The early stages of being sexually active can feel like being thrown into the deep end. Determining an individual’s limitations to sexual activity among the wide variety of intercourses is one of the many challenges that individuals must face once becoming sexually active.
It is risky, and a full comprehension of this concept can seem overwhelming and intimidating at first. However, sexual activity is just another transition for the body to adjust to, and there are plenty of resources and professionals to ease that transition.
This was proven by the Queer Alliance on Oct. 27 when students were able to freely address questions and concerns at the “Let’s Talk About Sex” event.
Brittany Cooper, a healthcare professional from Planned Parenthood, began the forum by asking the audience to define “consent.”
A chorus of synonyms like “agreement,” “permission” and “affirmative” filled the room. There was also a harmony of “yes means yes” and “yes on both sides.” Cooper was impressed with all answers, but she reminded in terms of sexual activity, a “yes” should never be taken lightly.
“A yes to one sexual activity does not mean a yes to all of them,” Cooper said.
Cooper followed up by asking what wasn’t consent. Students immediately responded with two distinct answers: “no” and “yes on one side.” It was then when students became alert of what causes sexual assault and rape.
When mutual consent isn’t established, a victim’s mental and physical state are harmed. The culprit deserves repercussions for forcing an action that wasn’t agreed to on one side, and under Title IX and Yes Means Yes, they legally should. Title IX protects gender and sex discrimination in all schools who receive public funding, from K-12 schools to community colleges. Yes Means Yes is a law that enforces the same means of protection as Title IX, but is limited to colleges and universities in California.
Unfortunately, it sometimes seems like laws aren’t enough for institutions to execute punishments.
To elaborate, Cooper told the story of Columbia University student, Emma Sulkowicz, who carried a 50-pound mattress around campus in the 2014-2015 school year for a thesis titled “Mattress Performance (Carry That Weight).” Sulkowicz was raped on her first day of her sophomore year and she filed a complaint to the state police eight months after the incident. Unfortunately, even when students reported similar scenarios with the same rapist, the university cleared all files.
Sulkowicz carried a mattress around the campus for her undergraduate thesis to advocate her situation. After she and other students filed more complaints, including the school violating Title IX, no action was taken.
Cooper explained that since Sulkowicz is a survivor. Since there is no law that interferes survivors from speaking out, her project wasn’t stopped.
“This is why these laws exist,” Cooper said. “Title IX and Yes Means Yes cannot interfere with survivors. There is a time interval between the incident and when to report it for faculty to take action, but survivors are free to protest and project their opinions, such as what happened at Columbia [University]. ”
Next, Cooper addressed the risks implied during sex, including sexually transmitted infections (STI’s). STI’s occur when body fluids are exchanged and/or in contact with wounds. After listing several STI symptoms, such as swelling, discharge, and burning in the pelvic area and/or genitals, Cooper asked the audience, “What’s the most common symptom of STI?” After bursts of guesses, no one was correct.
“That was a trick question,” Cooper said.”No symptom is the most common symptom of STI.”
From the variety of birth control methods available, to simply remembering to get tested for HIV, Cooper emphasized how important it is to perform sex safely.
The second half of the event was hosted by Tommy Puckett, a health commission customer representative of the Los Angeles County. He attends several meetings that raise awareness on uncontrollable circumstances; specifically, those of health.
His long-term goal as a representative is to speak for those in the Los Angeles County who are afraid to voice what they’re going through, especially because he has experienced it himself.
An HIV specialty clinic where Puckett’s health insurance was located is permanently closing. Without the clinic, he’d have no healthcare. He spoke up about the situation, was redirected to the commission, and there he became a representative.
“I’ve been homeless and abused,” Puckett said. “I didn’t know there’d be any resources or outlets of expression for me to utilize during my own trials.”
Since Cooper took care of the logistics, risks, and protection of sexual activity, Puckett had a conversation-like approach to the forum.
The same way he yearned to have his voice heard when he was going through episodes of physical, economic, and mental despair, he left students to share questions and concerns about their sexual activity.
From distinguishing between what’s considered consent and what’s not, to comparing the safeties of different birth control methods, Puckett ended the discussion with two central lessons.
“First, I hope they know that no one is ever completely safe, especially during sex,” Puckett said. “There’s always risk, but we can reduce it. Secondly, I hope you guys know that there is nothing to be afraid of when reaching out for help about these things. Asking for help is already a step into protection and control. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, and holding back can even make things worse.”