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Episode 9: Real Sex Ed

A couple undergraduate students at Wayne State University started a student organization where students have a safe space to learn and talk about sex.

A couple undergraduate students at Wayne State University started a student organization where students have a safe space to learn and talk about sex. I got a chance to speak with them.

(Transcript)

I recently got a chance to sit down with a couple fellow students of mine. It was an honor and a privilege to get to talk with Zaria and Taylor. They are undergraduate students here at Wayne State University, and they started a club, a student organization, called Real Sex Ed. The idea of the organization is to give students a chance to ask real, honest questions about sex and to have real, honest conversations.

Since this is exactly what I’m all about, I really enjoyed the opportunity to hear their ideas about how they got started and where they hope it will go.

Hi, my name is Zaria. I am a student at Wayne State University. I am doing a double major in gender studies and economics. I am president and founder of this club called Real Sex Ed. We talk about different topics relating to sex, like masturbation, pleasure, orgasm, like everything—anything under the sun, related to that realm.

Zaria

Hi, my name is Taylor. I am a senior, and I’m majoring in history with a double minor in Italian and art history. I’m the vice president of Real Sex Ed.

Taylor

How did you guys get the idea to start this club?

I think I was like, I don’t know—basically what happened was, I can trace it back to high school and just being in shitty relationships, having a poor relationship with myself, and having poor confidence. Not just sexualitywise but in general. And I just decided I was going to change my ways. And with my partner that I’m with now, I decided this was crap. I really wanted to feel better about myself.

So I started educating myself about sex and relationships and how to be more sexually confident. Then over winter break I had been pondering it last year. I thought I really wanted to start this club, because I talked to enough people about very similar issues relating to sex. Like confidence. And everyone is struggling with very similar things. So why not make a club, a space where people can go, to talk about these things.

Taylor, did I just ask you to be my VP?

Zaria

Yeah. Like the whole club was your idea, and I was totally behind it. You worked really hard to get this club. But yeah, just to piggy-back off of what Zaria said, I’ve learned a lot from Zaria as far as sexual confidence and being comfortable with my body.

Because in high school, I was not comfortable with my body, and my sexual experiences weren’t very positive, to say the least. And I’m sure we’ll get into that more later. But my high school sexual experiences were more centered around the guy, and what he wanted to do, and all that stuff. But yeah.

Taylor

That sounds really familiar. I hear a lot of times it seems like sex is centered around the guy.

Kenneth

Yeah. It was definitely Zaria that helped me see that that should not be the case at all.

Taylor

It’s such like a chronic idea, that sex should be centered around the guy. That’s such crap. So we need to just scratch that any chance we get.

Zaria

What People Want to Talk About

So, I was going to ask, you mentioned a couple different topics that are talked about in the club. What do you think are the ones that people are most interested in?

Kenneth

I think everything is a good topic. People—maybe sexual confidence is a good one. We just recently had—I mean, honestly, with school and everything being online now, I think it is more difficult for people to get on all the time and participate, which is why we changed the format and schedule for our club. But back when it was in person, I’d say, like, maybe sexual, um, confidence, or dismantling myths about sex, and masculinity and femininity.

I think, Kenneth, you brought a friend, and they were like a masters student. And we were having this huge conference. It was literally like a filibuster that was totally warranted and wanted. It was amazing. But that was all around roles of women and men in society.

So I think things that are relatable to people at this stage in their life. Like confidence and identity. Those are things that are more easy to grasp than like, I don’t know. We’ve done BDSM. That’s an alluring topic, but maybe a little too out there. But I think everyone can get behind confidence and identity.

Zaria

Now that you start talking about that, it seems like maybe people are looking for information, more than they are looking to talk themselves. Like it seems like a lot of the club meetings, or the parts that people seem to resonate with more, are when there’s information being presented, rather than just an opportunity to talk about it. Do you agree?

Kenneth

I do. I love talking about all things with in sex, but it’s a club that is dependent on people to talk about different topics, and just talk freely.

The only reason I don’t format it as a straight-up information class, like me teaching this, is because I don’t particularly want to teach people in this stage. It’s more of an open space for everyone to talk and to share. But within that space there obviously is education and knowledge shared. It’s impossible for to not become a sort of teaching moment.

Zaria

Yeah, you’ve brought in videos and books and stuff like that. But you’ve invited other people to do that as well.

Kenneth

Absolutely, yeah. And with me bringing it in, I’m just like, the person that got it started, to get the ball rolling. But like it’s not like I’m teaching a class on Sex 101. It’s not a class, it’s a club. And my voice is no louder, no important than Teegs is, than any participant in the club. Their voice, like, eveyone matters. Just because I started it does not mean I’m going to sit behind a desk and be, “this this this this this.” Like I open it up for everyone to talk and share. Cuz I’m like, this is for eveybody!

Zaria

I think that’s why we refer back to that particular meeting, the really big one where there was a lot of debating going on. I think that resonated with more people because everyone got to voice their opinion. And yes, we learned a lot, but it wasn’t like in a shaming way. We weren’t calling people stupid, or like, “you’re wrong.” We were just trying to open up the discussion to like, “oh maybe you should think this way, or maybe you should look at this viewpoint.” And I think, especially with us being in college, a lot of people are still, like you said, trying to find the sexual confidence. A lot of us are still struggling with finding our true identities, I think it’s important that it’s more group-led than just one person, like you said Zaria.

Taylor

Absolutely. And even with, going back to that meeting, there was so much knowledge because he was sharing things that he was studying at that point in time with everyone. And it was just amazing to see everyone come together and just learn something and think about something in a new way. But in the same breath, in the same sense, you can think also counter to that. With their own life experience. There is no one correct experience. There is only us trying to create the—one that best helps and benefits everyone involved. If you’re going to break down some myths about gender or sexuality in the process, that’s kind of the way to get there.

Zaria

How it Started

So I’m curious about your background or your development—if that’s the right word. How did you go from—OK let me start over. So you’ve been—I’ve heard you say that you love talking about sex, right? Has it always been that way, or was there a process you went through to become more confident, more interested in having those discussions?

Kenneth

Oh wait, Zaria, can I answer that one first? It’s really weird. Like I said earlier, I credit Zaria because before this I was always a sexual person but I was too shy to talk about it. So she completely opened my eyes to a lot of things, like things I should not be tolerant of. Like we said, you know, the pleasure of a man should not be the only thing you take into consideration when you’re having sex. You should feel more comfortable with your body, things like that.

Let’s just say, when I was a freshman, when I first came to Wayne State. I have changed so much in the whole—I don’t know if I should call it a sexual reawakening for lack of a better term—because of Zaria helping me. But like, yeah. It’s been a great experience. So…

Taylor

Yeah. I love that 100%!

Is it me now? I love that Taylor. I think for me, when I was a kid, my parents, my mom’s a doctor, and she made it important to speak freely about everything. Anything under the sun, with her children. And sex was definitely a part of that. So issues not only about sex, but all different topics. But that was on the table. So it made me feel more free to speak about it with her. And then, um, yeah, after high school, with having such terrible experiences, and just feeling shame and guilt surrounding my body, and my confidence and how my identity—essentially—I just decided I wasn’t going to feel that way anymore. I said there has to be something better. This can’t be the only way. This can’t be my existence. I really wanted to expand myself.

So I started looking at videos. My senior year of high school and freshman year. Helping to expand my confidence. I learned about this one teacher, and took their course. Speaking about it with other people I almost felt like I was a magnet, with people talking. I’ve had several conversations behind closed doors or like chilling on my couch, about people’s sexual hangups with them. And just after seeing that so many times I was just like yo, this is something that we need to express and talk about.

So, I don’t know, I guess the way I was brought up opened my eyes and made me feel less secretive about it. And after going through my hardships, I realized now we can absolutely not be secretive about it. This is a problem everyone is facing. So yeah, that’s kind of my journey with it.

Zaria

Not All Positivity

Cool. So it sounds pretty positive, then, obviously. So has it always been positive, or have you seen times when talking about these issues has been a challenge or you’ve got any negative pushback or anything like that?

Kenneth

What do you think Taylor?

Zaria

I think for us it’s been mostly positive. I think the biggest thing, looking back on when we had our table in the student center and we were trying to get people to come to the first couple meetings. It is sort of a topic that people are very shy about when it comes to talking about it. It is very understandable for some. But like we would try to get people to come to the table and they would be like, “oh I don’t know, I don’t really want to talk about this.”

Or we had that one guy that was being really weird about it. You know which guy I’m talking about, Zaria. Where he was kind of, I don’t know, condescending, like challenging us, like “Why are you guys doing this?” type of attitude. But aside from that, the poeple who were kind of shy, once they did come, they were very happy about it. They ended up learning a lot. So it was mostly good.

Taylor

Yeah, I mostly agree with that. But that one guy, when he came to the meeting. Probably our worst experience—or, for me personally—is when that guy came to the meeting, and it felt like he was just judging the whole time. And this is not—because when you come to a meeting, it’s imperative that you show up with a mindset where you’re open to receiving new information, and sharing your own information. And it felt like there’s no real space for, um, judgement, there. Or if you are judging, then expect to have the cock out, or maybe you learn a thing or two about what you are expressing. Could be better.

But I don’t really mind people. I think in the beginning I was shy. I think over the past few years, with my own confidence as a person, separate from the club, before the club, I’ve been working on that. So I felt better. Because it does take a lot of confidence to go out in the student center. It takes a lot to go out there with like dick or like vagina cookies.

Zaria

You were out there with the “I Love Orgasms” shirt.

Taylor

Exactly! It takes a lot of confidence to go out there and do that. But once you do the worst things, then it’s all great after that. You know what I mean? It’s not the worst thing in the world to—you know, cuz after I wear that shirt, and people are like, “I want that shirt! I want that shirt! Can you get me a shirt like that?” So I’m like “boop, yeah!”

Zaria

I was going to say, people were asking you to make them shirts!

Taylor

“I Love Orgasms”

Just for the people that aren’t familiar, tell us more about this shirt and about the cookies.

Kenneth

Oh Lord! So basically when we first started the club, at our school there’s the student center where a lot of students pass through. There’s restaurants and places where people can sit and hang out with their friends. And there’s tables all along the walkway for clubs and organizations to advertise and try to get people to come. So that’s what we did a lot of times, several times. We had our sign, you know, like I heart sex, join Real Sex Ed. And with that it was my club shirt that I made, I wrote it, it says I heart orgasms. And I still have it to this day, it’s in my closet. It’s beautiful! And I got a lot of lot of weird looks from people, wearing that shirt. But I also got a lot of positivity.

And I don’t really care about the weird looks because, like, oh it’s just people pushing, like not wanting to speak about something that’s important. That’s OK. Like everyone’s developing and doing different things. But I feel like having sex as a pillar, something to talk about in society openly and without judgement or feeling weird, I feel like that—that’s not weird. It should be the new norm. So at a certain poing I was like I don’t give a crap, like whatever, I’m going to wear this shirt. I don’t give a f—I don’t care!

Zaria

Oh yeah, you like rocked that “I Love Orgasms” shirt. Like I remember all the girls that were coming up like “Oh my God, where did you get that from?” And they were asking you to make them one, like “Do you sell these?” So that was really cool to see. It wasn’t all the weird looks. A lot of people actually thought it was really nice.

Taylor

Yeah. I think that’s something that was surprising too. Like people would walk by and think that’s so weird. But then other people are like “Oh my God, that’s so neat, that’s so cool.” There’s always a community, there’s always a group of people. Even if some people don’t like you or are not ready to accept you, that’s totally OK. You need to respect them and that. Because you’re still doing your thing and they can do theirs. But at the same time there’s a ton of people that are for it and want to see you thrive, and really want this to be something we talk about in society.

Zaria

Yeah, cool. It’s really interesting to see how people react when you do something that makes them a little uncomfortable. And I guess I—what I hear you saying is that they’re not necessarily offended. Maybe they’re just shy about it or whatever. But once you sort of introduce the topic, like by wearing that shirt, or by saying something, it sort of opens the door to having a conversation. That even though it’s not really comfortable, it’s not really the norm, it just makes it easier for them to start a conversation. Right?

Kenneth

Yeah, absolutely. And also like what is the norm? Like people in society, we create the norm, so why not change the norm? There are things within society that are just—what’s the word—accepted without judgement. Those are all things we have. It’s a culture. You have to expand that culture. Just because it’s not, you know, cool to talk about it now does not make it a totally off the table topic to talk about. It’s about the development—

Zaria

I wanted to say I feel like everyone has this problem—it’s been like this for decades, obviously, but maybe it’s getting better. People have become so comfortable with being se awkward about sex. Like we don’t talk about that. We only talk about that with our significant others and maybe a few close friends. But I agree with Zaria. We do have the power to change the narrative as far as being more comfortable with these things.

And not only just, you know, sex with other people. But being intimate with ourselves. Pleasuring ourselves. It doesn’t have to be some secretive thing that you don’t share with anyone else ever.

Taylor

Making Society Better

So let’s think a little more broadly. So outside of the club, what do you see that we as a culture or society should be doing differently? Or how do you think we can work to make it easier to be more open and honest about sexuality?

Kenneth

I think—like about sexuality? Or like happiness in general? Just sex?

Zaria

I think, well about anything—when I use the word sex, I talk very broadly. So, the actual sex act, or sexual identity, or gender identity or gender norms. So yeah, what do you think we should be doing differently as a society?

Kenneth

I mean, in a broad sense, I think advocating for pleasure in all realms. Not only one’s identity, but in society. In institutions in society. And pleasure is not like physical pleasure. It’s emotional pleasure. Being happy in one’s self, being content. Speaking about things that are wrong. Feeling confidence to speak about things when they’re not OK. And you can also tie that into being in the bedroom, or being with yourself. Voicing your opinions. If you like this or if you don’t like that. Having the confidence to speak up because that’s all relating to issues with being able to communicate. So essentially just higher communication. Having the ability and confidence to voice one’s own opinions. And that idea permeates throughout society.

That’s why I love talking about sex so much. It’s not a gossip club. I don’t think it’s that at all. We don’t talk about sex—if you don’t know my club—we don’t talk about I did this this this, or I did that that that. It’s truly education. It’s not some salacious thing. But umm, how are we going to—essentially, we create the narrative and give confidence to people in this way. People don’t like talking about it. If you liberate this part of yourself and just communicate freely on that, I believe with my heart and soul that that strength of communication spreads to all areas of your life. So now you’re communicating better with your sexual partner, with yourself, with your friends, family, coworkers, and it benefits everything. Does that answer your question? Advocating for pleasure in all areas of one’s life. That not only heightens sexual activity which is a small purpose of this—the purpose of the club—but it heightens one’s quality of life.

Zaria

I think I agree with all of that. For me, something I think we can do a bit differently, it seems like there’s still a lot of—I don’t know the right word for it. When a woman is comfortable with her sexuality and being a very sexual being, there’s still a lot of shaming on the woman. Not from the woman, but from other people. Like she’s a whore, she’s a slut, she sleeps with so many people and all these different things. I feel that that’s something that definitely shouldn’t be done. Just because someone is sexually liberated doesn’t mean she should be called names.

I’ve seen this double standard my entire life. Like if a guy is sleeping around it’s really cool and hot. But when a girl does it she’s like slutty and she doesn’t deserve to be in a real relationship and stuff like that. But something I think is noteworthy is I do see a lot more women being open with who they are sexually. And they don’t care that they’re being called names. But being like that still doesn’t make it right that people are being called out of their names for choosing to have multiple sex partners. I don’t know.

And for me, it’s just very disheartening. Because you try. Like with our club I go online and I see people making fun of women for doing things. It’s really upsetting. So I definitely think people need to have more of an open mind as far as women being more comfortable with their sexuality, I guess. But um, that’s just something that’s always bothered me.

Taylor

Making Yourself Better

Yeah. Do you have any advice for individuals who think they’d like to have more honest conversations? Any suggestions on how they could get started, or places they could go?

Kenneth

Umm, they could come to our meeting!

Taylor

They should masturbate more. 100%!

Zaria

Right, yeah. But um, I know, Zaria, like I’ve said a million times, I’ve learned a lot from you. But just reading. Reading can change so much. You have all these books and I wouldn’t have known about any of them if you hadn’t told me. But it’s just—as cliche as it sounds, reading is fundamental.

But Zaria, you have all the names of the books and stuff like that. But I think that’s always a good place to start.

Taylor

There’s umm, something that people should know if they’re having problems, is you’re not alone. That’s something that took me a long time to realize. That I’m not alone in having difficulties experiencing pleasure. Like sexually, like in my life everyday, just feeling joy. And feeling confident expressing that. If you struggle with that, you’re not deficient. You’re not, you know, screwed up. There’s knowledge and information out in the world. Like, I don’t know, joining out club, or even not just advocating for our club, but going out, buying books, uh, taking courses from teachers—certified sex ed coaches.

There’s a huge world, especially online, for people to learn things. There’s nothing you can’t learn. Take advantage of the opportunities around you, even if they’re not right in front of your face. Like make those opportunities, go online, get a book, take a course. Do something—talk about it more freely with your friends. Maybe confide in one friend and express to them what’s going on.

Masturbate more. Literally self-pleasure more. And that doesn’t have to be—I shouldn’t say masturbate. Self-pleasure more. So whether that be sexual pleasure, or just taking yourself out on a fucking date.

Zaria

Taking a nice long bath, or buying yourself some flowers. Just doing kind things for yourself.

Taylor

Create more opportunities for pleasure and happiness in your life. If you do that, I am a firm believer in the power of the law of attraction. You know, the universe will give it back to you. You’ll wake up and see there’s all these different opportunities. I can—this person, I can take their course. Scrolling on Instagram that’s happened to me, with the second course I took. I came across this person, and wow, so interesting. I really want to take it. And I got really interested in them.

And alot with books. You know. Just do whatever you can. Create more happiness. Enjoy your own life. And in doing that you’ll keep receiving happiness and joy. You know, not all the time. But there’s definitely an opportunity for growth and happiness and change in your life every day. So seize it.

Zaria

Very cool, I love that advice. So thank you so much for taking the time to do this.

Thank you for having us.

Taylor

Thank you.

Zaria

Well, I hope that was interesting to you. And maybe it can motivate you to talk more openly and honestly about sex in your social groups as well.

Thanks for listening.

By Kenneth

Kenneth is a graduate student at Wayne State University studying sociology. He is also the host/producer of The Unspeakable Vice Podcast and author of "Lessons Learned: Life-Altering Experiences of Incarceration."

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