VOX: Planned Parenthood Generation Action hosts annual sex re-education event featuring student speakers

Content warning: this article discusses sexual assault

Tuesday, Feb. 28, the College of William and Mary’s VOX: Planned Parenthood Generation Action hosted their annual sex re-education event in Sadler Tidewater A. VOX is a student-run organization that emphasizes pro-abortion and intersectional feminist viewpoints. The organization is a branch of Planned Parenthood’s youth activists that vouches for reproductive rights and accurate sexual education across the country. The event featured multiple student speakers and included audience participation. 

VOX President Becca Gaylin ’23 introduced the event and began with an overview of the presentation’s topics, which included the state of sexual education in the United States, consent, myths surrounding sexual education, sex and pleasure, contraceptives and intimacy after nonconsensual experiences. 

Moderators asked the audience about their own experiences with sexual education, with many stating they had received abstinence-only education or had never learned about non-heterosexual sex. VOX Marketing Co-chair Megan Cressy ’25 presented on the state of sex education in the United States and said that only 29 states in the country require sex education in schools, with 35 states requiring an emphasis on abstinence-only curricula. Cressy added that 15 states do not require sexual education to be medically accurate. 

Sarah Herrera ’25 led a discussion on consent, and mentioned the FRIES acronym for sexual consent which stands for Freely Given, Reversible, Informed, Enthusiastic, and Specific

“Anyone can change their mind about what they feel like doing at any time,” Herrera said. “You must know if you have consent, you can never assume you have consent. It is your responsibility to know that you have consent.”

Gaylin entered into a conversation about how the consumption of pornography impacts people’s sexual experiences, stating that it often shapes expectations about sex. Gaylin emphasized that rather than shaming people for porn consumption, people should be more aware of the content they are consuming and educate themselves on what may be harmful within the industry.

“This statistic is from the top selling porn on PornHub and 80% of it depicts violence and aggression, usually towards women coming from a man,” Gaylin said. “If you want to have sexual aggression consensually in sex, that’s fine. But presenting that as the normal perspective of what should be done is incredibly harmful.”

Gaylin mentioned that pornography often depicts people’s bodies in ways that are not the reality of most sexual experiences. She said that irresponsible consumption of pornography can lead to desensitization and negative implications such as isolation and lower self-esteem. 

VOX’s presentation also delved deeper into anatomy, pleasure and myths surrounding sexual experiences. 

“Virginity is a myth itself, it’s a construct, and traditionally it’s someone who has never had penetrative sex,” Cressy said. “It’s just up to you, and there’s no inherent shame in either being a virgin or not being a virgin.”

Cressy highlighted the importance of destigmatizing masturbation, particularly for women. She mentioned that though some medical conditions can make sexual experiences more painful, sex in general should not be a painful or shameful experience. 

VOX Vice President Kara Mueller ’23 discussed the importance of being knowledgeable about pregnancy, STIs and STDs. Cressy then laid out various contraception options such as birth control pills, IUDs, Plan B, contraceptive injections and condoms. 

Mueller mentioned several pregnancy myths to be aware of, including the falsehoods that pregnancy tests work immediately after sex and that tracking a menstrual cycle is a dependable birth control method. Mueller also noted that emergency contraceptives, such as Plan B, are not a form of abortion. 

“It is basically a super strong version of birth control,” Mueller said. “It stops ovulation from occurring which means fertilization can’t happen. That’s different from an abortion which is what happens when the egg is already fertilized and implanted. So Plan B does not end a pregnancy.”

Later in the event, Kaylin Brown ’24 discussed queer sex and various relationship dynamics, including polyamory and open relationships. He mentioned that there are a diverse array of relationship structures, and that exploring these dynamics and communicating are the best tools for navigating relationships. 

Brown said that assuming what people enjoy based on how they present themselves is not beneficial, and that communication can be gender-affirming and can make an experience more comfortable. 

“When your partner’s transitioning or when you’re transitioning or when you’re on hormones or starting new hormones, your body is changing,” Brown said. “You’re basically going through a second puberty, so it’s important to re-explore your body.”

Brown also emphasized the importance of getting tested for STIs and STDs, as an earlier statistic in the presentation mentioned that around 25% of college students have an STI/STD at any time. Brown stated that getting tested is the most important step in being proactive against infections, and that infections often do not show up on tests until two weeks after exposure. Other options for preventing infections include using condoms and dental dams. 

VOX Secretary Terra Sloane ’25 and Mueller ended the event with a conversation on non-consensual sexual experiences and campus sexual health resources. 

“It’s going to take time, and everyone’s experience is different depending on the situation,” Sloane said. “That just needs to be communicated so that you don’t step over any boundaries.”

In terms of campus resources, Mueller mentioned that VOX has placed bins with condoms around campus and that Plan B, pregnancy tests and exams are available at the Student Health Center. Mueller highlighted The Haven, a confidential peer support group for survivors of sexual and dating abuse, as another resource on campus.

“I think these events are so necessary because sex is fun and is a natural thing that people this age are doing, and when you’re told from the age of seven to 18 that it’s shameful, that you’re going to get pregnant or an STI or anything like that, it’s not realistic,” Gaylin said. “I think it’s just great to have a space where people feel comfortable hearing people talk about it.”

Mila Stern ’25 attended the event and stated she had a positive experience and learned a lot. 

“I just think sex ed is important, because how can you have informed consent about something you don’t know about?” Stern said. “It’s like a public health initiative and I think that knowledge is power.”


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