Last Friday night, the Green Dragon at Cornell University was filled with nearly 50 students all gathered to talk about one thing: sex. The wooden table in the center of the room was covered corner to corner with every sex product imaginable, from vibrators to dildos.
The toys were the products of the boutique Sustainable Passion in Ithaca, a shop that views sex and sex paraphernalia in a positive light. This presentation was the final program of a week-long “Know Your Body” campaign, hosted by Voices for Planned Parenthood, or Vox, at Cornell. This group supports and advocates for Planned Parenthood at the college level through outreach and information tables. Lauren Cooley, Vice President of Vox, said the goal of the campaign is to remove the stigma that surrounds the body and sexual pleasure -- especially when it comes to women.
“It’s such a taboo topic, but there’s no reason for that,” Cooley said. “When you say the word vagina, you shouldn’t blush and look around and be afraid that someone heard you say that."
The campaign began with a large push on social media that shared articles and information with Vox followers and the general Cornell community. On Wednesday of last week, the group held an anatomy event where students labeled their own definitions of body parts relating to sex.
“A lot of people had no idea. They were shocked. Like, ‘oh gosh I actually don’t know that much about my sexual anatomy,'” Cooley said. “We were trying to start a dialogue and get people talking about their bodies and their pleasure.”
The grand finale of the campaign featured Christine Barksdale of the Ithaca Police Department. When she’s not investigating juvenile cases, Barksdale can be found searching for and selling non-toxic, safe and primarily women-centric sex toys in her boutique, Sustainable Passions. Barksdale said she wants to get people talking about their sexuality in a comfortable way.
"I say my store is sex positive, because it really is about having an open honest and nonjudgmental conversation about sex and sexuality,” Barksdale said. "There’s no stupid questions. It’s the idea of saying ‘Yeah, I don’t know, but I want to know.’”
In her presentation, Barksdale discussed her products with the audience, allowing attendees to pass around toys made of glass, silicone, rubber and more. Kacey Solotoff, a senior at Cornell, said the discussion helped further pique her interest in these subjects.
“I’ve always been pretty body positive, and I’ve always wanted to branch out into the world of sex toys, so this is a really good introduction to that whole experience,” Solotoff said.
Now that the week-long campaign has ended, Cooley said she hopes students will continue to expose themselves to new ideas regarding sexuality and discuss those ideas with each other.
“I think it is important when one person is talking about it, because they’ll be posting things to Facebook and realize, ‘Hey, this is not that big of a deal,’” Cooley said. “Then they can start a conversation with their friends, their partner, and their family.”