The All Girls and Sex Book Club
On the heels of the #Metoo movement and allegations of sexual assault, Packer has recently been working on creating safe spaces in school to discuss these issues. One space that has been recently developed is the Girls and Sex book club, created by Upper School teachers Ms. Maria Stutt, Ms. Larissa Dzegar, and Mr. Tom James. This book by Peggy Orenstein provides an in depth exploration of women and their relationships with sexuality. It addresses scenes such as social pressure, pornography, and abstinence vs. sexual liberation in an attempt to explain how women perceive themselves and their bodies. This is the first time these issues have been voluntarily acknowledged outside of the mandatory health classes. The faculty leaders distributed over 70 copies of the book to Upper School students and faculty.
When asked why she founded this club, Ms. Stutt said, “The Me Too movement and this book really made me rethink my own experiences and opened my eyes to the fact that, while girls today are more empowered to succeed in every other venue, when it comes to sexuality, girls do not always have the power to do what they want with their bodies, and their own pleasure is often not even a consideration.”
Ms. Stutt is not the only one with this opinion—students echo the same values through their consistent attendance to the forums and book clubs.
“I think the book alone is beneficial and the book club is just an extension of that, so it’s really good,” said Joe Petrini (‘19). “It’s also the first time where guys and girls in the community can talk about these issues in an organized way, which is something that hasn’t happened yet.”
The recent forums held at Packer have been gender divided in order to create comfortable spaces in which women and men could speak openly on their sexuality. This is the first space inside Packer that is opened to all genders. Joe Petrini is one of the few male Upper School students actively participating in the book club. The book club is currently lacking male members, and that fact has been brought up in the past discussions.
“I think that reading and discussing books addressing adolescent sexuality from a feminist perspective, such as Girls and Sex, are vitally important for young men,” said Mr. James. “One point that’s been raised in all of the book club discussions so far has been, ‘Why aren’t more guys reading this?’”
So why aren’t more males attending the book club? It has been emphasized by faculty and students that this is a space that welcomes all genders. “I think a lot of guys don’t care,” said Emma Eaton (‘19). “Some don’t want to be seen walking around with a pink book that says ‘Girls and Sex,’ but mostly I think it’s that they don’t think the topics being addressed concerns them.”
The absence of males has been so prevalent in the past meetings that it has ended up consuming much of the conversation. Although the book club is a great space in which women can gain a deeper understanding on the issues regarding their sexuality with the help of both a book and a group that echoes similar beliefs, the lack of male attendance only seems to display the core of the issue. Women are already aware of the problems that are being brought to light in the book. This issue stems from men being oblivious to the problems surrounding women’s sexuality. That men don’t feel these problems concern them. In order for there to be progress in the Packer community, people who don’t feel directly affected by an issue need to become more involved in these spaces.