As you know, the Women’s Resource Center had the opportunity to attend the Allied Media Conference in Detroit, Michigan! This conference encompassed several workshops that allowed people with various identities to utilize different forms of media to incite social change. One of the workshops the WRC attended was titled “Pro Heaux: Sex Positivity from the Ground Up.”
Initially, I thought this workshop would be like many sexuality-based sex-positive workshops that focus on people’s experiences with sex and pleasure. Both of these elements I found to be very valuable, so I was excited to be a part of a community where expressing these experiences would be safe and inviting. However, this workshop took a new spin on sex positivity and sexuality.
Instructed by educator Alexsarah Collier, this workshop focused on the interlocking oppressions found within our sexuality, reflecting on what our ideal expression of sexuality looks like and creating positive affirmations/ boundaries during sexual encounters. As someone who feels they are in touch with their sense of self and their sexuality, I felt that this workshop would be beneficial but nothing I felt I didn’t have a foundation on. Oh how wrong I was.
The first question we were asked was how we were privileged and oppressed we were in our sexuality. I sat in my desk for about fifteen minutes not realizing that I had never thought of how privileged I was. I am cisgendered. I am heterosexual. I am also young and able-bodied. As humbling as it was to have an awareness in how I am privileged when navigating sexuality and sexual experiences, it was also difficult to face ways in which I personally face oppression regarding these elements. Some of these oppressions were: being a survivor of sexual assault, not presenting Eurocentric features and growing up in a family where sexuality was not talked about. By examining these things, I was able to think about past and future experiences and how my sensibilities and identities impacted these experiences. This knowledge of the various positions I hold when navigating sex and sexuality in the world becomes an important tool for me and others to not internalize certain experiences, especially regarding the oppressions I and others face.
The second question was “what would the ideal expression of your sexuality be if you did not have to face danger or judgment”. Although I had been exposed to things on the spectrum from high school sex ed to workshops on how to give the best lap dance, I had never been asked what my unabashed sexual self would be. I looked around the room to see if I could recognize my fear in others. Worried faces danced around the room. As women, I realized we are never conditioned to recognize our self worth and authority within our sexuality. And this is what made this workshop so profound, as well as what made it so difficult. Many of the women and femmes had responses like “I would ask for what I want” and “I would feel comfortable saying ‘no’ to things I do not want”. Given the freedom to be or act in any way, what women and femmes wanted more than anything regarding their sexuality was to be heard.
The third question asked us to recite affirmations we tell ourselves. Phrases like “I am beautiful”, “I can ask for what I need”, “we are doing this together” and “trust your gut” began appearing on the white board around the room. These phrases were empowering because they made us feel comfortable in our own skin in terms of self-worth and safety when navigating unfamiliar people and spaces. As we filled our common space with these affirmations, we created our own safe space within the room and within ourselves simultaneously.
Discussions on sex and sexuality must encompass elements of self reflection. Holistic discussions of this topic encourage people to feel that they are valuable and active participants in their sexual lives. By developing this strong sense of sexual self and sexual identity, folks are better able to take care of themselves and others when navigating various spaces.