“Ask the Sexperts” was hosted by Western Washington University’s Counseling and Wellness Center on April 14. At the event, audience members could submit any questions they had about sex online with no identification and get an answer from sexual health experts.
This event was the outcome of the Sexual Health Advocacy Group, a group of student wellness advocates who volunteer to do peer-to-peer education for a school year.
Liz Stuart is the advisor to SHAG as well as the sexual violence prevention specialist for the Wellness Center.
“We try to destigmatize topics that can be hard because we believe that violence and harm exist in the shadows of shame,” Stuart said.
The Wellness Center did a sexual health and behaviors survey of Western students in 2020 and got about 1,000 responses. From the survey, the Wellness Center is able to determine themes and needs within the student body, Stuart said.
Students were welcomed into the event with tables of swag. There were also signs explaining how to become a volunteer for the Wellness Center.
On the wall was a large felt board with three bodies on it. Felt body parts littered the board, waiting to be placed on the bodies. The board illustrated how bodies can come in all different forms.
One member of SHAG, Brianna Werner, was an attendee at the event.
Some of the things SHAG volunteers do is spread awareness about sexual health, find ways to get more accessible info to students and share data about sexual trends on campus, Werner said
One of the event speakers was Dr. Kelly Casperson, a urologist and host of the podcast “You Are Not Broken.” Casperson said she started her podcast because women would come into her doctor’s office and ask her to fix them when really, there was nothing wrong.
Casperson said that there is plenty of information and data about sex and sexual health that is not taught. To educate herself, Casperson looked to the International Society for the Study of Women’s Sexual Health.
Jenn Mason, the owner of Bellingham’s identity inclusive sex shop WinkWink, was another speaker at the event. Mason is a certified sex coach, educator and Western graduate. She has worked for 10 years in domestic violence and sexual assault services.
Mason was accompanied by Margot Amelia, WinkWink’s education and communication coordinator. Amelia is a Fairhaven College graduate who said sex is her passion in her academic, professional and personal life.
One of the main topics addressed by the sexperts was consent.
“There's this big gray area between hell yes and no that nobody is talking about,” Mason said.
All the speakers agreed that enthusiastic consent is wonderful, but that it is not the only feeling that might occur during sex. They explained that maybe someone wants to dip their toe in the pool before diving into the deep end, to try something out and maybe change their mind.
“‘Yes and…’ should be an okay way we can be in sex,” Mason said.
Mason said much of the sex seen in media portrays spontaneous desire, and many people expect this to be the norm.
“Variation is the only thing that’s normal,” Mason said.
Casperson said that most often those with male hormones experience spontaneous desire while those with female hormones don't. They experience more responsive desire that is interpreted as low desire.
Responsive desire occurs when one partner initiates a sexual interaction and elicits desire from the other.
“The big myth about female sexual desire is that it should be just like a mans and that it’s inferior if it isn’t,” Casperson said.
She explained how both male and female bodies are held up to unrealistic standards.
Casperson said some of her male patients felt diminished because their bodies were not living up to idealized versions of masculinity.
The experts answered more anonymous questions about long-term relationships, how to explore what one wants sexually and tools to deal with triggers affecting one’s sex life.
“I like how it seemed more like an open Q&A than a lecture,” said audience member Ryan Wagner, a fourth-year student at Western.
Wagner said he was assigned a project about kinks in Psychology 472, a class that focuses on relationships, and thought this would be a good educational resource.
Wagner heard about the event on the Western Involvement Network and wanted to get a sense of how other people approach discussions of sex.
As the event drew to a close, the student organizers apologized that not all of the questions were answered, but said that more would be answered on their Instagram and that there is a follow up Ask the Sexperts event on May 9 that focuses on kink and polyamory where more questions can be submitted.
Jemma Alexander (she/her) is a campus life reporter for The Front. She is a senior majoring in journalism new/ed and minoring in Arab American studies. When she's not doing homework, Jemma is likely working, talking loudly over movies with her roommates or dancing ’till she drops. You can reach her at email@example.com.