Angela Son, Daily Staff Reporter
Published January 23, 2013
Sexperteam, a sexual health education organization, opened this year’s Sexpertise event with the panel discussion, “What’s Sex Got to Do with It?” Wednesday evening at the Michigan League.
The talk was the first of the three-day event, which is a symposium of free educational activities for students on campus hosted by Sexperteam, and sponsored by the University Health Service.
About 75 members of the Ann Arbor community attended the event, including Sexperteam volunteers.
The panel discussion was led by four professors who presented their research on topics such as HIV rates among gay men, young women’s sexual development and cuddling. Their works, though focused on sexual health, came from various disciplines including psychology, women’s studies, public policy and neuroscience.
Gary Harper, professor of health behavior and health education, said in his presentation that prejudice can be based on both racial and sexual identity.
“Even though we always complain straight folks stereotyping gay folks, even within the black gay community, there’s a lot of stereotyping that goes on,” Harper said.
Sara McClelland, assistant professor of Psychology and Women’s Studies, said sexual education shapes young people’s expectations about their bodies and sex for their whole life. She added that emphasizing chastity before marriage could cause negative effects for students.
“It’s actually quite (controversial) that it’s abstinence only until marriage, because that of course excludes many people who can’t get married or for whom marriage is not the context in which they want to be sexually relating to other people,” McClelland said.
Sari van Anders, assistant professor of psychology and women's studies, said she is a self-proclaimed feminist scientist who brings different perspectives to the field.
All panelists emphasized the importance of learning more about different forms of sexuality and sexual health.
“It is really important that we learn more and more about (sexuality), so we can actually critically engage with it,” van Anders said.
Rackham student Tazeen Ayub said she thought the event was informative and comprehensive.
“One thing I learned from the event is how racism and oppression can affect one’s sexual health and sexual behavior, and I thought that’s really interesting because it’s not something I’ve learned about or really talked about before,” Ayub said.
LSA sophomore Billy Diaz, a member of Sexperteam, said the panelists’ research would be the foundation of future sexual information.
“We have to have more events like this so people can realize how important it is to constantly talk about sex in all kinds of different ways, not even just, like, educational or experience-wise,” Diaz said.
Laura McAndrew, a health educator at UHS and the head of Sexperteam, said she hopes people who attend Sexpertise will become aware of broader perspectives about sexual relationships.
“Sexpertise is an opportunity to engage in many of the other dimensions that impact or can be impacted by sexuality, (such as) mental health, social identities, ability and the media, in addition to birth control and safer sex,” McAndrew said.
McAndrew added that Sexpertise strives to create judgment-free environments where students can openly talk about sex and its role as part of the human experience.