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LectureHop: Fucking While Feminist

“Scientists have proven what many of us knew all along—feminists have better sex.” So reads the Facebook event description for last night’s “Fucking While Feminist,” a workshop at Barnard with itinerant sex speaker Shelby Knox. H.S.G., Bwog’s Sexiest Single-Sex Sexologist, reports.

Shelby Knox’s most vivid memory of sex ed is the day that a local pastor came to her Lubbock, Texas, high school with a bucket of dirty toothbrushes. Addressing a crowd of all females, he held up one toothbrush and asked if anyone would use it to brush her teeth. (No one volunteered.) He then pulled out a clean toothbrush and asked again. “If you have sex before marriage,” the pastor said, “you are the dirty toothbrush.”

That was over five years ago, at around the same time that Knox, invigorated by a commitment to the Southern Baptist Church, had taken a pledge of virginity (which has apparently since expired). It was also about the time that Knox became the subject of the documentary The Education of Shelby Knox. The film, which won a 2005 Sundance Award, chronicled her journey of self-discovery as she sought to reconcile her religious, heavily conservative upbringing with a budding interest in comprehensive sex education in schools. The film threw Knox into a national spotlight and established her as an important voice in the crusade for a new, more open sexuality.

It was in telling her story and connecting with women from across the country, claims Knox, that she became a feminist. Out of this experience, Knox (who was, incidentally, admitted to Columbia but forbidden by her parents to go) decided to shift gears a bit and focus instead on fighting the cultural stigma associated with female sexuality. “Feminism is hearing your own pain and your own struggle in other people’s voices and realizing that there’s nothing wrong with you or her, but that there’s something wrong with the world,” said Knox at last night’s workshop. And with that, she opened up the floor to this audience of women (and a handful of men) for a discussion on the dual accordance and tension between the notion of sexuality and the feminist movement.

The conversation centered mostly on the concept of “sex-positive.” Students in the audience volunteered their definitions for the term and attempted to relate it back to what Knox called the “abstinence-only until marriage generation.” This prompting to relate the subject back to themselves naturally encouraged audience members to open up (no pun intended).

One of the recurring topics was female masturbation. (“How many of you have ever looked at your vulva in a hand mirror?” asked Knox, pleasantly surprised by the nearly unanimous hand-raising, which she hadn’t experienced elsewhere. Go Barnard!) Other topics that came up included the deceitfulness of porn; orgasm-faking; the merits of coed versus single-sex sex ed; virginity; and double standards in female sexuality, e.g., female versus male, Madonna versus whore. (Said Knox, “Sex is either really bad or we’re using it to sell hamburgers.”) The dialogue also covered the more serious side of sex, as students expressed frustration that even the most comprehensive educational programs seem hardly to touch on the subject of desire or even the general emotional side of a sexual relationship at all. One student spoke about the sexual culture on campus, noting that in high school, the assumption seems to be that no one is having sex, whereas in college, the assumption is that everyone is having sex. There was also a lengthy discussion of penis length: until last night, Bwog didn’t realize that only the first 3.5-4 inches actually make a difference. (For the short-penised, take comfort in knowing that girth is a more critical factor in female sexual pleasure. For the narrow-penised… well… )

Aside from a bit of awkwardness in switching between the subjects of straight and gay sex, there was a fairly un-awkward exchange of ideas, opinions, and anecdotes, all of which was filmed for a new documentary entitled How to Lose Your Virginity. To wrap things up, Knox thanked her audience for participating in the “revolution.” “We are all part of the sisterhood—in a gender-neutral way,” said Knox, expressing her hope that the dialogue between students continues. Except for the few who stuck around for the sex toy raffle, not many students lingered; most headed back to their rooms with Big Plans to make Yes-Maybe-No lists as written about in the book Moregasm for themselves and their partners (consent is sexy!) and with some new thoughts about sex, politics, and sexual politics. All in all, “Fucking While Feminist” was an, er, stimulating, (sex-)positive experience.

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17 Comments

  • The SEAS Reverend says:

    @The SEAS Reverend Ahahahah I sense a new brochure tagline…

  • ummm says:

    @ummm How many of you have ever looked at your vulva in a hand mirror?” asked Knox, pleasantly surprised by the nearly unanimous hand-raising, which she hadn’t experienced elsewhere. Go Barnard!

    barnard: the school that’s proud of you for looking at your vulva close-up in a mirror!

  • Thanks Bwog says:

    @Thanks Bwog Great job, this article is well written & interesting. I missed this event, & I’m glad you gave such a good recap.

  • raoul says:

    @raoul Ah, Lubbock!

  • If Barnard... says:

    @If Barnard... …is so powerful and interesting, why does it need to appropriate dick talk?

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous You are an excuse for any self-respecting woman to kick your ass.

    captcha: in- honesty

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous why is there no mention of take back the night? the organization put on this event as part of sexhibition.

  • Ha! says:

    @Ha! Only the first five inches matter my ass

    1. Poor Choice of Words Police says:

      @Poor Choice of Words Police This is a joke waiting to be made, but I’m going to let you off with a warning.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous feminism is an excuse for women to act like hoes.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous wtf

  • um says:

    @um how was there “awkwardness” about switching from queer sex to straight sex? i thought people did a great job in complicating what we mean when we say “sex,” that it doesn’t have to just mean penetrative, straight sex.

  • Wouldn't says:

    @Wouldn't The dirty toothbrush be a more anatomically-correct metaphor for guys who are sexually active before marriage? Just saying…

    1. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous no it clearly doesn’t fit. It is okay for guys to have sex before marriage, but not too much. Like a new shoe. You want it broken in before a long commitment (marriage), but you don’t want the sole worn out.

      See, metaphors are our friends.

    2. Anonymous says:

      @Anonymous That dirty toothbrush is very useful for other things, if electric. Buzz buzz!

  • I loved says:

    @I loved LOVED this event.

  • Anonymous says:

    @Anonymous Events like this are so important until ‘blow me’ is no longer supposed to be both an insult and a sexy invitation.

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