Do you remember Cindy Pierce? The Oracle dug into the controversy around her talk at the end of October 2018 about healthy relationships, sexuality, consent, and social courage.
This was the second time the well-regarded speaker, who has spoken at many high schools and colleges as “a social sexuality educator and comic storyteller,” as her website puts it, came to Blair. She is also the author of Sexploitation.
Some girls said they were slightly “anxious” about the talk, but that they looked forward to seeing how this would be different from all the other sex talks, which they often find boring. Many female students felt positive about the talk and thought she approached an uncomfortable topic in a humorous, interesting way instead of sounding “preachy.” Girls were more open to Pierce’s message than boys, some of whom admitted of going into the talk closed-minded.
A number of male students believed Pierce failed to acknowledge male perspectives. A junior male said, “She felt very anti-man, and she didn’t seem to have an understanding viewpoint.” One male senior, echoing a sentiment held by others, said, “She did not talk about the other point of view at all. I wanted to hear more about men being attacked or being offended and how we should defend ourselves.” Similar to the male students’ opinion, some female students also said that they felt the talk was geared more towards girls, and that Pierce had a “double standard going on,” with one sophomore girl noting that she was “pretty mean” towards guys.
Pierce responded to those who felt offended, saying, “I am sorry the boys and some of the girls at Blair perceived my presentation as critical of boys. The misunderstanding of boys and men is what motivated me to start doing this work and continues to inform my work.”
One junior girl was under the impression that boys feel that they are perceived as the cause of all sexual misconduct issues, but she thought that Pierce’s talk was important for the guys to hear.
Pierce noted, “Some students find the concepts I share to be hard to hear or don’t want to believe me. Hearing a woman speak frankly about many of these topics is considered offensive and threatening by some people.”
Pierce assured us that her sources are reliable and added, “I have been speaking, doing research and engaging with young people around these topics for fifteen years.” She continued, “Most boys and men report back to me that they are surprised by how much I know about their experiences.”
According to Pierce, it is crucial that boys understand and accept the reality that most sexual assaults are committed by men.
Aside from issues surrounding sexual assault, Pierce also spoke about porn. A female freshman found it interesting to learn that “porn can influence how people view the world,” adding that she had “never thought about it before.” Another said that the statistics about the porn industry were interesting, but that the percentages seemed “unrealistic.” Multiple female students wished she talked more about topics of consent and how “porn can affect people’s view on consent.”
Mr. David Mamukelashvili, a new faculty member at Blair, had an interesting point of view. Pierce “could have included the guys’ perspective” but “you can’t escape the fact that the female is much more prone to these issues though, so it is necessary to understand that.” Pierce gave many statistics about “how many females get abused, and how bad it is in the world of technology, and I feel that not just us as a community, but as individuals, we need to recognize the seriousness of the problem.”
When asked about what points or ideas would be important for Blair students to take away from her talk, Pierce replied, “Normalized hookup culture has created a low bar for relationships and sexual expectations.” People generally want intimacy in a relationship, but hope that hooking up will instead lead to some kind of connection with their partner.
She noted that “healthy and enjoyable sexual relationships are more common for people who take their time,” and those who “choose partners carefully” share “connection, communication, a balance of interest and respect with a partner.” She continued that “porn is skewing expectations about how bodies appear and respond,” and “porn consumers are struggling to reconcile what they look at online and how it impacts their actual experiences.”
She wants Blair students to share feedback, as her “work continues to evolve based on [her] conversations with boys and men.” She seeks to better understand various points of view in order to determine what she should change for the future to help students feel more respected. If you are interested sharing your perspective, please reach out to Mr. Pagotto, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Cindy Pierce also gave us several links to some videos that she thought would be helpful if you are looking for further clarification:
Ran Gavrieli https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gRJ_QfP2mhU
Gary Wilson https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wSF82AwSDiU
Gabe Deem https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2KrTBicyrQ
(Copyright 2019 Jenna Park, Joseph Min)