Sex educator talks sex to college students
Penn alum Al Vernacchio came to campus yesterday to talk about 'great sex'
February 22, 2012, 1:10 am·
“Leave me alone, I’m having a sexual fantasy,” reads a poster hanging in Al Vernacchio’s high-school classroom. For the sex educator, those words are nothing out of the ordinary. To him, sex is normal.
Yesterday, the 1997 Ph.D. recipient finished his day at Friends’ Central Day School to come to Penn to educate about 100 college students about great sex. His talk was in Claudia Cohen Hall, where he aimed to get people thinking about sexuality in a healthy and normal way.
College freshman Kylie Murrin enjoyed the comfortable atmosphere with her peers to discuss a topic most people are uncomfortable speaking about.
“Our culture does not encourage the development of healthy sexuality,” Vernacchio said.
Instead of expressing interest in engaging in a natural discussion of sexuality, he said American culture is more narrow minded.
“If you look at Europe and the rates of sexual assault,” he said, “all that stuff is so much lower than in the U.S. because we’re so repressed that when someone has a desire that they can’t figure out, they have no way to figure it out.”
To remedy this, Vernacchio said sexuality must be seen as “a force for good in the universe.”
He added, “It is never dirty, not ugly.” Getting to that point, he said, takes attention, care and reinforcement.
Vernacchio discussed three ways of classifying sex. The disaster model equates sex to death or sin. The porn model demoralizes it — it’s all great but not real. The other, preferred option is “being involved with your own or someone else’s body with the purpose of bringing sexual pleasure.”
And according to Vernacchio, pleasure can be derived from a variety of ways.
“We need to get out of our genitals,” he said, encouraging the audience to explore other parts of their bodies. “There are [other] places that are really good.”
Vernacchio devalued the dated baseball metaphor for sex that has three bases. “It gives an artificial structure to sex,” he said. “Games are scheduled, certain seasons.”
Instead, he said, we need to use a pizza model because “we’re all hungry.”
Vernacchio elaborated, “If you’re going to have pizza with anyone, you ask what you want. Instead of rounding the bases, you negotiate, ‘I’m not really a pepperoni person, you know that.’”
When the baseball game finishes, there’s a winner. But at the pizza dinner, he said, “it’s totally acceptable to say, ‘we’re done.’”
If we decide where and when and what is enough, Vernacchio said, that might change the game.
“We need to take ownership of what that means.” For Vernacchio, that means knowing your body, knowing yourself, being confident and being able to integrate sex into everyday life.
Wharton sophomore Maxine Winston enjoyed the presentation. “He made it fun. It was educational and fun without making a joke of sex.”
“I didn’t know what a vulva was before this,” College junior Alex Zimmer said.
Some, including Engineering junior Craig McDonald, said, “It would have been cool if we learned this in high school.”
“That’s something I’ve noticed here,” Engineering junior and former Daily Pennsylvanian lead online developer Zach Wasserman said, “that people didn’t have [good sex ed]. But my high school was pretty thorough.”