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  • Intimacy Timelines as a Tool for Teaching Feminism
  • Lindsay Briggs (bio)

I am somewhat of an oddball in my department. I am one of the newer faculty members in our traditional public health and health education disease and risk-focused department. My focus on radical and contemporary discussions of sex coming from a sex-positive, pleasure-focused, body-diverse, gender and sexuality spectrum–embracing, and social-ecological view of human sexuality is often seen as both unique and perplexing. I also am one of the few tenure-track faculty members who actively seek out and enjoy teaching our general education course offerings. This often puts me in contact with non–health majors who are taking my course simply to fulfill graduation requirements related to "lifelong learning," "critical thinking," and "diversity." They often choose human sexuality because it looked like the "most fun" or "least boring" option. Some students take my class at the urgings and rumors of friends and classmates, and some students wander into my classroom completely unprepared for the radical course full of new ideas that they are about to encounter. Although I teach at a large public university on the West Coast, our university is by no means a radical, liberal university. I have students from a variety of backgrounds; while most of our local students come from rural and/or religious communities and backgrounds, we also attract students from the Bay Area and Southern California. This creates a very fun and diverse environment where students from many backgrounds, majors, life experiences, and exposure to critical pedagogy collide. Students quickly realize that although this is a health-based course, my view of sex and health is much different from the high school sex education experiences they have endured.

From the first day in the course, I introduce myself as a feminist and ask them to hold off on forming an opinion of what that means until they get to know me, my course, and feminism's place in human sexuality. I feel that this serves as both a warning and a curious invitation to those who have less than positive preconceived notions about feminism. This also creates the opportunity for radical growth and reflection on the social narrative of feminism during the semester they spend with me. I aim to demonstrate throughout the course the numerous ways in which sexism and patriarchy have harmed both [End Page 83] females and males in the pursuit of sexual equality, pleasure, and health. This essay will describe one activity that I use to illustrate how patriarchal systems have affected the experiences of females and males across the sexual lifespan.

Sexuality Across the Lifespan

In my course, I use William Yarber, Barbara Sayad, and Bryan Strong's Human Sexuality: Diversity in Contemporary America (currently in the 8th edition). I present this activity in class during the lectures from Chapters 6 and 7, which focus on Sexuality in Childhood and Adolescence and Sexuality in Adulthood (Yarber et al. 158). However, this activity could be adapted for a variety of lessons, units, and standalone activities with or without accompanying human sexuality readings. The foundations of this activity were gleaned from my professional work experience with Girls Incorporated, where I was the national program manager for their Preventing Adolescent Pregnancy programs for two years and gained valuable insight in teaching human sexuality from a feminist perspective (Girls Inc. 145). Additionally, my pedagogical method strongly revolves around David Kolb's experiential learning method of experience, reflection, and application of knowledge.

Content Note

In my experience of using this activity for the past eight years I have never had a student triggered by this specific activity (at least to my knowledge). As research has demonstrated, triggers are widely varied and quite unpredictable—students could be and often are triggered by something completely unrelated to a discussion of sexual behavior. Since it is possible, however, that this activity could bring up uncomfortable feelings or trigger memories of past traumatic experiences I feel it warrants a short preface that can be adapted to whatever environment you may utilize it in. I most often use this exercise in conjunction with a larger course or curriculum, so the discussion of...


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