Founded in 1974, the Women’s Center was established to:
Dismantle, from a feminist perspective, all forms of oppression, including but not limited to those based on ability, age, class, ethnicity, gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Advocate for an equitable environment free from violence and harassment based on gender, race, and sexual orientation.
Create an anti-racist, non-sexist, queer-affirmative space where all people can feel valued and safe.
Facilitate and strengthen connections among people across lines of difference through programming and educational campaigns.
Integrate an appreciation of Women's Gender and Multicultural Studies across the disciplines.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Loving Yourself So You Can Love the One You're With

Just a few hours ago the Ramapo College Women’s Center was lucky enough to welcome Maria Falzone (the “Sex Rules” lady) onto our campus to give a BRAND NEW presentation (that she had never done for a college before) about healthy relationships. I wish I had a video camera at this event, because the lecture was something that everyone can benefit from. Unfortunately, we didn’t… so blogging about it is the next best thing! What follows is my best recollection of (my favorite parts of) her presentation. My memory isn’t perfect, and I had to duck out a few times to grab things for the presentation so if you were there and you have a favorite part (or want to correct something I said) please leave a comment on this post!
Maria took anonymous questions from the audience to answer during her presentation. One of the questions collected asked: “Approximately how long would you recommend waiting before having sex with my boyfriend?” Another audience member quickly chimed in to advise: “When you’re ready, you’re ready.” Maria agreed with this assessment and went on to add. She referenced her Sex Rules presentation, telling the audience that if you want to have really good sex you should be able to do it with “the lights on, covers off” and you should feel comfortable enough to tell your partner “what you want, how you want it, and why you want it.” In short, she was advocating open communication and total honesty between sex partners.

Maria went on to explain the importance of “interviewing” your partner to find out what they consider sex, and what they want to do in any given encounter. Some audience members objected to this advice because they felt that having these conversations before hooking up ruins the romance of relationships. Maria responded to them with blunt honesty, explaining that she doesn’t believe in the picture movies (and porn) paint of sex as something that just spontaneously happens. When these conversations don’t happen… “That’s how date rape happens,” Maria said at one point. I think she’s completely right.

Sure, you can assume that your partner wants to have sex with you, and start to initiate things without asking… and sometimes, maybe even most of the time it will be fine. If you don’t ask though, how will you know it was fine? How will you KNOW that your partner really wanted to have sex in that moment, that they felt totally comfortable and happy and not pressured? Why WOULDN’T you ask when asking is all you need to do to remove ANY doubt about your partner’s feelings? Why WOULDN’T you want to make sure you weren’t violating your sex partner?

Some people in the crowd claimed that it ruined the romance… I can understand where they’re coming from, because the way our culture paints consent is decidedly not sexy. Our culture is wrong. Campaigns like Consent is Sexy are awesome, because they explain how you can ask for consent in ways that don’t ruin the mood… if you also think asking for consent can ruin the moment, check this website out!

Maria also stressed the importance of being able to say no as a method of self care. She used a funny, but also sad, example of a boyfriend who tried to convince her that she owed him oral sex when she didn’t want to give it to him because he picked her up from the airport and bought her Kentucky Fried Chicken. Looking back, she says that that moment should have been the warning signal that got her out of that relationship, because her boyfriend cared more about HIS desires than her needs.

She explained that it is so important to be comfortable saying no, and that a lot of times our families or our past relationships make us feel guilty for setting and upholding our boundaries because it is seen as being “selfish.” People aren’t always obvious about it, she pointed out that sometimes not accepting no comes in the form of smoothly trying to “convince” us to change our minds (and sometimes it comes really obviously, in angry yelling.) This was another very powerful message of the night – it is so important to see the danger in people who don’t accept our “no” and avoid these relationships because it is dangerous to be close to people who don’t respect your boundaries.

Maria touched on many more topics than the one listed here over the hour that she talked about the various lessons she has learned in her life. If you were at the event and you’d like to add your favorite lessons/jokes/moments feel free to comment here!

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