Femsex is our awesome sex positivity group on campus. While most meetings are a safe space, feministic explorer Isabella Johnson attended a special facilitator meeting to hear the deal.
The meeting begins with check-ins: name, preferred gender pronoun, access to space (physical/ emotional), and your answer to the daily question. The meeting took place on Thursday night, so the question at hand was what we were doing for self-care this weekend. “Radical” self-care, I would soon learn, is a large part of FemSex.
The content of FemSex discussion sections is confidential, so I sat in on a facilitator meeting. The facilitators are all undergraduate students at Barnard and Columbia; the group’s official tagline is that they are a “peer facilitated semester long discussion group dedicated to the empowerment and fulfillment of the sexual self.” The group is non-hierarchal, so while there are no official leaders, facilitators make decisions together.
There are four discussion sections, with around 10 people in each group. Students apply for the discussion groups per semester but there is no limit to how many times you may take the “class.” The semester covers a variety of topics including: identity, privilege and power; feminisms; sex, gender, and anatomy; body image and media portrayal of women, menstruation; and consent. Though some of these topics may seem more relevant to female-identified people, the group is open to everyone. But it does provide a section for those who prefer a female-identified space as well.
Though there is a syllabus and weekly assignments, the facilitators describe FemSex as a place of “self-care” and “a family” rather than as a burden or another responsibility. “We discuss really serious topics, but it’s really fun,” they assure me.
Something that really stuck with me was when a facilitator explained why self-care is so important to her and why is should be to everyone. Though it sounds self-explanatory, “radical self-care” is rare in our society. We live in a world where even survival is a struggle, so its important to check-in with yourself and make sure that you’re okay—not just physically, but mentally, that you’re doing well. It’s a form of activism, she explains, you’re not going out and changing someone else’s life—you’re focusing on your own, and this is just as important. While this may sound narcissistic or like a self-centered way of thought, it really does not come off this way at all. I think it’s a really healthy thought. We don’t spend enough time acknowledging our own emotional needs. FemSex is a place to acknowledge and discuss these needs, and really take care of yourself. “In this world it’s radical to love yourself—which is crazy”.
The facilitators explained to me what FemSex means to them—“I have a heightened sense of awareness” and “sexuality is something to be proud of,” some said. Because the group discussions are based on personal experience, many of the facilitators were in section for several semesters because it is always evolving around the section members.
When I asked them about the group members the facilitators were quick to reassure me that FemSex is for everyone. At the activities fair, they say, people may get a certain impression that FemSex is for a specific group of people. But it’s not—people with no sexual experience have a great amount to contribute, one facilitator explains.
FemSex is a relatively young club at Columbia. The idea for FemSex started at the University of California, Berkeley and is now traveling to many college campuses and cities throughout the country. If you’re interested in discussing gender, self-love, self-empowerment and meeting other people who also love to discuss this, FemSex is the best place on-campus to do so.
As the meeting comes to a close, check-outs begin. Name, PGPs, are you feeling green, yellow or red? (red means you and the group need to stay and talk more), and another answer, this time to “what is something you love about yourself”? Think about it.
Femsex picture via the Femsex fb page