Sep 152011
 

One of my favorite things to do is speak on college and university campus about sexuality. Whether it is a talk about safer sex, communication, anatomy, intersections of identities, inclusivity, kink 101, or a class on sexual activity, college students are some of my favorite learners to have in front of me.

However, sometimes it can be difficult for college students to figure out how to bring a sex educator to campus. Between working with various groups, communicating with the sex educator, and promotions/advertising, it can sometimes seem overwhelming for the one or two students, or even student groups looking to bring someone to speak.

Luckily, one of my awesome interns has put together an easy guide chock full of tips on how to bring a sex educator (such as myself) to your campus.  As always, you can contact me if you’re interested in working together!

-Shanna

One of the things I get asked the most as a sex-educator-in-training and student organizer is,“how can we get someone like that to come to our school?” Luckily,I’ve done my share of organizing before (and have made enough mistakes!) and I can give you some general steps to getting that super awesome sex educator to your campus!

Start early (and ensure you get good seating)

When it comes to creating an event on campus,I’d say,the number one beginner’s mistake is not starting early enough. Unlike private events,or even organizational ones,university bureaucracy has a glacial pace – which will be worse if you are a state school,as you will have to jump through even more hoops in order to work with state regulations. Starting early ensures you will get the most help from your administration,and it also puts you in the best possible position for funding,which (at least at my school) is pretty freed up the first week of the semester and gobbled up not long after.

But we can’t limit this to just funding. You can be in an awesome position funding-wise,and it will not mean anything if you don’t have a good space to work with. The good meeting spaces tend to be reserved early,and you don’t want to get yourself stuck in that awkward classroom on the edge of campus just because that was the only place open. Having a central location will also help with passive advertising. What does that mean? An example:at my university,we had a couple of sex educators come to the student union,which gets tons of traffic that has nothing to do with specific events. People were able to see the posters about upcoming events,to be sure,but what captured a lot of attention was all the people lining up outside,and the groups tabling outside the event’s room. Because of this,we were able to attract a lot of people who were just wandering by.

Click here to read the entire page on bringing a sex educator to your campus….

Jan 192011
 

Being a sex educator is hard. I’ve spoken to this before; there is the choice about how you answer the “what do you do” question, there are stalkers and creepers who follow you workshop to workshop or won’t stop calling/emailing, there is the fact that the education I do is not considered “real education” (even sometimes by the professional sexuality organizations to who I belong), there are very few degree programs in the country, jobs can be tough to get and freelancing doesn’t always pay the bills, the list goes on. However, one thing that has always kept me going is people who lead the field, like Jamye Waxman, Midori and Tristan Taormino. These three incredibly strong women have been sex educators for years, and have figured out how to approach the masses in a way that they are more accepted (even if sometimes protested), through books, movies, educational films, workshops, college lectures, performance pieces and more.

However, this morning, I woke to this in my inbox. The great Tristan Taormino, sex educator extraordinaire, has been uninvited by Oregon State University, after they had asked her to speak AND asked her to buy her plane tickets with the promise of reimbursement. Not only did they un-extend their invitation, but they are now refusing to pay for the plane tickets she has already purchased at their behest. I’m surprised, but not shocked. One of my favorite gender activists was censored at a local college after some conservative students claimed her used of the words “tranny” and “fuck” were detrimental to their mental well being.

I love what I do. Almost every moment of every day. However, the fact that it is not only hard to book events, but now sex educators (who are far more well known and published than I am) are being uninvited? It’s ridiculous. According to them, it was due to her website and resume…which hasn’t changed since the booking. Because she shoots feminist/ethical pornography, they are turning her down.  Yet other schools bring in anti-gay speakers for “their side of the story” and porn legends like Ron Jeremy (who does not identify as being in the feminist porn or ethical porn genres).  Thank goodness for schools like Brown University, Hofstra, University of Arizona, Colorado College, SUNY–Purchase and more that have welcomed me (as well as other sex educators), as we are, with the understanding that lectures and workshops about healthy sexuality do nothing more than provide information to students, and can only serve to help improve their lives.

I say shame on OSU, and on other schools that are capitulating to conservative legislatures and mores. Education is about gaining knowledge and opening students eyes to the world, not about censoring based on social constructions of what is “appropriate.” It would be one thing if you chose to ignore her letter of interest; I sent out about 200-300 a year, and rarely hear back from a dozen schools; it’s part of being a sex educator. But to invite her, and then change your mind after telling her to buy her tickets, and now choose not to reimburse her? That is low, OSU, and it shows a lack of class, a lack of educational and open-minded spirit, and I am quite disappointed. I assumed a school in a place like Oregon would be a little more forward thinking.

With that said, I am currently booking schools and universities for fall 2011/spring 2012. I am sure other educators are as well.  If you (whether student, staff or faculty) are interested in learning more about sexuality, sex and disability, ethical pornography, kink, LGBTQA issues, communication, safer sex and more, please contact me. Fascinations has agreed to pay my airfare to college/university gigs starting in May, so I can be more affordable and accessible to schools with smaller budgets. I’d love to show OSU what immense good a sex educator can do on campuses.

-Shanna

SEX EDUCATOR AND SPEAKER TRISTAN TAORMINO, SET TO GIVE CONFERENCE KEYNOTE, UNINVITED BY OREGON STATE UNIVERSITY BECAUSE OF HER ‘RESUME AND WEBSITE’

January 19, 2011

Contact:
Tristan Taormino
tristan@puckerup.com

Award-winning author, columnist, sex educator, and filmmaker Tristan Taormino was set to be the keynote speaker at Oregon State University’s Modern Sex conference, scheduled for February 15-16, 2011. Yesterday, she was uninvited by a university representative, who cited her resume and website as the reason.

On October 28, 2010, organizers of the OSU Modern Sex conference booked Taormino to give the keynote talk; they confirmed the date and agreed to fees, and Tristan’s management received a first draft of the contract on November 1. That contract was incomplete and sent back to OSU for revisions. As with many negotiations, the contract was pending as all the paperwork got done, but in late December, OSU again confirmed Tristan’s appearance and conference organizers told her manager to purchase airline tickets, for which OSU would be reimburse her.

On Tuesday, January 18, 2011, Steven Leider, Director of the Office of LGBT Outreach and Services contacted Colten Tognazzini, Tristan Taormino’s manager, to say that the conference had come up short on funding. Tognazzini told him that since the travel was booked and the time reserved, they could work with whatever budget they did have. Leider said that would not be possible: “We have to cancel Ms. Taormino’s appearance due to a lack of funding. It has been decided that OSU cannot pay Ms. Taormino with general fee dollars, because of the content of her resume and website.” At OSU, ‘general fee dollars’ include taxpayer dollars given to the University by the Oregon State Legislature to defray various costs. They differ from ‘student activity dollars,’ which are part of every student’s tuition and help fund student groups and activities.

Taormino’s resume includes her seven books on sex and relationships, the 18 anthologies she has edited, numerous television appearances from CNN to The Discovery Channel, and her award-winning adult films. She was a columnist for The Village Voice for nearly ten years and has given more than 75 lectures at top colleges and universities including Yale, Princeton, Cornell, Brown, NYU and Columbia. Her website, puckerup.com , includes sex education information, advice, and information about the films she directs for Vivid Entertainment, one of the largest adult companies in the country.

“In my ten years of booking Tristan at colleges and universities, of course there has been some controversy. But I have never had a university cancel like this last minute,” says Colten Tognazzini, Taormino’s manager. “It’s not unusual for contract negotiations to drag on. Once they confirmed we should book her travel, I felt comfortable the event was a done deal. I continued to work with them in good faith that a signed contract would be forthcoming. I believe that the conference organizers’ hands are tied, and this decision came from much higher up. They have cancelled with less than a month’s notice during Tristan’s busiest season. She gave up other opportunities to go to Oregon. Without a signed contract, we may have no recourse, and were told we will not be reimbursed for her travel.”

Tognazzini spoke to a source at OSU who speculated that the University feared that when it went before the legislature in regards to future funding, legislators would use OSU’s funding of a “pornographer” on campus as ammunition to further cut budgets. This source, who wishes to remain anonymous, told Tognazzini, “I think they’re uninviting Tristan because they don’t want to have to defend her appearance to conservative legislators.”

“I’m extremely disappointed that OSU has decided to cancel my appearance. I’ve been protested before, but never uninvited. I have never misrepresented who I am or what I do. I am proud of all the work I do, including the sex education films and feminist pornography I make,” says Taormino. “The talk I planned to give at this conference, titled “Claiming Your Sexual Power” has nothing to do with porn, but the porn is such an easy target for anti-sex conservatives and censors. I find it ironic that one of the missions of the conference is to understand diverse perspectives of sexuality. Apparently, my perspective—one of educating and empowering people around their sexuality—isn’t welcome at OSU.”

If OSU students and others still want to hear Taormino speak, she will be teaching two workshops at She Bop in Portland on February 13 and 14. “She Bop supports a healthy perspective on sex and sexuality and we are proud to have Tristan Taormino present two years in a row at our shop in Portland. Tristan is a leading educator paving the way for others to help break down the stigma around sex in this country. It is part of our mission as a female friendly adult shop to support sexual empowerment and growth,” say co-owners Jeneen Doumitt and Evy Cowan.

Sep 292010
 

Earlier this month, I wrote a blog post about the multiple attacks against sex ed on college campus and the absolutely ridiculous hysteria driven by the so called “concerns” of economics professor Margaret Brooks (please note that she has absolutely no connection to sex ed of any sort). The Chronicle of Higher Education published an op-ed piece earlier, a piece that had no place in an influential academic journal. In this piece, Brooks sullies the concept of a decades-old, nationally celebrated sexuality education event series for university students (please keep in mind these students are almost all over 18, and are considered adults in our culture) called Sex Week. Instead, she rekindles the “think of the children!” outcry, causing unfounded drama and concern for the future of sex education on college and university campuses.

It is clear, she writes, that many people and organizations claim to be experts in the field of sex education and are eager to gain access to the hearts, minds, and yes, perhaps even the bodies of our college students. Strong measures are needed to preserve students’ sexual health and safety, as well as colleges’ integrity and reputations. Um. What? Really? I obviously spent two full years of graduate school, as well as tens of thousands of dollars for education, and hundreds of hours of pro bono work solely for the purpose of getting into the minds of college students. Please note the dripping sarcasm.

With the help of Logan Levkoff, a large group of sexuality educations, university faculty/staff and college/university students on Sex Week planning committeescomposed a Letter to the Editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education, and sent it to the editors on September 16th.

Dear Chronicle Editors,

We were deeply disappointed by your recent publication of economics Professor Margaret Brooks’ op-ed, “‘Sex Week’ Should Arouse Caution Most of All.” It is clear that Margaret Brooks has not only misrepresented herself, but also seeks to discount over 40 years of legal precedent upholding student rights to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. The policies she calls for attack academic freedom itself, representing a clear return to the pre-1960′s-era doctrine of in loco parentis. Moreover, her suggestion to use far-fetched “sexual harassment liability” as a stick to force implementation of her proposed policies is nothing short of outrageous.

In her article, Brooks displays willful ignorance or calculated deception by omitting important information related to Sex Week events, making the article little more than fear- and shame-based grandstanding. She writes that Sex Week events occur unbeknownst to staff and faculty, while failing to remark on her own correspondence with administrators at Brown University, who informed her of their approval of Sex Week after investigating her concerns. Brooks’ suggestion that the sole purpose of Sex Week events are to sell sex toys and pornography is incorrect and irresponsible. Readers need merely look at the schedules from various Sex Weeks to see that topics covered have included sex & disability, religious perspectives on sexuality, communication, transgender issues, critical evaluation of sexuality as portrayed in pop culture and pornography, healing from sexual assault, safer sex, and yes, even topics such as traditional families and abstinence.

When Brooks complains about a “lack of balance,” what she’s really taking issue with is a necessary attempt to restore balance to sex education for young adults, after the many years of abstinence-only education most of them have received during their younger years. While the purpose of an opinion piece is to present one particular perspective, given the flaws in Brooks’ argument, as well as her lack of credentials in the field of human sexuality, it is imprudent not to present an alternative perspective. Instead of offering a valuable contribution to the much-needed academic discourse on sex education, The Chronicle betrays an anti-sex education bias unbecoming of a publication of record in higher education.

We, the undersigned, believe sexuality is a key component in literature, history, politics, religion, and popular culture—each of which are topics integral to the activities that Sex Week and similar programs bring to college campuses. Perhaps some people don’t think these are appropriate subjects for college students (most of whom are legally adults) to discuss in an intellectual setting, such as a college or university. That’s their prerogative. However, to suggest as Brooks does that these topics are unsuitable in and of themselves, that their mere mention warrants sexual harassment lawsuits, or that students be barred from exploration of such topics in pursuit of their own education, is nothing short of an attack on the fundamental principles of higher education and should have been seen as such by the editors of The Chronicle.

Sincerely,
-The Undersigned

  • Charlie Glickman, PhD
  • Megan Andelloux, AASECT, ACS
  • Logan Levkoff, M.S., Ph.D., AASECT
  • Shanna Katz, M.Ed, AASECT
  • Dr. Katherine Frank, Professor of Anthropology, College of the Atlantic
  • Charles Moser, Ph.D., MD, FACP, Professor and Chair of the Department of Sexual Medicine, Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, in San Francisco, CA
  • Dr. Staci Newmahr, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Buffalo State College
  • Jennifer Giang, ASUCD Gender and Sexuality Commission, University of California, Davis
  • Caitlin Alday, ASUCD Gender & Sexualities Commission Chair, University of California, Davis
  • Laura Mitchell, Gender and Sexuality Commission, Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Resource Center, University of California, Davis
  • Jason Hans, Ph.D., CFLE, Associate Professor, University of Kentucky
  • Dr. Elisabeth Sheff, Assistant Professor of Sociology, Georgia State University
  • Aida Manduley, Brown University Class of 2011, Sex Week Coordinator and Chairperson for the Sexual Health Education & Empowerment Council
  • Caroline McKenzie, Ph.D. student, Women’s Studies, Purdue University
  • Dr. DJ Williams, Leisure Sciences
  • Elizabeth Anne Wood, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Sociology, Nassau Community College
  • Scott Elman, President of the Student Health Advisory Committee, Washington University in St. Louis

This letter had 16 signatories when it was sent out, which was almost TWO WEEKS ago at this point. In the world of online news and publication, that could be seen as eons. So far, we have heard neither hide nor hair of the Chronicle, and certainly no indication that they have any intentions of publishing this letter, or recanting their publications of Brooks’ inflammatory piece. One might say that rather then facing the facts, the Chronicle has chosen the cowardly route, and has chosen to maintain silence rather than address such an important educational conversation and issue.

Ergo, we have decided to publish the letter. I (Shanna) would like to ask you to do the same. I think it is incredibly important that people realize not only the importance of sexuality education on college and university campuses, but also see how much damage a person with NO sexual education experience can do when allowed to spout forth her antiquated, misogynistic and often time complete inaccurate verbage. I say shame on the Chronicle for allowing such to be published, and it is beyond high time we reclaim and support sexuality education for the amazing and much needed facet of education that it is.

-Shanna

Dr. Logan Levkoff is a a writer for the Huffington Post, and has posted this letter, with her own comments, on there as well.

Sep 042010
 

There are a number of articles out there now that are discussing how “awful” college sex weeks are, how sex education is “infecting” college campuses, how Yale giving out 14,000 condoms is a travesty. I’m not going to do them the service of linking to these ridiculous articles, as some of them take some pot shots at other sex educators, at student groups putting on sexuality education workshop, etc. However, in my humble opinion, most of these articles are poorly researched and full of hooey.

Now, it’s true. I am a sex educator, more particularly, a sex educator who presents on college campuses, so defending sex education at colleges and universities is obviously in my best interest. So let it be said that you should take what I say with a grain of salt.

However, I chose this field because it is incredibly important. In 2003, I met an 18 year old college student who had never learned how to use a condom, despite 6 of her friends from high school having had children. In 2007, I met college students who told me that the withdrawal method “must work” because they’d used it for a year and never gotten pregnant (despite some of their cohorts leaving school/take a leave of absence due to their pregnancies). I’ve met numerous students who didn’t know how to balance their identities, many of which they hadn’t taken pride in until they got to college. I’ve met dozens of depressed students who were scared to come out to their roommates/college friends/hall mates/RAs/professors because of the overall view of LGBTQ identities on campus. All of these people were helped in some way by sexuality education, whether it was through me, through a school sponsored event, through a school group providing sex ed.

Sex education is helpful to people of all ages, but is crucial to people in their teens and early twenties, when they are developing their identities, making decisions about sexual activity. Getting sex education does NOT encourage anyone to be sexually active. In fact, many people who get comprehensive sexuality education in high school and middle school have better self image, are more comfortable in setting boundaries, know ow to say know, choose not to be sexually active as early, and/or choose not to be sexually active while under the influence of other substances. Almost everyone will have the ability to make healthier choices regarding safer sex, pregnancy prevention, and more.

Most sex weeks (as well as other sexuality education workshop) on college and university campuses are put together by students. Student who want information about sexuality; about anatomy, about identity, about safer sex, about pleasure, about communication, about relationships, and more. Clearly, there is a need for this education, because if it doesn’t come from sexuality educators, it comes from word of mouth (which can often provide incorrect information), or from the internet, or from trial and error. They are going to get this information from somewhere — I’d rather they get it from a trained sexuality educator (whether myself or someone else) who is trained in correct information, in counseling students, in talking about such a fraught topic, etc.

For the most part, sexuality education supports all choices, including abstinence as a choice. I know that all of my classes welcome people of all genders, orientations, backgrounds, etc, regardless of whether students are sexually active. I’m sorry, but given that about 99.9% of society features on the mainstream and the majority (white, straight/heterosexual, cisgender, traditionally able bodied, vanilla relationships), I feel it is completely valid for colleges and universities to bring in classes that talk about sexual minorities, as well as other workshops (like intersecting identities and relationship communication discussions) that appeal to people of ALL identities. Very few students need to know what sexuality looks like for a traditionally able bodied person; how many have been asked to think about people with disabilities, and how their sexuality looks and occurs, and how to make all of their campus accessible, more than just physically.

Denying that college age students are thinking about their sexuality (whether or not they are sexually active) is like an ostrich sticking its head in its the sand. Let’s please support them in their desire for knowledge and to learn more about their sexual identities, and how to make healthy choices, rather than just pretend that its not happening. And let’s also not throw negativity at the schools that are in fact fulfilling their promise to support students’ ENTIRE education, and at the educators who are helping these knowledge hungry students to learn more about themselves. It’s just rude.

That’s what I’ve got to say on this issue.

However, Dr. Charlie Glickman, a respected sex educator, also has something to say about this, more specifically about Margaret Brooks’ anti Brown Sex Week article (in interest of full disclosure, I spoke at Brown’s Sex Week, including on Sexuality and Disability, and on Relationships and Communication). His post is much less based on emotional than mine, and takes on her article bit by bit. I highly suggest reading it.

For anyone still interesting in bringing sexuality education to their campus, I’m still booking for 2010-2011. I’d love to come help college students learn and grow.

Shanna