Liveblog: #Sexpertise15 at U of M, Keynote

Well. I was going to livetweet the opening lecture for the 7th annual Sexpertise at the University of Michigan (#sexpertise15), but Twitter decided I am a bad bot and not allowed to tweet about it. 😦 So instead, I took notes, and will ‘liveblog’, but that’s a lot more work and I’m annoyed with Twitter. Here goes!

6:30 – 7:30 PM: Keynote Event: Undoing a Culture of Violence
Consider the ways we talk and learn about sex – do our words show respect for people? Do media messages condone or judge certain sexual behaviors? How could our communication be shaping what we think is normal – including violence? In this keynote address, Chinyere Neale, Director of Global Health Student Programs at the U-M School of Public Health and AASECT Trained Sexuality Educator, will lead participants in an exploration of the cultural norms that shape our thinking about sex and sexual violence, and will help us imagine a world without sexual assault.”

Up on screen at #sexpertise15 is:

Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines ft. T.I., Pharrell

Chinyere Neale: Academic Network for Sex Education and Research:

“When they asked me to do this, all the news was about rape on college campuses, so I thought maybe something about consent.”
There has been an explosion of violence against women.
I don’t have the answers. What would it take to end the culture of sexual violence against whoever the victims might be.

“Up to 20% of women say their first sexual experience was not wanted.” Common: coercion, arm-twisting, persuasion, name-calling …

Most official reactions [to stemming sexual violence] focus on prosecution. Instead, could we just focus on less violence?

People say let’s have more access to abortion. I want to say let’s need less abortion. Let’s not have women find themselves in that situation.

Problems in the media with MESSAGES that suggest sex is something people can take FROM each other. Look at the Robin Thicke song, “Blurred lines.” The message is “crappy / creepy.” The point isn’t that we shouldn’t listen, but that we should have a conversation about it.

There is nothing new about this. Bing Crosby & Doris Day “Baby, it’s cold outside” was a date rape song. Just listen to it! She says, “What’s in this drink?” Then later, “No, no, no.”

Baby Its Cold Outside – Bing Crosby & Doris Day

Remember Family Matters? Urkel liked this girl. Kept approaching this girl. What did that make him? A stalker, eh? Message: It’s ok to keep pursuing someone who isn’t interested.

Most of the assault we talk about on campus is people who know each other, maybe even like each other, but haven’t AGREED to have sex. Famous people, or non-famous people who drug peoples drinks; people who offer to walk you home, and then insist on a sexual price.

What should we do? (She asks the audience for their ideas.)


AUD: Start really young.
AUD: Teach kids. Start with good touch/bad touch, but maybe that’s not good enough. Maybe no touch unless consent
CN: Start with boys. Teach them affection young. GI Joe was designed as a “Barbie” doll equivalent for boys.
AUD: Don’t limit sex ed to physiology, include relationship skills
CN: People think if someone says “no” they don’t really mean it. Not every perpetrator is a bad person. Comparing sex ed in US to Netherlands. Teens start out in the family house, parents know. In Holland, everyone had a condom in their pocket. In the US, “People said, ‘not me!'”

Let’s Talk About Sex

CN: Don’t ask me to talk to your family about sex. Talk to your OWN niece!
AUD: Normalize conversations about violence as well as sex.
AUD: Make sexual violence as unthinkable as murder.
CN: Back to the guy who jumps out of the bushes. The rare rapist. They are married. They have kids. They have sex with their wife. When we hear an accusation, we default to “they wouldn’t do that,” because “they’re a nice guy.”
CN: I like this novel: Before and After, by Rosellen Brown > In it, the son is accused of rape. Almost everyone thinks he’s too nice to have done it. But the mother, the MOTHER, she wonders.
CN: You like to think that you raised your son right, that he wouldn’t be a rapist. I like to think that I raised my son right. I do have some evidence. I walked by my son’s room once, heard him say, “Why are you having sex with that girl? You don’t even LIKE her?” I went “YES!”
CN: You have to listen. You have to listen, when someone says, “Someone did this to me.”
AUD: Media literacy can play important role. Corporate America trying to sell stuff, they use messages that endorse sexual violence.
CN: It’s much more powerful to share things with your children than to just ban it. They then have no way to analyse it, to give a context of critical thinking. For my son, I cut out designer labels. That wasn’t a message we wanted to support. Now, it’s not possible now to avoid designer labels, but you can still have a conversation around it. With your children. With your friends. Give people a chance to think more deeply about our environment.
AUD: There’s an element there of corporate responsibility. They should be held accountable, held to a higher standard.
CN: They think their responsibility is to their stockholders, not humanity, not audiences. You have to vote with your money. Don’t let artists with positive messages starve. It’s harder now, since big corporations own everything.
CN: One more thing: we need to let the definition of masculinity be broadened. Women have a much broaden space in which to express themselves.

At this point, Chinyere closed the audience discussion and returned to her presentation.

Force Majeure Trailer (2014) – Cannes Film Festival HD
Force Majeure is an interesting movie set in Sweden. In it, there is family facing an avalanche. The women grabs the children. The man grabs the cellphone and books, and takes off. Then he tells the story as if he rescued his family. Over and over.
The rest of the film is about how his dishonesty is more of a betrayal of his wife than his actions.

Brene Brown began researching vulnerability in woman. Then a man told her she was missing something important, that men are vulnerable, too.

The Power of Vulnerability
Listening to Shame

We have very narrow definitions of masculinity. We need to give men a broader range in which to express themselves socially and emotionally. There are guys in groups of gang rapes who wouldn’t do that, but peer pressure pushes them into it.

It starts from childhood. But you can start with your brothers and friends.

I don’t think the answer to solving sexual violence is one thing. It’s complex.
Women asserting agency will help.
Better communication will help.
All those ideas you had, what you suggested. That will help.
It takes all of that.

I hope all of you will join in that struggle.

We need to provide some degree of equality to women. Not complete equality, we’re not there yet, but SOME degree.
Women are not quite as vulnerable in our society as they are in some others. It’s still a big job.

Here’s my idea of the gold standard for how that conversation ought to go:

Marvin Gaye – I Want You

I want you the right way
I want you
But I want you to want me too
Want you to want me, baby
Just like I want you

There are two more nights of events, so check them out. Also, I just found the Michigan Daily article of last night’s talk.

Sexpertise keynote talks healthy sexual choice


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s