Maintaining an open dialogue

My feet are still numb, my fingers still stiff and my heart continues to bleed. It’s only a few minutes since I’ve retreated to my room from breathing in the cold air of Take Back the Night. Sex is a tool of communication. It’s powerful and intense and can be lethal.

I have generally thought that all there is about sex is good, that love means understanding, trust and comfort. But after listening tonight, like so many other nights, I felt the pain of many I know and love.

Over the past few weeks I’ve struggled in my questioning of this campus and community. I wish to question hook-ups, silence and activism. I have listened to my friends, read the Record, attended forums and I still can’t sleep sometimes because of the lack of respect we have for sex.

The recent chalkings by individuals in the BGTLU have caused a multitude of responses. Lines have been drawn, literary critiques verbalized and attacks have been strewn. Are we afraid that our sidewalks are cluttered with the unwanted graffiti on a subway wall? Are we trying to shelter ourselves from “bad” words, diversity or minority experiences? What is it that we’re fearful of?

Last week in the Record, Kevin Koernig ’05 wrote an article about “Violating community boundaries,” in which he wrote, “People within a community realize that their private fears and longings often must take second place to the needs of the full community, and thus they must act respectably in keeping these fears and longings private.”

Let’s talk about privacy. Gay people are judged because of the sex they have behind closed doors. Sodomy in Massachusetts is illegal, meaning that gay people can go to jail for expressing desire and love. The sex, therefore, becomes public and political, and is the determining factor in their identities. “Private fears and longings” should perhaps not be made public, but this has been predetermined for many; thus it must be fought until our mainstream culture allows sex of any kind to truly be personal.

Let’s talk about needs (of the full community). The community that Koernig paints for the reader is made up of the majority’s voice, the majority’s choice and the majority’s representation. The minority has two choices, Koernig says. Either one can leave, or, if this is not feasible, one can create his or her own close-knit community within the framework of the values of the majority, a “subcommunity.” And to educate the community at large one may invite speakers, hold forums, create flyers, but obscene language, he says, is “a less valid form of expressing one’s opinion.”

What happens when the language becomes the diversity? When someone’s sexuality that says, “I like sucking c–k” becomes the determining difference, the educational ingredient? Because it is. Everyone has their own sexuality, their own preferences, and many aren’t accepted. Individuals are able, on the chalkings night, to express themselves and their sex in any way that person deems pertinent. It’s a moment of broken silence for many that feel mute, a period of openness the rain will soon wash away.

Further, during Queer Pride Days, the BGTLU did have forums, speakers and a concert, and the events were advertised – a lot. The chalkings received the greatest amount of attention. Why?

In my junior seminar last week, we read an article about Williams by Willy Stern ’83, who taught here during winter study. He writes that “there is no student activism on the Williams campus.” The chalkings are a true example of why not. They’re feared, shot down, erased. Why are we afraid of people expressing themselves? Why are we offended by obscene language that constitutes opinions?

And more directly, these are words that constitute sexualities. What words would you use to describe your sexuality? We all have one.

Koernig’s article, which protects the community for the majority, should be upsetting and offensive to everyone that attends Williams, to anyone who cares about him/herself and his or her environment. I question why we’re here – to process information, or to think, to make waves? The lack of activism on campus, and especially the negative reactions it receives when it occasionally appears, stifles the minority and the “majority’s community” with it.

We are hurting ourselves when we fear a discourse on sex. The continuum ranges from abstinence to promiscuity, and we’re all a part of it. “Why is it important to talk about?” you ask.

Because people are being abused. Because women and men that you know are violated. Because sex stereotypes are in every movie we watch and magazine we pick up. Because some people can’t legally have the sex they desire, because some people can’t marry, get tax benefits, and family acknowledgement. We need to talk about sex because it’s an issue, and not just a minority issue.

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