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.

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Trouble With Taboos

Why are we as women so afraid of our sexuality? Throughout adolescence,  I remember shuttering,  cringing in embarrassment if the topic of relationships, sexual development, or genitals arose in any kind of serious conversation. Through all three years of middle school, I saw my peers do the same. When high school came around, things changed, but not necessarily for the better. While "how far" a girl would go with a guy now became representative of her social status, the important issues of curiosity, ignorance, fear, doubt, regret, and pressure that are often faced in sexual or romantic relationships remained taboo.

Upon reflection, I feel very thankful for the extremely blunt health teacher that taught me about everything from anatomy of sex organs to the effects of peer pressure on decision making during my four years of high school. No issue was too uncomfortable, no description was too detailed for this woman. She handled all questions with admirable frankness, sympathy, and a sense of humor that allowed most of the class to feel comfortable with the topic she was covering even if just for that moment. I also feel very lucky to have had such an honest, non-judgmental mother.  By the end of high school, I felt assured that I could talk to her about truly anything. Yes, talking about some things did at times feel very uncomfortable, but she always made sure to take me seriously and to respond in a kind, calm, way.

Even with my school's comprehensive sexual education program and an extremely supportive and informative mother at home,   I was not any ounce more comfortable with my own sexuality by the time I left high school than I had been when I entered.  There was still so much I could not talk about with my peers, so many questions I could not ask the adults around me, so many issues that could not be discussed in relationships themselves. And I have to wonder why this is. How could it be that something so innate as sexuality can be continuously shoved under  the covers when a young girl, teenager, or grown woman tries to discuss it seriously?  How can it be this way when sexuality is, for many, such a large part of living?

The consequences of this censorship are even more troubling. Young girls grow up not knowing the proper terminology for their genitals because their mothers forbid discussing the very body parts that they share with their daughters in a serious, well-informed way. Young women enter sexual relationships without having been properly equipped with the knowledge they will need to make healthy choices. Furthermore, if they do encounter challenges, they then become stuck in extremely complicated situations without the guidance or unconditional support that can help them to figure things out.

For these reasons, I am grateful for the progress I have made since coming to college, for the steps I have been able to help end this silence. Working at the Ramapo College Women's Center has given me the opportunity to talk about these issues with my peers as well as professors. I hope that conversations spark a desire in these people too, because it seems to me that talking is the only way to remove the stigma.

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