The following is an interview with Jordan Stevens ’14, who facilitates FemSex this term and who facilitated FemSex last year.
How did you get interested in FemSex?
Well I took FemSex as a freshman, 4 years ago, which sounds crazy now, that it’s so long ago. I got into it my freshman year, and through that class I had a lot of incredible discussion just around a lot of things you don’t often talk about with a lot of people in a classroom environment, so it was really refreshing to have a couple of hours a week where you would just sit in a class and you would have the space to talk about things.
In FemSex we assign readings that you don’t have to do, but they are suggested readings to have some background on the topic you are talking about, if you want to pull on that during class or if you just want to pull on perso,nal experiences, you also have those.
And to add to that, I met a lot of very incredible women that were very much mentors to me, and I thought that it was really cool that the juniors and seniors in the class were really open and opened up and gave advice even though I was a freshman. It was totally very much a peer learning experience, which I thought was really incredible.
Over the years I’ve been interested in facilitating FemSex… this year and last year I’ve been facilitating it, and I think what’s so incredible about FemSex is that peer-to-peer learning environment. For me that’s been very powerful. Because for me, when you are talking about gender and sexuality…issues that are personal on both an individual and big level, it’s really nice to have people open up about their experiences and share from their own perspective.
So something that’s always drawn me to facilitation. If you have 18 people in the classroom, you’re hearing 18 people who are coming from completely different experiences. Even though we will have days about gender identity and days about sex education and that sort of thing, you are still getting a lot of different experiences around that one topic…and I think we really learn from each other in that environment.
Which topics have been the most controversial?
I don’t know if there are controversial days, but we do have a week that we talk about gender identity and sexual orientation or like, sexuality and that sort of thing. I think that’s something that may surprise people--we do a lot of spectrum activities, and the goal of having a week about gender and sexuality is to get people outside of the binary box.
Like I said before, if you have a lot of people in the class, you will have a number of different experiences and so we do a couple of different activities where you lie on a sexuality spectrum and where you lie on a gender spectrum, really attacking those terms.
At Carleton we talk about this a lot, but it’s nice to just have a day where you reflect on you identify and why, and I think those days are ones that surprise people the most out of any, just because it’s such a personal reflection and you just think. “how did I get here?” “When did I figure out I was such and such and what were big moments in my life that led me to identify this way?”
I think people don’t necessarily have the time set aside normally to reflect on those things. So I love those classes.
In general Carls spend a lot of time talking about sex but not a lot about mother or fatherhood. How does that come up in FemSex?
I think the really interesting thing about having conversations around motherhood and family and reproduction and all those sorts of things…is that these things can be applied to all sorts of topics. But it is really neat to see people looking back on the expectations that they feel and where those came from.
People come in with very different expectations based on their families and their own cultural expectations of the paths their lives are supposed to look like for the next however many years. And I think the really cool thing about this space is that I feel like it gives people the space to, you know…
Well you have these expectations in the back of your mind, but you can decide whether you want these expectations. Like I said before, I think that applies to a lot of conversations in FemSex. It’s fine to want what you want to do… but how did you get there? And to decide whether that is really how you feel? And if you do, that’s great, but if you don’t, how can we talk about that in a productive way?
My class last year... What I brought up with my group facilitator, something people really latched onto, is “why do I think motherhood is essential, and do my brothers have these same conversations about fatherhood?”
Why? Why are these expectations in place? Like I was raised with this expectations and you were raised with something completely different… Let’s talk about that, let’s unpack that.