In the last few weeks, two Midwest universities — University of Minnesota and University of Illinois — have caused a media storm as the result of sponsoring on-campus orgasm workshops for students to learn about how to achieve an orgasm as well as other pointers for having a satisfactory sex life.
The reaction among parents, lawmakers and state residents has been a mix of praise, outrage, ambivalence and apathy. Some opponents feel that taxpayer dollars that are earmarked for education should not be sponsoring a program that is focused on sexual pleasure or that the event is promoting sexual promiscuity and lewdness. Others feel that college is more than just about learning in the traditional classroom, and is about becoming an independent adult with self-awareness and knowledge of one’s body.
Putting aside the argument of whether this type of workshop belongs on a college campus, the strong reaction from the public reflects the sensitive nature of this topic and how conflicted people feel when it comes to teaching about sexuality. But the fact that there is a demand for these workshops indicates more than just the reality that college campuses can be very sex-friendly and push the envelope on this country’s comfort zone; perhaps it speaks to a larger need for young adults to have a safe space to be confused about how their bodies work and have a comfortable forum to ask questions.
In our work treating female sexual dysfunction, we often meet women who feel confused about their bodies and feel embarrassed that despite being successful in many areas of their lives, they feel ignorant when it comes to sexual pleasure. And with prevailing myths about sexuality being perpetuated in the media, it only adds to the confusion and isolation. For example, many men and women are not aware that most women do not achieve an orgasm from vaginal intercourse alone, and require clitoral stimulation. Because of this misconception, many men feel inadequate when their partner doesn’t climax, and women feel like there is something wrong with them and may even be inclined to pretend that they had an orgasm in order to preserve their partner’s ego.
There shouldn’t be shame in needing guidance when it comes to sexual satisfaction, but many people feel embarrassed to ask or don’t know where to turn. Akin to a cake-decorating class; yes, you could theoretically figure out techniques at home through trial and error, and some people do, but it shouldn’t be embarrassing to acknowledge that there may be more you can gain from a reading a book or consulting a professional.
Whether you are a college senior or a senior citizen, you should feel comfortable with your body and understand how it works sexually. After all, you never graduate from being a sexual being.