Students and faculty gathered at the Caf Wednesday to participate in a discussion on sex and gender, an event hosted by Conversations on Reconciliation and Equality and the Lambda Alliance.
CORE is a series of dinner discussions held throughout the year and coordinated through the joint efforts of the Multicultural Ambassador Council, Student Assembly, NAACP and the Mosaic House.
“Our goal for CORE is to foster conversation about controversial topics that do not normally get addressed,” said Koji Ukai, NAACP’s CORE chair.
Wednesday’s event, which was attended by over 40 members of the College of William and Mary community, marked the first time CORE chose to focus on gender issues. The conversation was moderated by Beth Currans, a visiting professor of the women’s studies department.
Curran immediately launched into a passionate and articulate discourse about sex and gender by addressing the controversial upcoming performance of the Sex Workers’ Art Show.
“When you talk about gender, what do you think of?” Currans said.
“Performance,” said Jessee Vasold ’11, head of Lambda Alliance.
Currans wanted those in attendance to think about why it is so difficult to have “a better conversation about sex work,” and ways to improve dialogue on the motivations of those who perform in SWAS.
Some in attendance were skeptical that the sex workers would get their message across even when allowed to speak at the College.
“People don’t want to hear a [sex worker’s] reason for it because it may be different from what they believe their reason is for engaging in sex work,” Stacey McDermott ’09 said.
Currans met this remark with the observation that women in the sex industry are often seen as victims of circumstance, objectified and stuck in an occupation against their will.
“What changes when these women voice that they want to be where they are?” Currans said. “Why doesn’t our culture like to think about women desiring sex?”
Max Meadows ’12 provided his own insight on the subject.
“In the current society we live in, there are certain situations when women are supposed to want sex, but only through men on men’s terms,” he said.
The Century Project, a controversial photography show scheduled to appear on campus in March, was brought up at the end of the discussion.
Grace Sherman ’09, who is responsible for organizing The Century Project’s visit, said she has run into opposition from groups who are concerned that “exposing males to subjects such as female nudity is going to cause these males to become aroused or sexually aggressive.” Sherman expressed frustration because, as she said, this point of view “does not identify a catalyst for rape, but is more of a justification for it.”
The intellectual level of discussion impressed those participating.
“I think people really got something out of this,” Currans said. “And most importantly, people had the opportunity to hear not just me, but each other.”