Peer Health

Sexuality: Making Choices About Our Bodies

Many of us have been conditioned to perceive our own sexual desires to be dirty or shameful. We learn even as children to judge our bodies according to socially defined stereotypes of beauty and attractiveness. We may then lose respect for our uniqueness, and judge ourselves in relation to others. This can have an impact on the way we experience ourselves sexually.

Leaving home and coming to Williams may provide a new opportunity to think about sexuality, but at the same time, it may require certain questions to be asked and answered for the first time. Learning to talk comfortably about sex and to acknowledge one’s feelings may be the most important skills to learn in the face of such dangers as HIV, unplanned pregnancy situations and acquaintance rape.

In learning to think and talk more honestly about sexual decisions, it may help to ask yourself: “How do I feel at this moment? Do I want to be sexually close to this person right now? In what ways? What if I don’t know? Can I say I’m confused? Can I communicate clearly what I want and don’t want?” By encouraging communication, ultimately we may all be able to challenge assumptions and misconceptions about sex, while learning to be more assertive of our own sexual needs and desires.

Sexual Orientation

Few people are completely “straight” or completely “gay” throughout their lives. For example, adolescents who identify themselves as heterosexual may participate in homosexual experimentation. The researcher Alfred Kinsey found that human sexual orientations exist not as exact categories of behavior but on a continuous spectrum bounded on the extremes by exclusive heterosexuality and exclusive homosexuality. Few people can truly say that they belong exclusively to either extreme. Neither can people claim superiority based on their sexual orientation; the sexual orientation which is best for a given individual is the one with which she or he is most comfortable. That’s it.

Homosexuality is not a disease, nor is it as uncommon as many people think. The most-quoted statistic says that one in ten people identifies her or himself as exclusively gay or lesbian. Others fall on the bisexual continuum. You may consider yourself gay, lesbian or bisexual; if not, you probably know students who do, whether they are close friends, entry members, classmates or teammates. When sexual orientation is thought of in terms of friends and neighbors it becomes obvious that it is of the utmost importance that we, as Williams students and as people, respect the sexual choices of others.
Here at Williams, the Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Union (BGLU) serves as an important resource for members of the college community who have questions or concerns about sexual orientation. The Queer-Straight Alliance (QSA) is another campus group addressing issues of sexual orientation, which has a specific goal of bringing people of differing sexual orientations together on common ground. Check the Daily Advisor and Weekly Calendar for meeting information.

Sexual Diversity: A Mere Sampling of Possibilities

What follows is excerpted and slightly paraphrased from Epistemology of the Closet by Eve Sedgwick copyright 1990, Univ of Cal Press, Berkeley

  • To some, the focus of “the sexual” seems scarely to extend beyond the boundaries of discrete genital acts; to others, it enfolds them loosely or floats virtually free of them.
  • Even identical genital acts mean different things to different people.
  • Sexuality makes up a large share of the self-perceived identity of some, a small share of others.
  • Some spend a lot of time thinking about sex, others little.
  • Some people like to have a lot of sex, others little or none.
  • Many people have their richest mental/emotional involvement with sexual acts that they don’t do, or even don’t want to do.