BY MADDY RITTER ’20
As I walked into Mead’s common room, spotting a tray of cookies and a few of my peers scattered amongst the plush seating, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. “Peer Led Queer Ed” doesn’t sound like the kind of event I would usually attend on a Tuesday night — I was already pretty well-versed in the nuances of living as a gay woman. I figured we might cover some things that had been left out of my high school curriculum … maybe gay sex! Instead, the “queer” sex ed workshop was completely lacking in adequate or accurate representations of the “queer” sex it claimed to teach. What purpose does the word “queer” have in the title of this workshop if not to describe its content and attract an audience who seeks out this information?
Mount Holyoke’s Peer Health Educators started the night off by setting a few ground rules: be respectful, politely disagree and use “I” statements. In order to make all identities and experiences feel welcome and comfortable, use inclusive language. We were told not to say “penis” and “vulva” — instead we should use “external” and “internal” genitalia — because the words have gendered connotations. This struck me as completely absurd. Believe it or not, “penis” and “vulva” are words that medical doctors and anatomy textbooks use regularly — in fact, “internal genitalia” is not even a medically accurate term to describe the vulva! (The vulva is external, while the vagina is internal). The fear of somehow being exclusionary towards trans people has caused the Peer Health Educators to resort to imprecise language, which in turn has rendered the words meaningless and, in the case of vulvas, inaccurate.
After these basics were covered and we played an ice-breaking game, we moved on to a new group activity: ranking various sexual acts from least to most “risky.” As we went through a couple, namely “Moving from front hole to back hole” and “Back hole penetration by external genitalia,” I noticed an oddly high prevalence of sex acts involving or centering around “external genitalia” for the setting (a “queer” sex ed workshop at a women’s college). This is the truth: the vast majority of students here at Mount Holyoke have vaginas. Most of the “queer” sex going on is happening between people with vaginas. And though that is not always the case, queer women should be able to see themselves in the conversation at a queer sex ed workshop.
Why was I taught how to put a condom on in this workshop? I will never need to use that skill — and more importantly, that information is available everywhere. Putting on a condom is the foundation of an average heteronormative high school health class. It is painfully ironic that this kind of sex education is one so often complained about by advocates for inclusive sex ed, and yet a so-called “queer” workshop’s alternative taught the same old penis-in-vagina sex, just this time with more “inclusive” language. Where is the gay sex?