There is a lot of miseducation about sex, masturbation, queer communities and sexual issues in the student community. UP scholars that research these topics include Jennifer Kinnear on strengthening comprehensive sexuality education, KM Born on risky sexual behaviour, and David Ikpo, the Communications Officer at the Sexual Orientation Gender Identity and Expression Unit of the Centre for Human Rights in the Faculty of Law at UP. PDBY interviewed SpeakOUT UP on the topic. UP has also put an Anti-Discrimination Policy in place to address the ‘Queer Space Collective’ of which was discussed in this article.

Student community perspectives on sex and masturbation 

SpeakOUT UP told PDBY that educating young people about sex,
especially at a schooling level is usually seen as encouraging children to start having sex at a young age. SpeakOUT UP further explained that although that might be most of societies view, the reality is that children from as young as 10 are exposed to things of a sexual nature, from the media, tv shows, older children, and the community at large, “So it’s necessary to equip them with all the knowledge they need to practice safe sex and lay the foundation for them to have a healthy relationship with sex when they get older”, SpeakOUT UP further elaborated. In dealing with all things related to GBV, SpeakOutUP covers the topic of sex as well. They run campaigns to educate the youth about consent, setting healthy boundaries in relationships concerning sex, and overall how to practice safe and pleasurable sex beyond using protection. Additionally, because SpeakOUT UP is supported by the CSA&G, they have access to all the tools needed to inform and equip students on all things sex.

#SpeakOutUP views masturbation as just another form of experiencing sexual pleasure. The negative stigma around masturbation has led people to believe that masturbation is only for people who are hypersexual and cannot control their urges. However, this is untrue. “Masturbation is simply another means to experience sexual pleasure. Viewed in that way the stigma will
eventually lessen”, SpeakOUT UP said.

SpeakOutUP simply encourages that each person makes their own decision without coercion or being swayed by societal opinions against their own will. And should one decide to be sexually active at whatever point, that they practice safe sex, physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Reflections of the Anti-Discrimination Policy: Queer Space Collective

According to Robert Kertzner, a researcher in the Division of Gender, Sexuality, and Health, the reason the queer community is misunderstood in most of society is that most people in society do not understand the whole concept of ‘gender-identity’. PDBY
spoke to Dr Rachelle Chadwick, a Sociology lecturer at UP, about gender roles and social positions in society. Dr Chadwick said, “I think gender is a construction and a structural relation that works to disempower certain persons and maintain unequal relations of power in societies. Normative gender roles are also closely likely linked to heteronormativity and discriminatory attitudes towards those that do not identify with the conventional gender binary”. Regarding if these gender identities are attached to one’s roles in society, she explained that this relates to the ‘sex-gender’ distinction that has been an important concept in feminism. Generally, sex has been understood as biological and gender as cultural/social. This distinction has been important as a way of arguing against the weaponisation of biological difference as a justification for inequalities between men and women (i.e., arguments that women are not suited for leadership roles, politics, or higher education because of their biology and reproductive capacities). So, it’s been an important distinction.

Dr Chadwick also said that, “For me, gender is not simply an ‘identity’ but an important social structure that organises everyday life, our intimate relationships, and all facets of our labour. As such, it is not just individuals that are ‘gendered’ but types of work (i.e., think about the feminisation of care-work and domestic labour) and entire spheres of life (i.e., public/private, family/corporate)”. The Anti-Discrimination Policy at UP aims at addressing a lot of issues around discrimination, including those of the queer community. The UP-Queer Space Collective (QSC) includes persons, departments, and organisations at UP that aim at making the university environment more inclusive of the queer community through expression and creative writing. QSC engages in conversations about what discrimination means to the queer community at UP. This has helped contribute towards what the management of the university includes in the Anti-Discrimination Policy.

For more information on conversations of this nature, students and staff can contact SpeakOUT UP via their Instagram @speakout_up and/or Sarah Matseke from the university Transformation Office at sarah.matseke@up.ac.za

Image: Cassandra Eardley

view posts

Political Science II
Transformation officer
House Humanities (Faculty House)
Executive Committee 2020/2021
PDBY University of Pretoria News Journalist
Sisterhood Society Chairperson

Aspiring eNCA CEO😂