The Sex Talk

Jonathan Gardner

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The date: October 5, 2016. As I walked into the Rearden Theatre, I glanced up to see what today’s convocation would be about. Across the screen sprawled a piece of classical art underslung by a single word:

SEX

I continued walking and sat with a group of friends, wondering what exactly, “Dr. Michael Thompson,” would speak about. I wondered about his appearance: would he be young? Old? Middle-aged and terribly awkward?

Dr. Thompson turned out to be a man in his mid-to-late 60s. He wore a grey suit, and possessed a well-trimmed white beard. As we filed into the theatre, he watched us walk to our seats. Once we were all seated and relatively silent, he initiated his presentation.

He began by asking questions of several members of the audience, more specifically Dylan Walker and I. My responses to the microphone shoved in my face were rather awkward, so I won’t reproduce the indignity, but Dylan’s responses were jovial and well-equipped. Dr. Thompson asked him when his parents had had, “The Talk,” with him: “I was probably about thirteen or fourteen.”

“How was it?’

“Let’s just say that’s not ever the kind of talk you’d like to have with your mom.”

The rest of their conversation went as such, and then Dr. Thompson moved to the topic which he had come to us to speak on: teens and safe sex. He illustrated some facts about other countries that stand in sharp contrast to the United States in sexual education. Specifically, he referenced a phenomenon in England where girls practice putting a condom on a banana in fifth grade, illustrating the sexual education divide between the U.S. and the rest of the world.

Dr. Thompson’s primary focus quickly became centered upon the issue of consent in sexual intercourse. He offered several examples of rape in the cases of Brock Turner and Owen Labrie. He also brought up the virgin cleansing myth, a myth which currently permeates South Africa and states that a man who has HIV/AIDS can have sex with a virgin and be cleansed of his sickness. This has led to an inordinately large number of rape cases within South Africa.

From these issues and depictions of rape in society, Dr. Thompson moved to the modern conceptualization of consent. In the past, “No Means No,” had been the preeminent depiction of consent, e.g. if one person tells another that they do not want sex, they will not receive it. However, this philosophy aroused great confusion, as unconscious or heavily inebriated people may not be able to express the command, “NO!” This difficulty in determining what is and is not rape birthed the modern philosophy of consent: “Yes Means Yes.”

To provide a memorable illustration of, “Yes Means Yes,” philosophy during his lecture, Dr. Thompson played for his audience the Cup of Tea analogy, a video created and produced by Blue Sky Studios. In the video, the point is made that if you make someone a cup of tea, they can still say no. They still have the opportunity to refuse, even if they have said yes numerous times in the past. If they are unconscious or nearly there, they will likely not be able to tell you they want tea, and as such you should not give them tea, as that would be nonconsensual in the same manner as having sex with someone while they are unconscious.

Dr. Thompson gave his lecture with the essential premise of clarifying for Rabun Gap students the evolving definition of consent and its modern illustration in the hope that none of us will make a poor decision and violate the body and mind of another person.

Interview with Cade Carroll

  1. What do you remember about Dr. Michael Thompson’s lecture?

“I remember that he stressed that sexuality is a very common thing amongst teens and that it is important to control ourselves and not force ourselves on others.”

  1. Other than when Dylan Walker and I spoke, when Dr. Thompson cracked the occasional joke, or during the tea analogy video, did you laugh during the lecture?

“Yes.”

  1. What did you think about Dr. Thompson’s connection between love and sex?

“I think he made some great points about the differences between those two things because love is more emotional and sex is more physical.”

  1. What was your first impression of Dr. Thompson? Did he seem serious about his subject matter?

“He did seem serious about his subject matter. My first impression was that it was going to be an interesting lecture because he wasn’t boring, like, he knew what he was talking about and he knew how to present himself in the same lecture over and over again.”

  1. Would you argue that “Yes Means yes” is a better policy or “No Means No?”

“No Means No because I feel like if it’s a negative thing, it has a more forceful impact upon people’s thoughts on the matter.”

  1. Have you ever seen the Cup of Tea analogy before or was that your first time?

“I had heard about it before, but I had never seen it.”

  1. What, if anything, would you tell Dr. Thompson you thought of his lecture?

“That it was interesting and that it absolutely had to be said in this area.”

  1. What was your overall takeaway from Dr. Thompson’s lecture? In other words, what did you learn?

“I didn’t really learn much because I already knew most of what he said, but it really validated some things that I wasn’t really clear on.”

  1. Do you feel more informed as a result of Dr. Thompson’s lecture?

“Yes.”

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