Despite numerous studies unequivocally touting its benefits, sex education is somehow still controversial. Female sex workshops, a medium to discuss everything from sex and anatomy to domestic violence have been increasing in popularity. And the idea of women gathering, openly discussing sex, and repeatedly saying the word “vagina” have people all in a tizzy. These workshops are so controversial that they have compelled Ethan Hollenberger of Marquette University in Wisconsin to take action against what he calls, “a debased and anti-Catholic view of sex and desire.”
To be fair, Mr. Hollenberger on principle isn’t opposed to FemSex, the now defunct Marquette sex workshop designed to, “encourage participants to develop empowered, informed relationships with themselves and others.” The conflict over this issue is ostensibly concentrated in the fact that Marquette, a Catholic University, initially chose to sponsor FemSex upon its inception. Mr. Hollenberger’s opposition is in direct relation to his belief that female sexual empowerment and the Catholic Church are mutually exclusive entities. He states, “Defenders of FemSex would undoubtedly argue that the beliefs of the Catholic Church are archaic and no longer applicable in the modern world.”
Marquette graduate student Claire Van Fossen said, “FemSex “does not teach any curriculum, push any agenda, condone any behavior, or act as therapy.” She added, “At its core, FemSex is about introspection, discussion, exploration, and self-empowerment.” Now, compare that with one of the mission statements of the prominent group, Catholics for Choice: “Supporting evidence-based, comprehensive sexuality education policies that enable people to feel comfortable [and/or] confident about themselves, their partners and their sexuality.” Perhaps this is a misinterpretation, but FemSex and Catholics for choice have almost identical conceptions of female sexuality.
So if there is so much common ground between a large Catholic organization and a female sex workshop, why does Mr. Hollenberger care? It all comes down to this comment: “If not for watchful conservatives, FemSex might be officially sanctioned today.”
Sex education is supported by a majority of this country, Catholics included. Once it becomes clear that FemSex doesn’t contradict Catholic beliefs, you have wonder why Mr. Hollenberger opposes the workshop. The problem here is “conservatives.” In this instance, religion is being utilized to push a subjective moral and political agenda. This isn’t about sex conflicting with religion. This is about Mr. Hollenberger being personally uncomfortable with females discussing sex.
Attempting to keep sex and domestic violence education out of any environment, regardless of its religious affiliation, practically benefits no one. Mr. Hollenberger represents an ideological, vocal minority that insists on asserting its archaic notions of what constitutes female sexuality on the whole population. Restrictive policy dictated by a loud minority is not conducive to fairness, only to satisfying a select few.
The Marquette Administration, a religious entity, took no issue with this program until Mr. Hollenbereger chided them for not being Catholic enough. What Mr. Hollenberger actually meant to say is that the Marquette administration was not adequately catering to conservatives. In being so vocal about a program that would have immeasurable impact on the lives of women and absolutely no impact on him, Mr. Hollenberger is illustrating the presumptive nature of his actions. He correctly assessed that regardless of the lack of public support for his position, he would be able to end FemSex if he provided loud critiques and invoked religion.
Today, people like Mr. Hollenberger would have you believe that supporting the Catholic Church means supporting Republicans, anti-feminists, and anti-sex measures. Catholicism and female empowerment do not have to be mutually exclusive. Catholicism is primarily about respect and love for your neighbor. It isn’t a political affiliation and it certainly doesn’t prohibit sexual and domestic violence education for women. If you are uncomfortable with women in a position of equality or empowerment, simply say so. Stop wasting time claiming misogyny is supported by the Catholic Church.