Katie McHugh - Allegheny College

MEADVILLE – Allegheny College’s Ford Memorial Chapel was transformed into a boudoir of sorts Wednesday night, as professional sex educators advised students in attendance how best to touch themselves and their partners to reach orgasm in what was billed as an educational seminar.

The chapel, built and dedicated in 1902, is where Catholic mass and non-denominational services are conducted every week at the private liberal arts college in northwestern Pennsylvania. But all that took a back pew to Wednesday’s festivities, dubbed “I Heart the Female Orgasm” and hosted by a variety of student groups on campus.

The two sex educators, Marshall Miller and Kate Weinberg, talked students through a variety of masturbation techniques during the event.

“Sometimes it can be difficult finding your G spot by yourself, because it involves inserting a finger or fingers inside the vagina into the front wall of the body, and that kind of results in an awkward, kind of clawlike hand position,” Weinberg said, demonstrating with a pawing motion as the audience giggled. “Obviously, there are better ways you can position your body. Or if you’ve got a partner, you can get your partner to insert their finger or fingers inside your vagina in the front wall of your body in a sort of a J curve.”

Miller also weighed in, noting “some (women) find that if they change the angle or position, they can find some way of rubbing against their partner’s body, against the base of his penis or pubic bone, and with rubbing to have enough stimulation to orgasm in intercourse.”

In statements to The College Fix, the college’s chaplain defended the event’s location, calling its theme “responsible,” and a campus spokesperson said it offered a “great message.”

While the chapel is hosting services in conjunction with Lent, on Wednesday the building turned into a sexual marketplace of sorts, as student groups sold buttons, t-shirts and hats bearing the program’s name inside the chapel itself after the event concluded. They also sold the book written by program coordinators Marshall Miller and Dorian Solot titled “I Heart Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide.”

Meanwhile, the sex educators had also told students masturbation is not a sin.

“Some people figure out masturbation and orgasm as teenagers, some people figure it out later than that,” said Weinberg, describing her lifelong fascination with pleasuring herself. “And some people figure it out earlier than that. Like preschool age. I was part of that last category.”

Weinberg also weighed in on a portion of the Book of Genesis in regard to masturbation.

“So this primary anti-masturbation story is about this guy, Onan. … And Onan refused to sleep with his brother’s wife, so he spilled his seed on the ground — that’s how it’s defined — and for that, God struck him dead,” she said.

But Weinberg said she believes that because Biblical scholars debate the exact meanings of many portions of the Bible, it permits a wide variety of sexual activity.

“A lot of Bible scholars say that’s the primary anti-masturbation story, but I don’t really see it,” she continued. “Onan wasn’t struck dead for masturbating. He was struck down for not sleeping with his brother’s wife. So the masturbation wasn’t the sin. So obviously, you know, the Bible is something that is interpreted in a lot of different ways.”

During the event, Weinberg and Miller played the famous fake orgasm scene from “When Harry Met Sally” on a projected screen, and also displayed different anatomical diagrams depicting women’s genitals.

“If you’ve got a vagina, your genitals are tucked pretty neatly inside your body. It’s a pretty handy place to keep one’s genitals, really. But because of this, many heterosexual women have never seen another woman’s vagina or vulva,” Weinberg said. “If you’ve got cool dangly parts down there, if you’re voluptuous, if one side’s longer than the other, if your va-jay-jay’s got some character, some personality, it’s not a sign that you’re abnormal and deformed. It’s a sign that you’re a healthy adult woman.”

Weinberg later held up two books titled I’ll Show You Mine and Petals, encouraging students to flip through them after the program: “We’ve got two amazing books up here with pages and pages of art photographs of vaginas and vulvas.”

The event was hosted by Allegheny’s student government and Allegheny College’s Reproductive Health Coalition, along with Young Feminists and Queers and Allies. It was funded by student activities fees.

Student reaction to the seminar was mixed.

One Christian student, Shannon McAvinchey, 20, said the school’s student government supported Christian groups on campus and were not trying to intentionally offend Christian students by hosting the event in the chapel. At the same time, however, she said some students’ attitudes towards Christians troubled her.

“I guess what frustrates me most is when you say you’re a Christian, your views are automatically not so much disrespected as dismissed,” McAvinchey said.

Other students, however, were excited on their way to the chapel, chatting and laughing happily.

“I have needs!” one girl said.

“I have condoms! Jesus!” her friend shrieked.

Officials at the college took a blasé attitude toward the event.

Chaplain Jane Ellen Nickel, who conducts non-denominational Christian services each Sunday and manages the office of Spiritual and Religious Life, said in an email to The College Fix that she saw nothing wrong with the event, and hoped students would feel comfortable attending a religious service there later.

“I don’t have a problem with it being held in the chapel. The program advocates responsible, respectful decision-making regarding sexual behavior, and includes the option waiting for marriage, a message that resonates with many students of faith. While the name may have some shock value, the event itself is consistent with our policy of opening the building to campus groups. We would love it if students at such an event experience the chapel as a welcoming space, and then feel encouraged to attend a religious service or program.”

Another campus administrator told The College Fix he had no problem with the event’s location.

“They have a great message about caring relationships,” said Dean of Students Joe DiChristina in an e-mail. “I appreciated their approach.”

Fix contributor Katie McHugh is a student at Allegheny College.

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IMAGE: Allegheny College Ford Memorial Chapel

WASHINGTON, D.C. – President Barack Obama delivered a direct, forceful inaugural address Monday, during which he promised the continuation of a large national government and socially progressive platform to a lackluster crowd who at times seemed more interested in their cell phones than his speech.

Despite the president’s sharply ideological tone – perhaps to fire up his base for his second term – the crowd gathered on the National Mall failed to catch the emotional fever pitch. It remains to be seen what, if any, role the strong smell of the marijuana smoke in one part of the Mall played on the crowd’s demeanor.

To be sure, a few people around me radiated excitement at first.

“Mama!” one child cried after her mother shouted Obama’s name and cheered.

“Don’t you hush me,” the woman said. “That’s my president. You’d be yelling the same at a football game.”

Others in the crowd didn’t quite share her enthusiasm. Chants of “O-Bam-A” rippled toward the back of the crowd where I stood but died off in less than fifteen seconds as visitors lowered their cell phones and resumed texting or looking at pictures they just took. Behind me, one or two people tried to start chants again; they never took off.

The crowd reacted positively to some parts of the speech, halfheartedly or not at all to others.

Mentions of equal pay for women provoked cheers and flag-waving, but oddly, where I stood, Obama’s next few lines addressing gay rights elicited almost no response, despite the obvious emotional momentum:

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well,” Obama declared to the slightly subdued crowd around us.

As if supporters of the president had been lulled into apathy after the election, the crowd’s cheers took on a fiercer edge when Obama obliquely referred to his Republican enemies on Capitol Hill.

“For now decisions are upon us, and we cannot afford delay,” Obama said. “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

The last part brought forth jeers. Another mention of Newtown, Conn., brought forth quiet murmurs, but for the post part, the crowd alternated between offering standard cheers and looking at their cameras or cell phones, or hugging their shivering kids.

Whether it was the cold or fatigue from overnight trips, no one exuded the passion of 2009.

On the way toward the National Mall, I passed by many vendors hawking Obama t-shirts and buttons, and several people pushed carts full of what looked like fake issues of a commemorative issue of The Washington Post.

“Obama pretzels!” yelled a couple men with shopping carts stacked with soft pretzels. Most of the crowd ambled by, uninterested. I didn’t see any kids asking their parents for goodies.

After Obama’s speech, a few lingered by the stands, looking at the t-shirts with idle interest, but no one appeared to be buying anything at the Mall, near Capitol South, or Stadium Armory.

No one seemed rushed, excited, or frazzled. The city swelled by an estimated 800,000 people with no noticeable effects besides jammed Metro stations.

Obama’s supporters, after electing the president, don’t seem to share his sense of urgency. If the country is moving “Forward,” under Obama, it’s doing it at a pretty idle pace.

Fix contributor Katie McHugh is a student at Allegheny College.

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IMAGE: Nada2/flickr