On Sept. 17, Winnipeggers got together to talk about sex.
“We were hoping to get a lot of students who are interested in talking about ideas,” Manitoba Association for Rights and Liberties (MARL) executive director Michelle Falk says.
MARL’s Ethics Cafe organized The Ethics of Sex, which many students did show up for.
The Tallest Poppy was packed when speaker Dr. Neil McArthur, an associate professor from the University of Manitoba, began asking the audience to discuss their responses to his questions with one another.
“So many people are talking about sex, but what are they really saying?” MacArthur said in his introduction.
Each table in the restaurant was its own team, with names such as Total Strangers Talking About Sex and Team Bob and Sexy Strangers. After questions about sex were asked, such as if employers should ban relationships between employees, teams were given time to discuss their opinions before the floor was opened for everyone in the restaurant to discuss.
MacArthur facilitated the conversation and weighed in with his opinion.
“We wanted to be very careful about the types of questions that we asked, making sure to be careful not to encourage heteronormative, cisnormative language,” Falk says.
MARL organizers wanted to make sure it was a safer space, so they had facilitators walking around to help anyone who needed support if issues arrived. On each table, there were info cards with resources people could contact if any triggering comments from the audience upset anyone.
Before discussions were started, Falk warned the audience that oppressive and discriminatory language would not be tolerated.
Aneke Mendarozqueta, one of the participants, put up her hand to respond to a question asking if women are hardwired to not want casual sex as much as men.
She said the question was obviously created by a man and ridiculous to ask.
Yet despite criticism of the questions, she enjoyed the event.
“It was a really great chance for the community to get together,” Mendarozqueta says. Sex isn’t a subject that people often talk about and it was a good opportunity for that to happen.
“It would have been great to have multiple facilitators,” Mendarozqueta says. She admits that it could have made it more difficult to run the event, but criticizes MacArthur for being male-centric. Although she says he did bring up some good points.
The event evolved from MARL’s ethics slams, which university students had to register for beforehand.
The feedback from those events was that audience members had ideas and had things to say, but they didn’t have a way to voice their opinions.
“We thought it would be a really great way to get more audience engagement,” Falk says.
On Oct. 8, Ethics Cafe will host the Ethics of Medicine. Events focusing on the ethics of democracy and of the environment are also in the works.
Go to marl.mb.ca for more information.