The Wesleyan Argus
By Tess Scriptunas, Staff Writer
Sexologist Megan Andelloux, who has come to campus four years running, is a huge proponent of lube, not so much desensitizing cream.
“Lube is great. I repeat, lube is great,” said Megan Andelloux, emphatically kicking off her annual Sex Toys Workshop in Shanklin Hall last Wednesday. Andelloux, a certified sexuality educator, or “sexologist,” according to her business card, has been coming to Wesleyan for the past four years to speak on the fascinating, controversial, and always exciting topic of sex. While the workshop was largely light-hearted and entertaining, it was in fact sponsored by FemNet—Wesleyan’s Feminist Network—and raised interesting questions about the relationship between sex and feminism.
The workshop covered a broad range of topics, from desensitizing cream to handcuff alternatives to new ways to make use of a vacuum. No matter the topic, Andelloux had a witty comment to explain it.
“Desensitizing cream is the devil, like douching,” she said. “Just remember the three D’s: desensitizing cream, devil, douching. It’s like the Energizer Bunny of lube.”
At the front of the room was a table strewn with toys, which she went through and explained one by one. Andelloux also passed around the toys and had the audience participate in such activities as testing out the vibrators by placing them against their nostrils.
“If it makes you sneeze, it’s too strong,” she explained.
Given its provocative, shocking, and hilarious subject matter, students who attended the workshop had a wide range of responses to it, but on the whole their reactions were very positive, the event ending with raucous applause.
“Clearly it was interesting,” said Alec Harris ’14 with a laugh. “It was shocking at first but I found I got used to it very quickly. It was very lube-heavy.”
Despite the fun and light-hearted tone of the lecture, FemNet did have a slightly more serious purpose in hosting the event. Katie DiBona ’11, president of the group, elaborated on FemNet’s intentions in bringing Andelloux to speak.
“It’s really important to FemNet to bring people to campus who believe in sex positivity and think that sex is about having fun and good communication,” DiBona said. “People who believe in celebrating sex instead of making it into a taboo.”
DiBona described what she sees as the broader relationship between the sexual liberation of women and feminism.
“Men are often seen as the ones whose role it is to be sexual,” she said. “Celebrating women as sexual beings and not viewing their sexuality as something negative or that makes them a slut is really important to feminism and women’s rights.”
Students offered different perspectives on the workshop’s relevance to feminism.
“Most of the toys were catered towards women, and she definitely came off as a strong, independent woman,” said Emma Pattiz ’13. “There were also definitely more women in the audience.”
Another student thought that the feminist focus of the workshop was appropriate due to the long history of sexual oppression of women.
“The lecture was feminist in that Megan focused on consent and pleasure, when sex has been used to oppress women and other marginalized groups for a long time,” said Elizabeth Halprin ’14, a member of FemNet. “I also appreciated that she used terms like penis-owner and vagina-owner, because too often our society conflates biological sex and gender.”
Yet other attendees saw less of an emphasis on feminism in Andelloux’s talk.
“I don’t think it was overbearingly feminist; it was just really based on equality,” said Harris. “In the beginning she said that she doesn’t care who you are, or who you’re doing it with—she just wants sex to be fun. Although from a perspective where women aren’t seen as having as much control in the bedroom, it could have been considered feminist just because it was equalizing.”
However, the negative aspects of linking a sex toys lecture with the causes of feminism were also questioned.
“Sexual empowerment can be a very important tool for women, but you have to examine it critically,” Halprin said. “When women use sex to empower themselves it can continue to promote the idea of them as sexual objects or purely sexual beings,”
DiBona shared similar opinions, but saw the dangers as less relevant.
“It’s definitely a valid opinion; it’s just another way of being a feminist, one that’s not my way,” she said. “There is that danger, but for me what I think is important is to get women—female-bodied people—to feel equipped to combat sexism and paternalism and other forms of oppression by feeling empowered themselves.”
While others expressed concern about whether or not advocates of women’s rights should focus their efforts on educating about sex toys when there are such issues as the condition of women in developing countries or the continued existence of sex-trafficking at hand, DiBona defended the importance of the workshop.
“You can’t create hierarchies of issues,” DiBona said. “Who’s to say what is more important or what type of oppression is worse? There is no one way of being a feminist, so when people are participating in feminist activism it’s really about what parts of feminism are most relevant to them and that they think are important to put their time and efforts into. Sex positivity and good communication in sex are really important to me, so that’s why I put my efforts in this direction.”
Students tended to agree that such workshops were an important and essential contribution to feminism.
“I think it’s important to demystify sex, because our society is pretty Puritanical, and so the more opportunities that everyone has to find out about sex the better,” Halprin said.
Pattiz agreed that the sex-toy workshop is part of a continuum of the feminist movement.
“I mean, when you compare it to giving microloans to women in third world countries, it’s like, what the hell are we doing?” Pattiz said. “But women’s sexual liberation has been an important part of the feminist movement for a long time, and sex toys are a relatively new outlet for expressing that liberation. A workshop on sex toys is a light-hearted approach to making people feel comfortable about women’s sexuality.”