“Where’s the Love”: UM panel talks sex

By Sarah Fonder

Em Bhoo/Collegian

An event titled “Where’s Love 101? Let’s Talk About SEX!” drew approximately 60 people to the University of Massachusetts Campus Center on Tuesday night as a panel of six couples discussed their relationships.

The event was hosted by the Women of Color Leadership Network, the Stonewall Center, the Student Legal Services Office, the GSS Graduate Women’s Network and University Health Services.

The annual panel was the fifth of its kind to be held at UMass and featured one gay couple, one lesbian couple and one straight couple.

The gay couple, Anders Minter and Todd Van Vuuren, is soon to be married. UMass seniors Mara Montalvo and Sarah Hardy represented the lesbian couple. The straight couple, Adina Giannelli and Rob Skelton, was accompanied by their two-month-old son. Also present were three self-proclaimed school “sexperts,” Linda Scott of UHS, Ilana Gerjuoy of the Everywoman’s Center, and Corey Carvalho of Student Legal Services.

The panelists were asked a variety of questions, which were written on cards and read by Stonewall Center Director Genny Beemyn. Many questions included the topic of maintaining a healthy relationship, and there was an emphasis on the importance of communication throughout the discussion.

Another central topic in the discussion was the importance of understanding boundaries.

“We’re big advocates of using a safe word,” said Montalvo, who has post-traumatic stress disorder. Because Hardy cannot always understand when Montalvo’s PTSD is triggered, the two talk things out constantly.

In the tail end of the event, students were given a chance to ask the couples and ‘sexperts’ some relationship questions. Students were also awarded door prizes that included gift certificates to Judie’s Restaurant, Northampton sex shop Oh My, and East Heaven Hot Tubs.

During the discussion, the panel discussed the importance of sex in maintaining a healthy, long-term relationship. They also discussed the difficulty of keeping the spark alive.

“The younger you are, the more mistakes you make,” said Van Vuuren. “You think you know everything about sex, but you don’t.”

As each couple has been together for at least a year, they said they have all had to work to keep their relationships going.

As hard-working seniors with heavy work-loads, Montalvo and Hardy said that they are often too busy to make time for one another. They said that to compensate, they organize date nights.

Also discussed was the subject of monogamy, and understanding the uniqueness of specific relationships.

“[People say] it’s hard to imagine only having sex with one person for the rest of your life,” said Skelton. “I reject that.”

An audience member asked whether or not sex should always be romantic. The answer was a unanimous “no.”

“I think sex should always be consensual, but not always romantic in the conventional sense,” said Giannelli.

The panel also talked about the importance of making mistakes and learning from them. According to Minter, being able to recover after mistakes is imperative.

“If you can’t bounce back from each other making mistakes, you’re going to need to [ask yourself], ‘Is this the relationship for me?’” said Minter.

Sarah Fonder can be reached at [email protected]