Let’s Talk About S-E-X, Baby

By Gabrielle Obregon

It’s 2019, so why aren’t we talking about sex more? For a campus that is so fixated on hookup culture and casual sex, discussion of ~bedroom encounters~ does not occur as frequently as one would assume, nor do Barnard students feel as comfortable talking about these topics as one might expect.

Based on interviews with several Barnard women, embarrassment and fear often act as barriers for having open, productive conversations about the questions everyone has. Topics such as masturbation, oral sex, and frequent unsafe sex practices remain taboo. Even amongst best friends, sex life specifics can seem like too much to ask about and share.

“I’ve had conversations with people about sex in which they give me information that I just didn’t need to know, and that makes the conversation uncomfortable for both of us,” one sophomore said. “There is a time and place for talking about sex, and that time and place is not everywhere all the time.”

That being said, discussions surrounding sex are undeniably beneficial for everyone. It is unhealthy to internalize questions about sex that could reaffirm others’ beliefs or call into question what they were told in their seventh grade sex education class. Whether you feel comfortable talking about your favorite vibrator in a room filled with people, or would rather tell your three best friends about your most recent sexual conquest, it is important that these topics remain open to encourage healthy and safe behaviors.  

It would be fair to assume that comfortability with talking about sex comes with age and exposure to these conversations. First-year students said that conversations surrounding oral sex and masturbation do not happen often, and are met with silence and discomfort when they are broached.

“Something that should be talked about more is the process of sexual acts being reciprocated,” one first-year student said.

Barnard women have noticed a stark disparity in sexual pleasure. A 2016 article from Medical Daily confirms that “often young women are psychologically pressured into giving oral sex.” Taking this fact into account, it is essential that conversations regarding oral sex and feeling pressured in sexual situations remains open and fear does not hinder women from speaking out.  

Navigating conversations that involve people of different sexualities is something that a majority of students have not encountered. Since the 1960s, Barnard has prided itself in their LGBTQ+ initiatives, boasting the oldest LGBTQ student organization in the nation after partnering with Columbia to create Columbia Queer Alliance in 1967. Almost all of the people interviewed feel as though they do not need to change the way they converse with others if there are people who identify as a different sexuality. As one student said: “As long as you are respectful of others and honest, you don’t have to treat the situation differently.” Many students agree that the discomfort and awkwardness that may be felt when having these conversations can only dissipate the more often they occur.

All students interviewed asked for a normalization of conversations surrounding sex. For acts that ultimately result in pleasure and are a part of life for people of all sexualities, sex is not talked about frequently enough. Conversations surrounding sex can not only be seen as “a fun bonding experience,” but also a way to learn about different sexual acts, experimentation, positions, etc. Rather than categorizing sex talk as dirty and taboo, it is important to try to transform conversations about sex into learning experiences and opportunities to ask questions and receive advice about the most intimate and pleasurable parts of life.