“If you can’t talk about sex, then you shouldn’t be having sex,” stated Markie Twist, program director of the Sex Therapy Certificate graduate program, and coordinator of the Sex Speak Sessions that have been taking place on campus this year.
The Sex Speak Sessions are an attempt to get people talking about sex, relationships, gender and anything that falls under that umbrella. They are held every other Tuesday from 2-7 p.m. and can be found in various places around campus and in the community. They are also planning an event in the Twin Cities, as well as potentially reaching out to the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire campus. These sessions are totally anonymous and are lead by recent graduates of the Sex Therapy certification program, as well as Markie herself.
“It is not therapy, nor is it even sex education; it is simply an anonymous conversation with people that have questions about sex or gender,” Markie said.
These sessions arrived on campus at the beginning of the semester, and so far, Twist said, they have seen only positive results. With conversations lasting anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes, they are already confident on the impact these sessions are having. Primarily, these sessions have the ability to guide those with deeper questions to the proper help they may need. Though Twist did not intend this when she began holding these events, she is amazed by the results.
“We’ve had several referrals [to therapy services on campus] already.” Twist said. “It is a pathway to people getting help about their struggles with gender or sexuality questions or their relationships, through a service that they may not have known about otherwise.”
Twist explained that the inspiration to begin these sessions came from Francisco Ramirez, who was named a Rosenfield scholar in sexual and reproductive health by the Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health. For 20 years, Ramirez has dedicated his career to responding to the sexual health and public health needs of communities worldwide. He’s a public speaker as well, and in 2008 he took to the streets of New York City with a sign that read #FreeSexAdvice, and began offering exactly that.
Twist said that when she attended one of Ramirez’s speaking events at a sexuality conference in Guelf, Ontario, Canada, Ramirez began speaking about how everybody deserves to have access to this type of education. Twist immediately wanted to bring these ideas to our community.
Twist has discovered that many people received a sex education that is fear-based, if they received any at all. She believes these sessions are an important way to start a conversation that can keep people safe.
“It’s a really good foot in the door—the most basic thing is talking to a stranger anonymously. So that opens the door to talking to your friends, family, to other people,” said Sydney Edman, a senior in the Human Development and Sexuality program, as well as a teaching assistant for Markie Twist’s Lifespan Sexuality class.
“It also helps stop the spread of misinformation,” Edman continued, “People come in with questions, and we can direct them to the correct information.”
The Sex Speak Sessions are just the start of becoming a more sexually-healthy society, and Twist says they will likely be around the area for years to come, with the hopes of expanding to communities across the country.