Condoms. Orgasms. STIs. Cornell students engaged in an open and frank discussion about all areas of sex and sexual health with sexual health educator and advisor Logan Levkoff Friday evening. The talk, entitled “Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Sex” was presented by the Sexual Health Awareness Group in collaboration with The Safety Zone and CU Tonight.
Levkoff, the “voice of the generation of sexually active young men and women,” according to SHAG president Risa Yavorsky ’07, is a New York-based “sexologist.” A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she began her campus’s first sex advice column. She currently serves as the spokesperson for Elexa, a line of products from Trojan Condoms marketed exclusively for women and is the sexual advice columnist for Ellegirl.com and American Health and Fitness magazine.
“It’s always fun to talk about sex,” Levkoff said. “[But] living in a world that is sexually unhealthy, you have an opportunity and obligation to change the world.”
Levkoff explained the reasons for this unhealthiness.
“The United States has the highest rate of infection and teen pregnancies within the developed countries,” she said. “In society, we are bombarded with innuendos and graphics in the media, but are Puritan in our views.” She noted the mixed messages that are abound in the media, where advertisements for Herpes medications are allowed on prime-time TV, but “Trojan ads are condemned” when shows filled with tortures, beatings and violence are broadcast.
Levkoff said that sexuality is, “the essence of who we all are. It is more than orientation, gender and body image. Just because our mothers slept with one guy doesn’t mean that we have to. [Women] don’t have to be either a “virgin” or a “whore” but can be all characters in between.”
She continued, “Our world isn’t black and white, why should our sexuality be?”
Furthermore, Levkoff argued against the perpetuation of the myth that “someone has to make you sexual, [that] it is not innate.” This fallacy is prevalent through many cultures and religions, but poses the danger of teaching women to “allow someone else to control our sexuality,” she said.
“We are taught that someone else controls our pleasure,” Levkoff explained. She recalled that in her high school gym class, the “sex-ed” classes focused solely on menstruation, and how to “keep clean, as if we were innately dirty. There was no talk about body parts that gave us pleasure; girls did not even know that these parts existed. We can’t even get the name of our genitalia right.”
Anna Beavis ’07, a peer educator at Gannett Health Services, who counsels women when they first make an appointment for their annual gynecological exam, agreed that the lack of education has perpetuated misinformation. “What people have learnt in schools is biased information,” she said. In her experiences speaking to women before their exams, Beavis said, “lots of things come up regarding sexual health which were not true. I was kind of shocked and surprised.”
Beavis feels that talks such as Levkoff’s are important because “even though some people feel as though they have heard it all before, they haven’t been properly educated.”
If the education in schools is lacking, Levkoff said that getting sex education from the media introduces even more misconceptions. “The media is there to entertain not educate,” she said, focusing on the unrealistic body sizes, plot lines and lack of safe sexual practices on television shows and movies.
Technologies such as instant messaging and text messages have also affected the quality of a healthy relationship, she said. “Talking is key to understanding sexuality and communication is imperative,” she stressed. “This needs to be done face to face. Text messaging is the easy way out. You need to be verbal, to say in person what you type on screen.” Levkoff said that in the many seminars she conducts, a lot men want to know how to get their female partners to open up to them. “Women have trouble asking what they want” to have a sexually fulfilling and healthy relationship, Levkoff said. Because many women begin masturbation at a much later age than men, and “don’t learn about what satisfies and arouses them till very late.”
Yet, it is common knowledge that women don’t respond to sex in the same way that men do. For example, “most women do not need hours of hard core sex,” Levkoff said, attributing many misconceptions to the lack of education that men receive about women’s bodies. “30 percent of women do not get orgasms from intercourse, and then fake them” Levkoff said. Women need to be honest if “a guy is not doing something right.”
She also added, “being sexually healthy is more than just being disease free. You have to ask for what you want, and know what you want.” Levkoff urged audience members to “take time to get to know your body. You can’t expect others to know [what you want] especially if they are not born with your body parts.”
Levkoff tried to dispel another dangerous myth that “protected sex does not feel good.” She stressed the correct use of contraceptives to promote safe sex, especially in light of STIs such as HIV and AIDS, for which there is no cure and Chlamydia, which can often have no symptoms, but can affect a woman’s future fertility.
Levkoff said that her desire to be a sexologist was to encourage “young women to speak candidly about sex.” Apart from Dr. Ruth, who Levkoff considers a pioneer in the field of sexual education, “there weren’t any role models out there to talk to girls. I felt I was the right person to speak to this generation,” she said.
As a word of advice to those planning their spring break holidays to Cancun and Acapulco, “drugs, sex and sand don’t mix well,” she said. “Use a condom even if a girl is on the Pill, carry protection with you – make it the first thing you put in your purse