The program that I am attending contains 15 people from a variety of countries. We came together to Amsterdam in order to learn something more about sexuality and gender, and how those topics pertain to a variety of subjects such as anthropology, biology, sociology, etc. Today was the first day of classes, one in the morning, and one after lunch. Each time we had to go around and introduce ourselves, as well as where we are from and what our experience in the sex and gender field is and what it is that we want to study.
Heres a short overview of some my classmates (it's actually quite interesting)
-Two women from China, Lucy and Lili both have cognative psychological study backgrounds, and came to the program because China's schools lack the social and cultural study aspect of sex and gender. It is more medical and clinical than about the human experience. Both speak very little English, and this is Lucy's first time out of China.
-Casey is from Texas. He is here for a full year, focusing his studies on masculinity and pansexuality
-Mai is from Indonesia. I have a very hard time understanding her accent, but from what I understand, she works with AIDS/HIV education and prevention in her home country.
-Farooq is from Pakistan. He is the oldest of the group, born in the 60s. He works as a doctor and is here to be able to learn more about sex and gender without his countries restrictions.
-Farah and Mohammad are from Egypt. They both want to encourage sex education in their country, which pretty much does not exist.
-Ana is from Guadaloupe, but has been living here for two years. She works with a Queer rights group that does demonstrations around the city.
-Yagar is from Croatia. Like many of the other students, he is here to learn more about sex and gender in order to pass it along to his home country, which lacks this information.
-Michelle is from Kansas, and has her own sex advice talk show and well as a sex blog www.michellemacbain.com. She wants to focus on family sex talk, ie, how to talk to your kids about sex and is hoping to learn from the local sex workers here about language and techniques about talking about sex.
I love that my fellow classmates come from such different backgrounds and intend to do such different things with the information that they gain from this program. Myself? I am hoping to learn more about the seedy underground of the city and about the non-normative sex clubs and workers. I have already found the only sex worker in Amsterdam who explicitly only does electrical stimulation, nothing more.
Amsterdam has been really good for me. It's refreshing to be in a city where my interests are not considered extreme. I also really like that in comparison to my fellow students, I am something of a sexpert when it comes unconventional sexual practices and non-normative lifestyles. I even explained to my professor today what electrical stimulation was, and showed her clips from www.wiredpussy.com for a visual example. I am also more familiar with sex work, since I myself identify as a sex worker. Many of the students look down on the local prostitutes mainly due to the fact that they don't understand the logistics of sex work, and how sex doesn't have to be something romantic and intimate. Some of them believe sex workers can't enjoy sex because they do it for a living.
The best explanation about prostitution I give is comparing them to morticians. Morticians are around death all the time, but if there is a death in their family, they get sad. There is a distance between work, and their own personal lives. Morticians see dead people at work as their job and feel no emotion towards them. Yet if their grandparent dies, then they will grieve and get sad, show emotion. The body is no longer work, it is personal. As morbid as that comparison may be, it actually worked for a lot of my co-students. Some still think of prostitution as gross, but that's their opinion.