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English 212
2002 Second Paper
On Serendip

The Co-op Curriculum

Michelle McGrath

I have a unique group to work with in that they are already close and comfortable with each other and with discussing sex. As a result the curriculum will be largely discussion based, which will allow for deeper more rich understandings of the topics we explore. Despite the closeness of the group the first step will be to establish the meeting as a safe, non-judgmental space where confidentiality is guaranteed and things said in the room do not leave it. At the first meeting of the group one of the initial activities would be establishing guidelines for respecting ideas and comfort levels that hold for the duration of our group meetings.

As I see it the group is already very focused on the act of sex especially vaginas and orgasm. We could start by reading a description, if one could call it that, of the vagina by Natalie Angier in her Woman: An Intimate Geography. She uses numerous metaphors for the vagina and vulva, using biological language, ordinary almost practical language, not to mention flowery, romantic language as well. It glorifies the vagina in the way this group often does yet in very different kinds of language. I would like to see this as the jumping off point of a discussion about the way we as a group speak of ourselves and the responses that our language choice evokes in us. Looking at the foundation of our communication through a discussion of language, is a good way for a group to become self aware and come to an understanding of the impact of their speech on how others or themselves react to sex.

Most of the women in this group have sex with women either occasionally or exclusively, yet to the best of my knowledge they have not been properly educated about safer sex practices in lesbian sexual relationships. While many of them have heard of things they ought to do many only have half the story. I found a website that deals specifically with safer lesbian sex ( ) listing sexual acts in order of increasing risk for transfer of STDs. I might also seek out a speaker who can talk more explicitly about ways to approach safer sex with women in addition to ways of bringing the issue up while in "the heat of the moment." Keeping with the theme of discussion, each woman who was willing could discuss her experience or lack thereof with safer lesbian sex and how she has, or perhaps has not dealt with risk reducing practices with women.

At this point we will have explored the language that constitutes our thoughts on sexuality and also some practical issues with the act of sex itself. What has not been discussed are the emotion and passion that can surround sex. This is an aspect of sex that I think many in my group of women my miss for they are able to enjoy sex physically without much of the aforementioned emotional content. I picked up a book by bell hooks called All About Love which deal with a range of issues having to do with love, the emotional half of sex. While I have only skimmed the book I believe that it would be relevant and provoke interesting discussion. It will also introduce feminism into the discussion which will lead into the next lesson.

Most of the women in this group would also consider themselves feminists which I believe at least reflects one's sexuality. In an article called "Consciousness" (which I would have them read) Vivian Gornick writes:

I was on my way to a meeting one night not too long ago, a meeting meant to fashion a coalition group out of the movement's many organizations. I knew exactly what was ahead of me. I knew a woman from NOW would rise and speak abut our "image"; the Third Worlder would announce loudly she didn't give a good goddamn about anybody's orgasms, her women were starving, for chrissake; that a radicalesbian would insist that the woman's movement must face the problem of sexism from within right now; and 10 women f rom the Socialist party would walk out in protest against middle-class "elitist" control in the movement. Radical Feminism: A Documentary Reader, Ed. Barbara Crow, (p. 290)

I want the largely white, middle class, women of the co-op to try to look at their role in feminism critically and also recognize what they can contribute. I found this quotation particularly relevant because of the mention of orgasm as liberation vs. economic and human needs of women across the globe as the place to begin liberation. That is not to say that both cannot exist simultaneously but I would like us to see how they interact, and what are we as social activists missing. What can we contribute?

Finally I want to spend the last session on the notion of Third Wave Feminism that I am not sure that all or any of the women are aware of. There is an idea that young women in their teens and twenties are members of a Third Wave of Feminism that is in many ways opposed to that of the Second Wave Feminism of the 1970s. Two websites that I would have everyone explore are the Third Wave Foundation ( which gives grants and has a few specific campaigns, and a site that contains an interview with the well known authors of Manifesta, a book that articulates this notion of a Third Wave of feminism ( We would discuss if we think there is a distinct third wave and how it's view of sexuality is possibly different than that of second wavers. Are we part of that third wave sexuality? What advantages do we get from this sexuality? Are there disadvantages?

This curriculum takes a group of women who are already rather sexually knowledgeable and expands upon what they know in creative ways. It allows them to think about the language they use to describe sex and fills in gap in basic information that many of them are still missing. Furthermore I have pushed them to think about sex with respect to emotion and to feminism, places that they usually do not place sex as central. I think that my curriculum would create bonding, expand knowledge in new and interesting ways, and explore issues unique perspectives on already developed sexualities and worldviews.

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