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Speaking of Sex

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    Dan Savage, the author of a popular nationwide sex advice column, signs copies of his books following his talk at the 2013 Brown Symposium. (Photo by Erica Grant)

2013 Brown Symposium will try to make an uncomfortable subject easier to talk about

Talking about sex can be difficult, but the consequences of NOT having frank, honest discussions about sex can be dangerous, including unplanned pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual abuse, and many others.

Traci Giuliano, a professor of psychology at Southwestern University, hopes to facilitate some constructive conversations about sex at Southwestern University’s 35th annual Brown Symposium, which will be held Jan. 28, 2013. Giuliano has titled the symposium “Sextalk: A Symposium with Benefits.”

“From an early age, we are bombarded with negative messages about sex and are socialized to be afraid or ashamed to talk about it,” Giuliano said. “This taboo surrounding sex is really unfortunate because the benefits of increased knowledge and communication about sex are many, including safe, responsible sexual decision-making and enhanced trust, honesty and closeness in relationships − both with romantic partners and with family members.”

Giuliano notes that sexual issues touch everyone’s lives − regardless of whether they are sexually active or not, and also touch people throughout their entire lifespan − not just the reproductive years.

“So while sexuality is undoubtedly a difficult issue to discuss − both because of how personal these issues are and because of the diversity of viewpoints that exist − it is nonetheless crucial that we have respectful and thoughtful discussions in our homes and in our communities in order to promote sexual health and responsible behavior,” she said.

The featured speaker for the symposium will be Dan Savage, author of the popular syndicated column titled “Savage Love” and a highly sought-after expert on sex-related issues. Savage created the “It Gets Better Project,” which is designed to show LGBT youth that “it does indeed get better” after high school. Savage will lead a question and answer session from 10:45 a.m. to noon and will sign copies of his book from noon to 12:30 p.m.

Other speakers lined up for the symposium include The Rev. Debra W. Haffner, a Unitarian Universalist minister and author of the award-winning book From Diapers to Dating: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Sexually Healthy Children; Pamela M. Wilson, author of a nationally acclaimed sexuality education curricula; and Debby Herbenick, co-director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and a sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction.

Haffner will open the symposium at 9 a.m. with a talk titled “Sex and Religion: What’s the connection?” Wilson will give a talk at 1:30 p.m. on “Sexuality Education from Birth to Death.” Herbenick will give a talk at 3 p.m. titled “Sex the American Way: 10 Key Findings from Sex Research.”

The symposium will be accompanied by an art exhibit titled “Interludes,” which has been curated by Victoria Star Varner, professor of art at Southwestern. The exhibit will feature paintings by Austin artist Michael Mogavero, as well as art from the Kinsey Institute. An opening reception for the exhibition will be held from 5:30 to 7 p.m. the day of the symposium and Mogavero will give a gallery talk about his artwork at 6 p.m.

Several other activities are taking place in conjunction with the symposium. The library has special exhibits set up in both the foyer and the periodicals room and David Asbury’s Paideia group is sponsoring a lunch to benefit the Empty Bowls project the day of the symposium from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. in the Commons.

The Brown Symposium is funded through an endowment established by The Brown Foundation, Inc., of Houston. The first Brown Symposium was held in 1978.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is recommended to ensure seating. To register, visit the symposium website.

The symposium will be simulcast in Room 166 of the Fine Arts Center for those who are not able to find seats in the Alma Thomas Theater.

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