On Tuesday, Oct. 25, the Political Science club at WCU hosted a seminar on sexual oppression. The seminar, which was lead by guest speaker, Jill McDevitt, sexologist and owner of Feminique Boutique, was the first politically focused workshop that McDevitt designed.
McDevitt focused on the anti-sex movement and ways that society has sexually oppressed people and how in return, we have sexually oppressed each other and where the history of oppression comes from.
“I went to college to study sexuality. To do that, I actually had to go to a foreign country,” McDevitt said. “The step one of the crusade is that this country does not offer degrees in sexuality. You cannot get that education. You are denied that education at an undergraduate level.” McDevitt talked about the difficulties of finding a job in the United States for sexology after graduating from college.
“There was nobody hiring sexologists,” McDevitt said. “So I started my own company.” McDevitt talked about her struggle with sexual oppression when opening her business, a sex-positive, feminist, women-positive boutique in town. “I was not able to get a business permit,” McDevitt said.
This resulted in her getting a lawyer and fighting her case. McDevitt couldn’t even gain access to a credit card machine, which required a whole sign up process. McDevitt had to sign a contract with a bank, which refused to allow her to sign because they considered her an “adult entertainer.” In 2008, McDevitt was able to open Feminique Boutique after going through many hurtles.
In order to understand the effects of sexual oppression in the US, McDevitt created an exercise for her guests to participate in. Guests were given different scenarios about situations regarding sex and censorship. Students were given the choice to place these scenarios in either “totally interested” or “totally uninterested” and “legal and unregulated” or “illegal and punishable by jail” or anywhere between. One situation included a scenario featuring an excerpt from “The Diary of Anne Frank” where Anne discovers and becomes curious about her female body. Guests could decide whether they would be interested in reading this excerpt or completely uninterested in the excerpt and whether it was punishable by jail or should be completely unregulated. When asked about their reactions, one guest said that they had never been asked to think about whether different scenarios should be legal or unregulated.
The scenarios demonstrated in McDevitt’s exercise were used to show students what the government has made illegal and legal. For example, in 2010, a Virginia school district pulled “The Diary of Anne Frank” out of their curriculum because a parent of a student complained that she “did not want her child to read a sexually graphic book.” Another example was given that it is legal for pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions. McDevitt pointed out that the common denominator within all the examples given at the seminar was the effect on children.
McDevitt gave a history of the “won’t people think of our children?” movement. McDevitt included examples from different eras including one from the 1950s using the social fear of powerful teens and un-American activities and tracing it to the rouse of rock n rollers perverting teens.
“We had a cold war, we had the whole black-listing, McCarthyism and this was right after World War II. Your typical teenagers’ allowance was the same as an entire familys’ during World War II so all of a sudden you have these teenagers’ that are loaded and forming their own identities. So what happens? Rock and rollers are perverting our teens,” McDevitt said. McDevitt used the example of Elvis Presley, who was ridiculed for his “provocative” dancing.
“So whatever the social fear, whether it is gay marriage, Muslims, terrorists, housing market crashing, whatever the social fear is, it will be wrapped up in sex and children because the powers that be can guarantee that they will get you uncomfortable,” McDevitt said.
McDevitt encouraged guests to look at what their interests were and disregard them. “It a constant reflection on yourself. Just because you have that gut reaction of ‘I hate this,’ are you being an oppressor when you have that feeling?” McDevitt concluded.
To learn more about McDevitt’s story, visit her website at www.thesexologist.org or email her at email@example.com.
Angela Thomas is a fourth -year student majoring in Engish. She can be reached at AT683005@wcupa.edu.