By Alex Bacon/The AS Review

Body image, casual sex, fantasies and gender are a few of the topics the AS club Sexploration covered during its meetings last year.  Though the subject matter may seem daunting, all are welcome to attend and share thoughts and feelings as the club resumes discussions this fall.

Sexploration is a discussion group and safe space, that aims to help students  “speak what’s usually kept silent,” said Grace Wischerth, founder and facilitator.  She wanted to create an environment that makes people feel safe to speak.

Sexploration is designed to be a discussion group that is non-judgmental and confidential.  The goal is to pursue nontraditional ways of talking about sexuality and making sexuality “holistically a part of our lives,” said Wischerth.

“It attends to a variety of purposes.  It’s not just one goal; students can take a ton of things from each session,” Royce Andrews, AS Resource and Outreach Programs’ Sexual Awareness Center (SAC) assistant coordinator, said.

Wischerth was inspired to start Sexploration by the 2007 Vagina Memoirs.  Wischerth recalled that an audience member asked a performer what inspired her and the performer said “to speak what’s usually kept silent.”  Wischerth wanted to continue the feeling of truth and vulnerability, so she started Sexploration.

“I think it’s awesome,” said SAC Coordinator Jennifer Veliz. “Sexuality is sometimes a taboo subject and taboo subjects sometimes need a safe space to talk about and create a positive identity and informed choice.”

Meetings are in a discussion-group format and start with a prompt.  Wischerth introduces the topic, such as body image, and the discussion begins.

“Grace is very open and fun and flexible and freespirited.  The facilitator sets the tone,” said Andrews.  She said she didn’t feel awkward talking and that “topics just go all over the place” from the starting point.

A major difference from last year is that instead of separate discussion groups for each gender, there’s going to be one meeting for everyone to attend.  The decision to change the style of meetings comes from Wischerth’s belief that it’s healthier for people to be talking to each other instead of in separate groups. Wischerth said she had between five and 25 people on average attend discussions.  Meetings are open to anyone:  male, female, transgender or genderqueer.

Topics that Wischerth is considering for this year’s meetings include:  queer sexuality, sadomasochism, dreams and sexual violence.  She wants to emphasize that “it’s not all about feelings but also society.”  She’d like to move the group forward to focus on discussions for people that are more advanced in their sexuality, and consider theory in discussion, but she doesn’t want to exclude anyone. Any level of sexual awareness is welcome.

“Everyone’s thoughts, opinions, likes and dislikes are valued and respected,” Andrews said.

There will probably also be a secret share, Wischerth said.  The secret share is an event that Sexploration held last year in which anonymous secrets are put in a container and then read aloud to the group. The discussion is not only about the secrets, but about why they are kept secret, she said.

“The secret share is always really popular,” she said. “I love the intimacy, I like the rawness.  I’m really drawn to secrets and why they are kept secret.”

Wischerth, who volunteers with Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services (DVSAS), hopes to co-sponsor an event with DVSAS in the future.  The SAC might co-sponsor an event with Sexploration as well.

The first Sexploration meeting should happen in early November, said Wischerth.  She’s not entirely sure when, but said anyone interested should watch for signs advertising the meetings to appear around campus.

Wischerth is scheduled to graduate this fall but wants to continue running the group after her graduation.  She said there’s a possibility she might move Sexploration off campus and open it to the community when she graduates.