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‘Sex Matters’ Changes Freshman’s Viewpoints

By Aurora Schmidt and Sagara Wickramasekara

In the wee hours of the morning, I, the gullible freshman that I am, woke up extra early for a mysteriously mandatory breakfast yesterday followed by a presentation by renowned speaker Jay Friedman. A popular Seattle “sexpert,” Friedman has been nominated as the best college lecturer of the year. He received a degree in education from the University of Vermont and has published the book How To Be A Better Lover.

I entered Kresge Auditorium expecting “Sex Matters” to be yet another boring sex talk, complete with redundant information, cheesy slogans, and scare tactics. Little did I know that the presentation would actually challenge my sexual point of view.

Friedman began by retelling a seemingly seductive story of an intimate hour between a male and female. As he ventured deeper and deeper into uncharted territory, we all found ourselves incredibly disgusted and yet fascinated by his explicit words.

Right as he reached the climax of his provocative tale, he looked up with smile and explained that the relationship was between a mother and infant. Laughing at the sea of embarrassed faces he jokingly asked, “What were you all thinking about?”

That was just the first of many intellectual leaps Friedman challenged us to take.

“This lecture will become increasingly more provocative as the hour goes by,” he warned. “My goal is to turn you into sexperts.”

He was right. Friedman’s presentation was, to say the least, a bit provocative. In fact, I even found it informative.

Friedman delved into the psychological mess of the male adolescent and blamed societal pressures for widespread ignorance about sex.

He bravely put his own masculinity on the line, and he invited the jocks in the crowd to call him a “sissy,” “fag,” and “wuss” for his honest expression of his enjoyment of the sensitive side of his relationships. The invitation cleverly demonstrated the societal taboos that prevent men from revealing their true feelings.

“We use alcohol as a social lubricant,” he said, touching on the link between sex and alcohol. Nonetheless, Friedman managed to avoid sounding as preachy as nearly all the other sex educators I’ve ever heard before.

He did, however, express his very strong liberal viewpoints concerning pornography. Some mature people use pornography responsibly and it even drives new technology, he argued.

Friedman portrayed conservative views against pornography as an infringement on our freedoms. In doing so, however, he characterized the right wing as being opposed to all expressions of sexuality. His open-minded views should have been extended to the religious conservatives that he criticized.

Friedman also addressed homophobia as being a societal pressure, although he did not explore the subject in depth. As Daniel J. Katz ’03, said “I was disappointed with the orientation of the program to heterosexuals. While I’m straight, I realize [there’s] a large gay community that needs to be represented.”

Friedman’s presentation was effective in undermining revered social stigmas. He drove the point home with the insight, “It’s not our fault that we are socialized this way, but it’s our fault if we don’t change.”

I came away with a perspective that, even though not changed, has been expanded. To quote Friedman, “We learn most when we’re challenged by new and different ideas.”