This article is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Eagle and its staff.
On April 14, speakers Marshall Miller and Lindsay Fram set up shop in American University’s Kerwin Hall to give their famous “I Love Female Orgasm” talk. The ninety-minute event was incredible; the two sex educators definitely have a fallback career in stand-up comedy if need be. Miller and Fram used humor to discuss some often uncomfortable topics, covering content far beyond what most of us learned in middle and high school sex education classes. The event was not so much focused on anatomy, but on achieving female pleasure, whether it’s a solo mission or with a partner.
The event had a lot of build-up and excitement, as it was expertly marketed by student groups on campus. There was tabling on the quad, sidewalk chalk advertisements by the freshman dorms and several emails sent out during April. But arguably the biggest pull for the event was that the first 100 students to show up would receive free t-shirts that read “I Heart Female Orgasm.” All week I heard murmurs about people planning to get there early and wait in line for one of these coveted shirts. On Thursday night, my friends and I were about 30th in line and those who were first in line showed up about three hours early for the event. We were lucky enough to each get a shirt, but some who also camped out early and were among the first 100 in line were not so lucky. Just before 6:30 p.m., a gaggle of about 15 guys showed up, cut the line in front of us and proceeded to grab free t-shirts. The cutting is one issue, but the most unfortunate problem is that the majority of these men then exited Kerwin and did not attend the event.
From the outside, an event about the female orgasm seems silly, yes, but at its core it was an event centered on the empowerment of femme-identifying individuals. Women have long been shamed out of talking about sex or expressing their sexuality and that’s why innately feminist events like this one are so important. My female friends and I all agreed we unlearned a lot of sexual embarrassment and falsehoods about female sexuality during the talk. But these men who cut the line to get shirts took advantage of a feminist event without actually attending and learning how they can help the women in their lives. When they wear these shirts, they wear them as a statement of “I am outrageously funny and good at sex.” But the women near the back of the line who wanted to wear the shirts as a symbol of female empowerment and pride were forced to pay $12 each if they wanted shirts because of male selfishness.
This op-ed is not me being a crazy, radical feminist reaching far and wide for a reason to complain. I am writing about a blatant example of men benefiting off of the feminist movement without doing any work to further the cause. Had these men stuck around to attend, they could have learned important lessons about sex from a female perspective. For example, penetration isn’t always the most pleasurable sex act. Sex sometimes needs to be approached differently to make trans women feel more supported and comfortable. Heterosexual sex doesn’t automatically end when the man finishes, and the list goes on.
Admittedly, some of the guys did stick around and we were happy about it. I assumed they showed up to educate themselves on female empowerment and to learn more about female sexuality and I’m sure some of them did. But we were disappointed when many of them were habitually talking during the presentation, laughing at serious moments, most notably when trans women’s sexuality was being discussed and sitting on their phones for long stretches of time. Just showing up is not enough. Being a respectful and engaged audience member, a skill we all learned in elementary school assemblies, is necessary at an event like this. And that was too high of a bar for a lot of the men.
So to the men who cut the line for shirts or stayed and exhibited preteen etiquette towards serious topics: your behavior indicates you are not giving pleasure to that many women. Next time, show up, shut up and consider taking notes.
Ella Rousseau is a freshman in the School of Communication.