The Vermont Cynic

Peer discussions promote positive sex

Anna Kolosky, Staff Writer

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Disco music played over speakers as colorful lights spun around the room, an appropriate setting for a party rather than a sex ed group.  Stephan Toljan

The Good Stuff is a peer-led group focused on educating students about sex through conversation and discussion.

The group was started when senior Jackie Tames became interested in finding an outlet for her interests in feminism and sex education during her sophomore year.

“My sophomore year, I had a crisis,” Tames said. “I felt like ‘I need to do something’ and I went on the Women’s Center website because I was interested in feminism and wanted to do something with that.”

Tames said she got in contact with Melissa Murray, the director of the Women’s Center, who then connected her with Sarah Mell, the education and outreach coordinator.

“Sarah and I had a conversation and I told her that I really had an interest in sex education,” Tames said. “We came up with this idea of a peer-led discussion group.”

The first year was a total experiment, Tames said. She and Murray decided on different topics, research them and then lead a discussion.

“The whole thing is, I’m not an expert. I’m still a student,” Tames said. “I’m just really interested in this stuff, I’m here to facilitate conversation and give space.”

After the first year, Tames and Mell decided to collaborate with Jenna Emerson, Living Well’s sexual health educator. Emerson worked with Mell over the summer to make The Good Stuff a combined project with Living Well and the Women’s Center.

“They brought me into it, since I came in last November,” Emerson said. “I was trying to do my own sex ed programming at the time, but then we decided to collaborate instead of having competing programming.”

Mell and Emerson realized that they had a great number of students who were interested in sexual education, so they decided to set up a Google Form where students could submit their interests, Emerson said.

“As a sex educator, I’m all for helping others learn how to teach and get experience,” Emerson said. “We added a mentorship piece to it and where students have a one-on-one with either me or Sarah to develop a lesson that they get to lead.”

The group now meets Tuesdays from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. in either the Women’s Center or Living Well. Each week, a new student learns how to lead a discussion around a specific topic in sexual education with their peers.

Junior Stanhope Nwosu said he regularly attends Good Stuff discussions. He said discussions have revolved around topics like kinks and bondage, discipline, dominance, and submission; sex toys and mindful sex. Next semester, the group will discuss inter-racial dating.

“Confidentiality is very important,” Nwosu said. “We can take what we learn and share it with others, but nothing personal ever leaves the space.”

Tames said her whole philosophy for The Good Stuff is positive sexuality.

“I feel like a lot of times on campus whenever sex is mentioned it’s the word ‘assault’ or ‘violence,’” Tames said. “Talking about good sex and all that good stuff is just as important as supporting survivors and another way to combat that stuff.”

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Peer discussions promote positive sex