What I’ve Learned From…Talking to College Students about Sexuality
Sex educator Megan Andelloux is on the frontlines when it comes to talking with college students about sex. This is what she’s learned from being there.
My job as a Sexologist is not to push someone into having sex. While sexuality is a healthy part of human development, I don’t discuss it so that you’ll go out and do it. I discuss sexuality openly so that people can make educated and informed decisions about their own feelings, desires and behaviors. When I stand before thousands of students each year to talk about how our bodies work, I’m doing so to teach them how they can learn to further explore their sexuality. I do it so they can feel comfortable being sexual, both alone and with the people they choose to get naked with.
So, when a student first approached me after a workshop at Wesleyan University last year, I was surprised at my initial reaction.
She said, “I just want you to know that after coming to your workshop last year, I had sex for the first time….”
I took a deep breath in, and told myself that talking about sex is not the same as giving someone permission to do something sexual (unless, of course, they choose to want to do it). My job isn’t to make decisions for people. Rather, I provide the space to have the conversation. I’m the one who gets to hold the mirror up and expose all the unsaid things we learn to believe sex is supposed to be, because most of my students have never been shown another way to think about sex.
I looked at her, and the student continued, “I just want to thank you because I went into having it for the first time with clearer ideas of what I wanted and skills on how to communicate. I had an orgasm because I wasn’t afraid to say what I needed, and it was awesome.”
While I was relieved, I was also reminded that students like this are why I do what I do. People want to feel safe in sexual situations, and they want to be able to say what they feel. People want to bring joy and pleasure into their lives on their own terms.
And that’s exactly why I discuss all of the messiness of sexuality and sexual relationships. I speak bluntly, and I educate, and I do all of these things because so many folks don’t have access to this information. When I entered the field of sexuality education, it was because I wanted to prevent shame. I wanted to prevent diseases. I wanted to prevent discomfort and fear. I wanted to prevent problems, so I take the unmentionable desires and thoughts, the burning questions people don’t know the answers to, and have never had a chance to even ask, and I put them out there. The popularity of the workshops, and the sheer volume of questions I get at each one, reminds me that I am doing something right. I’m not introducing them to sex, but I’m validating the importance of sexuality in their lives. I’m providing a place for them to ask the things they’ve never felt comfortable asking.
My college and sexological training taught me all about sexual behaviors, anatomy, physiology, disorders and pathology, but it could not have prepared me for the number one truth echoed in tens of thousands of these questions: we all just crave comfort. These students simply want to feel good in their sexuality, and when they get the chance to ask what is really on their minds, they get to confront the fear, discomfort, and insecurity they have around their own sexuality.
Of course, some questions are less heavy. My favorite anonymous question last year (I pass out cards and students write down what they want to ask), simply said: “Balls???!”. Such a simple question carries so much weight. “What do I do with them?” “How should I touch them?” “Should I touch them?”
Answering the question of what to do with testicles will never win me a Nobel Peace Prize, but it will create some peace of mind for an individual who has been struggling with what to do with a low swinging sack. Answering this simple question can take some of the stress and shame and insecurity away. It can provide years of much needed sexual self-esteem for anyone who ever questioned balls.
We all value sexual comfort in our behaviors, our thoughts, our desires, and our bodies. And why shouldn’t we? We are encouraged to be comfortable in the skills of driving a car, writing an essay, or playing sports. But where do we gain the basic grounding techniques for our sexuality, the ways to make it fun and comfy and stress-free? The field of sexuality and sex education is so broad, and I could have gone in many different directions in my career. But for me, comfort and safety hold such deep importance that, the more I teach and the more fears I hear, the more I become dedicated to helping people find their own cozy, sexy place.