Comparing masks during the pandemic to protective barriers during sex, Natasha Singh, a sexual literacy and ethics educator from San Francisco, spoke to Upper and Seniors last Friday on topics such as consent, sexual ethics, and decision making. A part of the upperclassman EBI curriculum, Singh’s speech marked her second time speaking in front of the Andover community after her first meeting in 2021.
Taylor Ware, course head of EBI for Uppers and Seniors and Associate Director of College Counseling, hoped to relieve student stress by switching from class settings to speaker-based models for EBI this year. Andover has welcomed Matt Bellace in the Fall, Chris Herren in the Winter, and Singh in the Spring.
“We used to have class time for Uppers and Seniors but then we had a lot of faculty conversations about it and were feeling that Uppers and Seniors have a lot on their plates. So we shifted the program to look less like the 9th and 10th grade program. We don’t have the curriculum in classes, we moved more towards a speaker-based model. This year was the first year that we tried that and we have one speaker a term who comes to talk on different topics. We just had yesterday Natasha Singh who came to speak about sexual ethics and consent and decision making,” said Ware.
In her presentation, Singh discussed the intersectionality between sexual ethics and consent, using the metaphor of a mask to display how to care for the wellbeing of others. Singh also noted how shared values and ethics grow in certain community cultures and if a community understands and shares certain standards it’s more likely to be upheld.
“I want to assert something that I think you probably already know, which is shared values and ethics created in your culture. Most students will say that the reason they did not take off their masks [during the pandemic] is because they’re aware of their own safety and the safety of others. You actually learned a really important ethic during the pandemic. The mask, and this can be mapped to sexual ethics, kind of like a barrier method, you understand that what feels pleasurable is not always what you can certainly apply to other areas,” said Singh.
Singh continued by explaining a new way of looking at consent and developing certain situational and emotional intelligence in teenagers. This intelligence, Singh described, consists of setting boundaries, having a shared understanding about needs and wants, and communicating your own preferences resulting in growth.
“I like to think about consent in another way. Which is really about cultivating emotional and relational intelligence and to have programmable intelligence. It’s about really being able to co-create a space that has communication, about your boundaries, your needs and wants. It includes developing the skills to communicate your needs, preferences and wants the indicated boundaries, change minds, and create spacings and self progresses and others to do this,” said Singh.
Victoria Ortiz ’23, an EBI Senior, commented on how she enjoyed Singh’s presentation, noting how it presented information that has already been taught but in a new engaging way for the students. However, Ortiz preferred last year’s EBI model as it allowed for more in-depth information on the same topics, but has otherwise enjoyed the extra time and speakers that have been brought this year.
“I was excited [for Singh’s presentation], she presented a lot of information that we kind of talk about on campus but in a new way that was a lot more engaging for the general student population, so I really enjoyed it. Last year, my Upper EBI format was different [and] I thought that [last year’s format] was honestly nicer, though, people would complain about [how] it was usually on Fridays after ASM. Some of the [presentations are] definitely very surface-level things that I could teach about in my EBI class, it’s not that we’re getting so much new information at an appropriate grade-level. I do think that the timing and the format, and having actual educated people talk about the subject, is nice,” said Ortiz.
Similarly, Jack Swales ’24, an EBI Upper, appreciated the presentation as it further reiterated the topic of consent, which hasn’t exactly become a campus-wide precedent as of yet. Swales, however, slightly deferred from Ortiz as he enjoys having the extra time to work rather than meeting every week for EBI, on top of teaching EBI to freshmen.
“I actually quite liked it, I think that it did spread a good message. I did hear a lot of negative feedback but I think that’s because [consent is] a message that they’ve been hearing over and over again. I think that the way that the speaker tackled, addressing this issue of consent and how that had not been very engaged on our campus. We still have a lot of things that are wrong with consent on our campus. I would say that it’s definitely very helpful because I’m also an EBI Upper, so I teach EBI to freshmen every week. So being able to meet just once a month, or once a term for EBI, has been very relieving compared to having it every single week,” said Swales.
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