BY SAEE CHITALE ’22
A big box of vibrators and dildos. A group of students crammed inside the tiny space. Anxiety and excitement gripping everyone’s mind as Yana Tallon-Hicks prepared to address the room on Thursday.
The sex-ed workshop called “Hittin’ the Spot — pleasure-based sex education for all,” conducted by Tallon-Hicks, started out with her saying, “There are no Olympic sex judges in your room, go for it!” The room filled with bursts of laughter and the ice was broken. There was sense of comfort and unspoken solidarity.
Tallon-Hicks’ first order of business was addressing the frivolity of high school sex-ed classes that promote abstinence and make STDs sound like the end of the world. Tallon-Hicks talked about being subjected to “banana condom” races and students recounted sitting in classes where queer sex wasn’t even acknowledged. The abstinence education provided by many high schools only led to a consensus among students about how much of a resource online searches can be. While Tallon-Hicks acknowledged that the internet can be a useful tool for acquiring knowledge, she pointed out that internet resources also often heavily stereotype sexual encounters.
Another aspect that such sources often don’t focus on is the exchange of consent. Tallon-Hicks emphasized that consent is the most important part of any kind of sexual activity. If the process of exchanging consent isn’t shown in a pornographic film, some viewers are not exposed to it at all. Tallon-Hicks followed her discussion on consent and its importance with an activity focused on recognizing the different responses to consent. All the students were asked to make up questions that asked for consent and had to practice receiving responses of three kinds — enthusiastic yes, hesitant no and harsh no — with a partner.
The hands-on part of the workshop came with the reveal of a myriad of sex toys: different kinds of vibrators and dildos were passed around the room as Tallon-Hicks systematically explained the use and need for each. The detailed explanation of each toy was coupled with a depiction of the human anatomy (both the vagina and the penis), clarifying the mechanics of the sex toys in conjunction with the body. Tallon-Hicks made a point to introduce sex toys that also cater to transgender people. This section of the talk helped explain what the body finds truly pleasurable; pulling out from the “perfect” ideals thrusted upon youth by unrealistic porn films and descriptions. The participants of the workshop found it empowering to associate sex with self-pleasure.
Sexual education delivered in a positive and inclusive manner is rare but highly effective. The workshop held by Tallon-Hicks provided a safe space for students to positively acknowledge their sexual needs and find ways to explore them either with a partner or independently. “The sex talk was very informative in ways that I hadn’t been exposed to before,” said Sophia Hess ’22. “Nobody ever explained masturbation to me, let alone the intricacies of sex toys. I thought that the environment was very positive, stress-free and fun. They did a good job being gender-inclusive as well.” Generally, the workshop seemed to hit the spot, educating a group of people who came from different backgrounds, had different sexual preferences and were open-minded about just loving themselves.