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Photo by Rachel Keady ’21

“I’m a kinky kinky person. I like a lot of things,” pleasure professional, sex educator, and LGBTQIA activist Mia Li confidently stated on Monday, Oct. 23 as she commenced her O.school-sponsored presentation entitled Beyond 50 Shades of Grey.

Sex Week, a week of sex-positive workshops and events organized by CMC Advocates, took place Monday, Oct. 23 to Friday, Oct. 27. With a wide range of topics such as “Orgasm, Anarchy” and “Sexy Safer Sex,” the week provided students with first-hand opportunities to learn more about the pleasures of sex, body positivity, STDs, consent, and condoms.

Most students have had some form of sexual education before coming to college, whether it be based on abstinence or how to have safe sex. But what differentiated this event from past sex-ed experiences is that Mia Li encouraged students to not only engage in consensual sex, but also take it one step further by exploring the unknown realms of kinky pleasure.   

Li challenged the stereotypes and overgeneralizations surrounding bondage, discipline, dominance, submission, sadomasochism, and other related dynamics (BDSM) and denounced the shame associated with such activities which many consider outside of their sexual comfort zones. As with any other type of sex, she regarded consent as the number one priority. In order to correctly practice BDSM, it must be sane, safe, and consensual, according to the guidelines set by Li.

She defined these terms as:

  1. Sane: being in a state of mind to be able to assess risk, safety, and communicate consent
  2. Safe: minimized risk of unwanted, unintended injury or disease/infection
  3. Consensual: an agreement to partake in physical, emotional, and sexual exchange with mutual agreement

She then redirected us into a more personal reflection, asking us to think about our needs, wants, and desires. During this exercise, we were forced to reflect on our sexual history and determine how it impacted present feelings. The result was a comical account of adults attempting to convey their inner emotions. Who would have ever thought that this could be so difficult?

Despite the initial discomfort, Li reassured us to push through the awkwardness, and once again, motivated us to discuss these taboo issues more openly. Furthermore, she stressed the importance of knowing your personal hard and soft limits; the former is non-negotiable under any circumstance and the latter is occasionally negotiable.

As a group, we also practiced defining these boundaries in a mini-workshop geared towards improving our communication practices, such as verbal check-ins and safe word usage. By the end, we had a much better understanding of the two types of sexual limits and how knowing these concepts contribute to a safer sex climate.  

Altogether, the O.school, Mia Li, and CMC Advocates provided an amazing opportunity to keep these conversations about sex, sexuality, and pleasure open. Sex is heavily stigmatized because students are only taught about sex; the key importance of this week was that the talks and events were inclusive, informative, and fun. The pleasure professionals were not lecturing the students, but rather, they engaged with us and answered our curiosities. These discussions are indicative of a healthy, fun, and safe sex climate on campus

To conclude her presentation, Li reaffirmed the significance of limits and disclosed her favorite sexual activities. “I love being called a slut, but not in a derogatory way. I want it to come from a place of high praise like ‘you go slut!’” Li’s fierce comfort with her sexuality inspired us to learn more about ours and exposed the commonly disregarded topic of safe, consensual sex. Here are our biggest takeaways: take the time to discover your body and what it likes, and always remain unapologetic for your wants, needs, and desires. Be shameless about your sexual fantasies.

We are.