“Can You Handle It” panel opens conversation on sexuality

Written by Fourth Estate Online Lifestyle Editor Arrielle Brooks

On the evening of March 19, the office of Women and Gender Studies and WAVES invited guests to the Ridge to participate in part one of their “Can You Handle It” discussion panel. They devoted the night to posing questions that explored issues surrounding female sexuality, empowerment, safety and the treatment of women in today’s society.

The event opened up with a brief exercise where various sheets of paper, each one labeled with different issues such as “Celibacy & Abstinence” and “Stereotypes,” were taped to the walls. Guests were given markers and encouraged to write the first thing that came to mind for each topic.

Free-flowing conversation filled the room as a result. As they wrote out their ideas, guests were both open and amiable with their interactions. Afterwards, WGST representatives read from each paper and asked individual guests to expand on what they wrote.

The goal was to provide a safe environment and allow everyone a chance to have their voice heard. “Can You Handle It’s” main goal was to open up honest communication involving issues that largely impact women; issues that aren’t addressed enough in public settings today. With the event open to all genders, orientations and other identities, the participants brought a wide range of personal experiences and beliefs to the table.

Most notable was the discussion of influential women in popular media that different people named as personal role models and inspirations. Women such as Beyonce, Nicki Minaj and Michelle Obama were brought to the forefront. Although they are vastly different from each other, guests agreed that these women all shared a strong work ethic and a sense of comfort in their own skin, regardless of public opinion.

The conversations that followed heavily emphasized similar qualities. One’s worth doesn’t have to be defined by what others say, and one’s self esteem shouldn’t be bound by what society at large deems as “right” or “wrong,” but rather what works best for each person involved.

While it touched on everything from double standards to stereotypes surrounding sexuality, the “Can You Handle It” panel largely encouraged everyone to be true to themselves and courteous to others.

Following the general discussion, WGST and WAVES representatives turned to heavier issues such as sexual violence. They showed a short video from a campaign against sexual assault, which urged viewers to become more sensitive to the various situations that often lead up to it.

WAVES concluded the event with an informative presentation on safe sexual practices. Booklets detailing the pros, cons and basic facts of different contraceptives allowed guests to ask questions and learn about new options to explore in their sexual endeavors.

Overall, personal comfort is key.

This panel was only the beginning of a dialogue series that will continue throughout the semester. The next part, coming this April, will open the floor to men and their experiences with gender and sexuality.

For more information on “Can You Handle It: Pt. II,” contact the WGST’s program coordinator Latashia Harris at lharri21@gmu.edu.

(Photo by Amy Rose)