Evan Marczynski/The AS Review
Although sex and drugs are a common reality at any university, it can be difficult for students to ask questions about these taboo subjects without fear of humiliation, shame or guilt. However, award-winning speaker River Huston wants to change all that by giving students the answers they seek and replacing fear with fun.
At 7 p.m. on April 14 in the PAC Concert Hall, Huston will present Sext, an interactive performance on the topics of safe sex, the effects of alcohol and drugs on decision-making and avoiding risky behavior.
The event is sponsored by the AS Drug Information Center, with additional support from the AS Sexual Awareness Center. Admission is free for students and tickets can be picked up with a current student ID card at the PAC Box Office, Village Books in Fairhaven or the Community Food Co-Op downtown. Non-students can purchase tickets for $3.
In Sext, Huston recalls events from her remarkable life to give her audience firsthand practical advice on sexual activity and drug use. She gives out her cell phone number and encourages students to send her questions through text messages. She then answers some questions herself and defers others to the audience.
Huston said she likes to create a game show-like atmosphere with humor and prizes in order to make students feel comfortable talking about risqué subjects. She said the three biggest topics students ask about are orgasms, penis size and how sex affects relationships.
“I just want people to feel excited about their sexuality in a way that isn’t shame, guilt or fear-based,” Huston said. “I want them to feel good about themselves sexually.”
Drug Information Center Coordinator JaneLee Waldock said Huston is known for giving straightforward presentations.
“She’s super open to talking about anything,” Waldock said. “She’s a really engaging presenter.”
Waldock believes that students sometimes have an aversion to asking about drug use because they fear that by asking questions, they are condoning or admitting to using something that is illegal. She said Sext will allow students to get answers to questions without worrying about the potential consequences of asking.
Waldock said she thinks the use of texting during the presentation is a great way to use a method of communication that is discreet and common to students.
“I’m really excited to give students this opportunity to freely ask a question in a way they are so familiar with using,” she said.
In addition to text messages, the audience will also have the opportunity to ask questions by writing them down or just yelling them out.
Sexual Awareness Center Assistant Coordinator Royce Andrews saw Huston perform on the PAC Mainstage two years ago and was surprised at how openly she talked about sex.
“Initially that just completely took me off guard, and I completely loved her for that,” Andrews said. “She exuded an attitude that made everyone else come out and be really open and comfortable.”
Andrews said she thinks it is a struggle in today’s world for people to be honest about sex and drugs since many still feel they have to conform to unwritten rules about how we should think and act about taboo subjects.
She strongly encouraged students to come see Huston speak.
“River Huston is amazing,” she said. “There’s something magical about her.”
Huston has been performing at colleges, conferences and benefits for over 20 years and has received an impressive collection of awards for community education, poetry and public speaking. She was born in Levittown, Pa. in 1960 and spent her early life adventuring. She lived as a caretaker on an island in the South Atlantic, grew marijuana in Northern California and played music in the streets of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
After spending six years homeless in New York City during the 1980s, she decided to change the course of her life and enrolled at Hunter College in Manhattan. It was in her last year there that she found out she was HIV-positive, and later she was also diagnosed with a chronic bleeding disorder.
She left the city and returned to Pennsylvania to live with her father. In 1995, she was named the poet laureate of Buck County, Pa. and from there began her speaking career focusing on the topics of sex, drug and alcohol abuse and overcoming challenges.
Huston said Bellingham is one of her favorite places to visit and the enthusiasm of her past Western audiences has been incredible.
“I absolutely love it. It is one of my most favorite places to perform,” she said. “I’m really excited about coming.”
More information on Sext and River Huston can be found at Huston’s Web site at www.riverhuston.com.