At sex education office hours, students line up to discuss pleasure, pain and emotional intimacy.
On Thursday afternoons in the Living Well office, sexuality expert Jenna Emerson holds personalized walk-in sex-ed lessons.
The idea to hold office hours came to her last spring when she noticed a high demand for one-on-one meetings to discuss students’ love and sex lives, Emerson said.
This semester, Emerson decided to hold regular hours for these conversations.
“My original thought around it was that it would be people asking me things that they might look up on Google,” Emerson said. “But you’re not going to get an hour sit-down with Google.”
From 2:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., students visit Emerson each week to discuss anything from squirting and masturbation to refining Tinder profiles or professing love, she said.
“A lot of people come here to tell me things they have never told anyone,” Emerson said. “What we’re talking about in the office hours are things that are not as talked about in media or in friend groups, where the focus tends to be on the good, the happy and the orgasms.”
Emerson estimates a 1-to-3 ratio between male and female students visiting her office hours, she said.
For cisgender women, Emerson notices patterns of pain during sex and anxiety about first times.
“No foreplay, no lube,” she said. “Just penis in vagina and ‘Oh my God, this hurts.’”
A common theme among men in the office hours is working through feelings when sex is not ideal or living up to expectations, Emerson said.
“It’s hard to tell your partner that you’re not satisfied with the sex in your relationship because it’s not like porn,” she said.
Sophomore Will Omohundro is open to learning more about sex, but assumes that he would not be able to relate to Emerson as much as a female student could, he said.
“From my perspective, it is more difficult as a male identifying individual at UVM to start a dialogue about sex without being perceived as uninformed,” Omohundro said.
Across campus, one thing Emerson has noticed is fear of intimacy.
When young people get to college, the idea of sex as the most intimate thing you can do with another person changes, and emotional vulnerability becomes the bigger risk, she said.
“It’s a lot of ‘You’re saying you like me? That’s too much. I’ll give you a handjob and we can be friends, but I don’t know about going out to dinner and talking about our feelings,’” Emerson said.
Some students worry about trusting an unfamiliar person enough to visit the office hours.
“I don’t know if I could just go up to a stranger and ask them to help me with an intimacy issue,” first-year Eliza Fehrs said.
For those who do choose to utilize her office hours, Emerson continues to work toward improving their sexual and emotional health, she said.
“I think we really get somewhere and people really appreciate it and learn a lot,” she said.
Living Well’s office is located on the first floor of the Davis Center.