A week and a half ago, I went to hear a panel of guys talk about intimacy, sex and relationships.
I had no idea what to expect. Sex isn’t the simplest of topics to discuss — no matter your gender, sexual orientation or preference. But for the panel of guys who openly discussed their views on relationships and sex in front of an audience of strangers, I applaud you.
The SEX Talks, a TED Talk-style event, put on by Residence Life and facilitated by the Sexual Health Resource Centre (SHRC), focused on topics related to masculinity, such as gender performance in and out of the bedroom. Attending the event as a self-identifying female gave me new perspective on the anxieties many male students bear.
The first speaker, Adam Boone, discussed the anxieties and myths that come along with sex in university. Even though he was speaking from a male’s perspective, it was all very relevant. Everyone has different expectations about sex coming into university, either from the media or other myths, which caused him and surely others to have fears surrounding the notion of sex.
A source of these myths comes from the lack of communication between partners — an issue all too common for relationships.
“I get the sense that the conversations we have about sex are not the open and honest conversations we need to be having,” Adam James, another panel speaker, said. “Especially when it comes to difficult topics like masculinity and how it affects our intimate relationships.”
As the talks went on, the open communication broke barriers between the panel and attendees of the event, especially when it came to the topic of body image. It’s a double standard to say that guys don’t struggle with maintaining a perfect body, but it’s definitely something that didn’t occur to me before this event.
In actuality, all of us have an image that we’re constantly shaping ourselves to look like. These images don’t necessarily represent who we are, but rather who society wants us to be.
“There isn’t one image of man or what it is to be a man. It is just as manly to be vulnerable, compassionate and caring and this is just one alternative,” panelist George Konstantinidis said, adding that it’s important to challenging these expectations as we encounter them.
As the talks were wrapping up, I felt myself relating more and more to the speakers. Even though the topic of masculinity was the main focus of the event, the lack of communication, media myths and pressures of socially-constructed gender roles have universal relevance.
Events like these foster an open environment where we can start being honest and real about sex through discussion, instead of giving in to the myths and expectations that stem from miscommunication.
I learned that it’s time to be honest; everyone struggles with issues that go along with gender-image, sex and relationships. It’s only when we start to break down the stigma and start having honest talks that we’ll be able to benefit from future healthy relationships.
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