By Molly Reed, Staff Writer
Discussing sex with parents and teachers can be awkward, which is why the Sexual Wellness Club was created, so that students can talk and learn from each other. A junior transfer student created the club so that UMF students and faculty could have a safe place to “speak freely about human sexuality and sexual health,” according to their mission statement. Erin McGuigan, president and creator of the club, hopes that by forming such a group, students will have a comfortable place to discuss all aspects of relationships.
McGuigan, a community health major, spoke clearly and powerfully as she explained that many students have not received a strong education in sex. She advocated the importance of students having a safe place where they can learn about the topic. “It’s hard for a lot of people to talk about sex. You know like in high schools and in middle schools teachers don’t talk about it as much as they should,” said McGuigan, “I think it’s a really big community health issue, with people getting pregnant and STIs (sexually transmitted infections), and people don’t know how to protect themselves as well as they should.”
UMF students are, in fact, very excited to learn about sexual wellness and what the intriguing club is all about. Many students eagerly showed up for the first meeting, and since then, the meetings have consistently been full. McGuigan did not expect such a positive response from the community. “Our first meeting was about 35 people, it was kind of crazy. I was thinking maybe 10 or 15 and all of these people started walking in and I was intimidated but it was really cool and since then we’ve had 15 to 20 people at each meeting,” said McGuigan, “It’s probably mostly females but we have a lot of guys who are coming, which is great.”
Sophomore Carl Langbehn, a member of the club, was first interested in attending a meeting after he talked with a few members at a bake sale. “I got talking with a few of the members and it seemed like a good group of people to talk with and discuss things that are important,” he said.
McGuigan runs the Sexual Wellness Club along with five other executive board members: Jenny Calden, Michaela Blow, Josh Richardson, Thom Deul, and Audri Blanchard.
Each week, the executive board selects a topic that will be discussed at the next meeting. Such topics have included condom tutorials, pornography, and healthy relationships. “We really want it to be open for discussion, we want everybody to get involved and so far it’s been that way which is really great and we don’t just talk about sex, when we talk about healthy relationships, we’ll be discussing communication and trust and things like that,” said McGuigan.
McGuigan passionately described how important it is to her that students find a contraceptive that works for them. “A couple weeks ago we had a condom tutorial and we opened a bunch of different kinds of condoms and different lube,” said McGuigan. “A lot of people won’t use a condom because it’s uncomfortable and they don’t like how it feels and the point of the tutorial was to show that there’s something for everybody.”
“The meetings seem really cool, the club is really good about providing an open comfortable environment to talk about issues which may be touchy to some people,” said Langbehn, “I do feel like I’m learning a lot.”
McGuigan understands that discussing such topics so openly may be difficult for some people, so all meetings are confidential. Once the club becomes official, McGuigan will provide forms for members to sign. “We are going to have a confidentiality agreement that you have to sign and if we find out that you’re saying things about somebody’s story, we will kick you out of the club, but because we’re not official we can’t do that yet.”
The Sexual Wellness Club is somewhat controversial in that it promotes being open about sex. Along with the positive reactions, the club has received some negative responses as well. “We had a big poster that said ‘let’s talk about sex’ and it got taken down twice,” said McGuigan.
“We are educational but we have fun at the same time. I just want a place where people can talk about sex without feeling awkward about it and I think in the club we’ve been really open so far and I think that’s great,” said McGuigan.