The Big O

Womyn’s Awareness Center invites speakers to talk about orgasms, safe sex decisions and the importance of respecting our bodies

On Wednesday, March 24, 2010  two speakers are coming to Gustavus to talk candidly about a subject few Gustavus students have probably ever discussed openly before: the female orgasm. Taking place at 7:00 p.m. in Alumni Hall, the event will cover not only the touchy subjects of finding the G-Spot and multiple orgasms, but also broader issues such as making safe sexual decisions, how the media influences our ideas of sex and female sexuality, and the importance of respecting both your own body and the bodies of others.

The speakers are members of the organization Sexuality Education, which supports spreading awareness about all types of sexual issues to young people, including workshops on promoting safer sex and furthering understanding of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender (GLBT) community.

Though the workshop is sponsored by the Womyn’s Awareness Center (WAC), the idea to bring the speakers to campus was brought to the WAC’s attention by a male student, Sophomore History Major Brandon Hirdler. “I found out about the program from a friend who goes to another college, and it became a goal of mine to find somebody [at Gustavus] to get behind it. The Womyn’s Awareness Center seemed the obvious choice,” Hirdler said.

This specific workshop, titled simply “The Female Orgasm,” was chosen by the members of the WAC because “it’s their most popular program, and being a part of the WAC it’s what we wanted to focus on, because it’s all about women’s pleasure and sexuality,” Junior Classics Major and WAC member Jericho Westendorf said.

Other students echoed that sentiment but also stressed the need to simply start a frank dialogue on campus concerning orgasms and female sexuality. “I think Gustavus is sometimes very proper and quiet and just doesn’t talk about things that make people uncomfortable. Say ‘orgasm’ in a class, and everyone giggles, but it’s not that big of a deal. I think it’s important to talk about that [at Gustavus],” Sophomore English and Religion Major and WAC Co-President Elizabeth Coco said.

“This presentation is much like the Vagina Monologues, in that we’re trying to bring something up that is usually shunned and put away. Women’s sexuality is something that should be brought up and discussed and should not be ignored,” Westendorf added.

One of the speakers, Marshall Miller, is the co-founder of Sexuality Education and also co-wrote a book with fellow co-founder Dorian Solot titled, “The Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide.” After receiving a bachelor’s degree in Sexuality and Society from Brown University, Miller managed HIV prevention programs at a community center and began his public speaking career giving sessions at conferences.

“[Following these sessions], college students would come and say, ‘Will you come speak at my school?’ So I’d speak at colleges occasionally. Over time, the programs got more and more popular. Now, speaking at colleges around the country is what I do full-time,” Miller said.

The second speaker, Jocelyn Benson, is the newest member of the organization. While in college at Wellesley Benson was president of the school’s Sexual Health Education group for two years and later received a degree in Public Health from Yale University.  “I had actually brought Marshall and his partner in to Wellesley to speak when I was a student there, and years later, I was thrilled to find out they were hiring and training other sex educators. Traveling around talking with college students about the female orgasm has been a blast,” Benson said.

When asked about the importance of educating college students about the female orgasm, Benson explained, “Female orgasm really is a fascinating subject — it’s a topic that interests people regardless of their age or gender, whether or not it’s information they’ll use right away or many years later.”

“Orgasms are all about pleasure, exactly the aspect of sexuality that’s not discussed in most formal sex education. High school classes often teach about anatomy, reproduction and disease, but they rarely address pleasure. That’s pretty sad, given that pleasure is a core part of sex for most people,” Miller added.

The speakers stressed that the event is for all sexes and genders.  “Lots of guys are definitely interested in this subject, as well as women. They’ll learn tips for guys on how to be a better lover, for now or when they’re married,” Miller said. “It’s a subject of interest to most people, whether they’re male, female, straight, lesbian, bisexual,” Benson added.

The event is also open to all students regardless of beliefs on sex or marriage. “No matter what your beliefs about engaging in sexual activity, this program is about informing and educating. It’s for everyone,” Coco said.  “[The program] is not a plug for sex. It’s about, if you choose to have sex, making it safe and healthy for you and your partner,” Hirdler explained.

Following the presentation, students are invited to stay and split into gender-specific groups to discuss questions or experiences in a more personal setting with the speakers. “That’s really what it’s all about: starting the conversations, getting people thinking, helping people find the path and make the choices that are right for them,” Miller said.

For more information on the speakers and the presentation, check out Sexuality Education’s website at