I just had phone sex with Jay Friedman—well if you consider conversation about topics in sex and society, phone sex.
Jay Friedman is a sex educator who will presenting his show, the “J-spot,” a mix of personal narrative and informative lecture, on Thursday, Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. in the Performing Arts Center Concert Hall. The Sexual Awareness Center is presenting the free show free, but you do need tickets. They are available at the PAC box office.
Katie Boody: In general what do you feel your overall objective is in your performance as far as sexual awareness education goes?
Jay Friedman: Well, the goal of the lecture is to promote open communication about sex and basically I’m looking to help students prevent the problems that result from sexual ignorance, but also promote pleasure in their relationships at the same time.
I think as a result of lack of communication and cultural issues we are kind of crippled with sexual ignorance and the way that plays out for college students is unexpected pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV still, sexual assault issues related to homophobia and so on.
KB: How open do you think our society should be about sex? How open do you think our sexual discourse should be in society?
JF: I think we’re a very conservative and Victorian society, and one of the things the lecture performance includes is a look at how the United States compares to other countries in terms of sex and sex education, and students find this fun but frightening to see exactly how backward we are. So I talk about how in Sweden just how open the culture is and as a result young people have sexual intercourse starting at a later age, and when they do have intercourse they’re far more likely to use birth control so that’s just one example. But I think again just compared to these other countries, we have a very narrow view of sex.
KB: Do you think that there’s a double-edged sword here and that people can be too open sexually, and their can be a negative impact?
JF: I don’t know that people can be too open sexually, but I do think that we need to have legal guidelines to make sure that nothing is done that’s not consensual or a power imbalance, so things like child pornography, violence related to sex--those things should be regulated. But I think in this country things are so overly regulated, and again we have this Victorian perspective; when there’s a so called wardrobe malfunction with Janet Jackson, we become the laughing stock of the world because of our backward attitude and how freaked out people were about that happening.
KB: Furthering how restricted our society is sexually, especially with college aged students first becoming more sexually active and sexually autonomous, I think people often become more self-conscious in their sexual activities as far as people wanting to know if their sex is “normal sex.” How do you want to dispel such insecurities, or do you even want to, or how do you deal with such problems?
JF: I think it’s really interesting when students come up and ask questions after the lecture, it’s a whole variety of questions related to romance and sex and love, and the most common answer is, “can you talk to your partner about that?” Because everything is so quieted down and closeted that we’re not supposed to talk openly about sex, nobody has any idea of what’s normal. And furthermore, people just aren’t comfortable communicating with their partners about sex, and for me that’s why it all boils down to communication. I always say that sex is as much mental as physical, and you’re ability to talk openly about sex is so, so important to a healthy relationship.
KB: In relation to that, you’re speaking of sex education in relation to communicating with a partner, how do you feel about emotionally detached or promiscuous sex acts? Do you think those are then irresponsible or how do those fit in with sexual responsibility?
JF: Yeah I don’t make judgment on people’s sexual choices as long as they’re done with consent. In the lecture performance I talk about three conditions before you’re ready to have sex. And they all begin with A. It’s Affirm the other person, so it’s knowing the person’s name, being able to do it with the lights on, being able to look them in the eyes. So that’s the first condition. Second is accepting responsibility. And that’s birth control if you need it, disease control if you need it and obtaining consent. And the third is assuring mutual pleasure which is a little bit trickier for some. Given all of that, you know as an example, how do I feel about a one night stand? If you meet all those conditions, who am I to judge? I think it’s trickier for that to mature into a healthy long term relationship, but I don’t think college students necessarily are seeking long term relationships and I’m not one to moralize that. That’s the way it should be.
KB: How do you feel about legal prostitution?
JF: Pornography and prostitution are my favorite two topics because they are so provocative and controversial. And it’s easy to see both sides or all sides of the arguments around these issues. I don’t personally address them very much in the presentation. I touch upon sexually explicit materials but as far as my professional perspective, I think I’m pretty libertarian when it comes to these types of issues. I think prostitution, we say it’s the oldest profession in the world, and you know there’s questions around how do we regulate it, but I think other countries, like the Netherlands, they’ve sort of regulated it in a way that serves the health of all people and I think that’s been a fairly good model of how to have that industry functioning in a society in a way that’s safe for all those involved. (pause) I think we’re a little behind here in the states.
KB: With pornography and prostitution do you think they’re can be legitimate businesses or do you think that they kind of are exploitive by nature?
JF: Yeah, you get into chicken and egg stuff there. I think it’s so easy to scapegoat pornography and prostitution for all of society’s problems and certainly many of the women in those industries with those backgrounds. But I also think they’re disadvantaged in our society, and I think that rather than scapegoat those two industries it’s important to look at some of the deeper issues, that women don’t get paid as much as men, that women are often exploited by men, and that those may be bigger problems to solve than just these surface issues that might reflect some of those problems.
And let’s say the women in those industries have had backgrounds, but they’re also disadvantaged economically in our society, and I think that rather than scapegoat those two industries it’s important to look at some of the deeper issues that women don’t get paid as much that women are often exploited and that those might be bigger issues to solve than these two surface issues.
KB: How do you feel about that feminist empowerment notion through pornography or prostitution?
JF: I think that it points to the fact that there are all kinds of feminisms and I’m sure there’s feminists whose views don’t align with others who call themselves feminists. Like in anything, you have different perspectives, different brands of feminism. I think also it’s really important for women to have control of their own bodies and their own destinies, and to go into something like prostitution shouldn’t be done out of something like being economically disadvantaged and feeling like that’s the only way you can make money, or because you’ve been sexually abused as a child, and now that’s the only way you know how to express love and affection. But if it were done in a framework where men and women were truly equal,
maybe there could be a profession where women could feel comfortable going into and running their own businesses that way. But it’s a complex issue, isn’t it? Which is why I don’t really get into it in the lecture, I only have an hour and that would take all the time up.