Sexual empowerment group discusses female topics in a safe space

The Counseling Center is working to provide a safe space for all female and female-identifying students through a six-week seminar held Tuesdays at the Student Dining and Residential Programs Building. Sex Positive Women runs from Tuesday to March 13. The program is headed by Jodi Thomas, a psychologist in the Counseling Center, and Kim Rice, the sexual health educator for the McKinley Health Center.

“For me, sexual empowerment is being informed and feeling good about the decisions we make,” Rice said.

Sex Positive Women first began when Thomas, who also specializes in sexuality and gender, met Rice to collaborate on ways to foster discussion about female empowerment.

“Kim had a lot of ideas about doing programming on female sexuality that were really unique and exciting,” Thomas said.

One of these unique ideas was doing a long-term seminar on sexuality in a group setting. Before the seminar, the University had sexuality workshops that were usually a one-time program with very large groups. Thomas and Rice created a longer lasting group that maintained a much smaller size.

“We’ve found that ten is the optimum number for the seminar,” Rice said. “It’s large enough to foster interesting discussions but not large enough to make the girls feel like they’re in a classroom environment.”

Each six-week session starts with an introductory week where Thomas and Rice discuss what female sexual empowerment is and attempt to create a safe space.

“Really that first week is about building relationships and getting all of the women involved. It’s to get the women comfortable enough to where they can continue to come to group and share their feelings and experiences,” Thomas said.

All of the participants give Thomas and Rice feedback that first week so the pair can better tailor the sessions to what the women want to see. This also involves session participants filling out a survey in which they describe what they most want to achieve and what topics they would like to learn about. Thomas and Rice then choose the most popular topics around which to structure the next five weeks of the seminar.

“Even though we do have a plan, there’s always some freedom and some wiggle room within the topics depending on the week,” Rice said.

The overall aim of the group is to help women find strength through sharing their experiences and ideas as women. The seminar is in its second year, with a new seminar each semester.

“We hope that the women find a space through this group to be safe in a manner that they usually can’t be on campus and in the world,” Thomas said. “We’re going to try to break down stigmas about talking about sex, sexuality and womanhood that a lot of women either don’t get to talk about or feel threatened to talk about on campus.”