Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

  • Chantal Acacio ’18
  • Embracing awkward topics

    After taking on issues well outside my comfort zone, I’m convinced that change is possible.

    It’s a Wednesday evening in February, and time for the weekly meeting of [email protected], an acronym for “peers leading education about sexuality and speaking up for relationship empowerment.” The Pleducators are a wonderful group of people committed to changing the culture at MIT to reduce sexual misconduct by encouraging healthy communication and relationships. We work with the VPR (Violence Prevention and Response) office to make their work obsolete, but really, Pleasure is a group that changes the lives of its own members the most. We are a tight community with diverse perspectives working toward the same goal. I’ve often heard my peers say that being in Pleasure improved their relationships, and I feel the same way.

    Our meeting focuses on the upcoming Pleasure Week, a wide-ranging event series on such topics as religion and relationships, erotica, and types of relationships. We try to accommodate people of all backgrounds and beliefs in our workshops. In fact, one thing I like most about Pleasure is our definition of sex positivity—it’s all about your personal choice, provided there is mutual respect, communication, and safety for all parties involved. We support peers in all sorts of relationships, not just sexual ones, offering regular workshops on universal topics like communication, identity, values, and culture. In our living groups, we are resources on anything from first-time sex to mending a relationship with a friend.

    The meeting goes well. We’ve been asked to lead a module on hacking culture for a campus student group. We brainstorm future events and discuss the previous week’s well-attended “Pleasure in the Dark” Q&A session that produced some great—and frank—discussions because we made it clear that whatever is discussed at a Pleasure event stays there.

    This story is part of the September/October 2018 Issue of the MIT News magazine
    See the rest of the issue
    Subscribe

    From there, I hurry to a rehearsal with my other feminist group, The F Word. Every year for the past 15 years, it has put on an MIT production of The Vagina Monologues. As the name suggests, the play is a collection of individual and group stories about experiences with womanhood and women’s bodies. Originally performed in 1996, The Vagina Monologues—or VagMo, as the cast calls it—remains the only play of its kind.

    Before rehearsal, each cast member answers an icebreaker question: why did you audition for VagMo? Several confess that they had never even said the word “vagina” in public, and now they plan to say it in front of hundreds of people! We talk about the stigma that surrounds topics such as gender and sexuality. All of us are there to break these barriers. And it’s not easy—try telling your friends and parents that you’re in a show titled The Vagina Monologues! Then again, it’s because it’s not easy that VagMo is so important. Most cast members auditioned after seeing the show themselves, an experience that left them feeling more empowered. We get to help more and more students feel comfortable speaking out about sex and sexuality, gender, and women’s issues.

    With every such event I participate in, I take one step further out of the comfort zone and into the learning zone. If you had asked me four years ago if I’d ever join projects with a focus on advancing feminism and reducing sexual violence, I’d have been shocked. I would have imagined feeling awkward and out of place talking about controversial topics, and besides, I went to MIT to study math. But this place is not just for science and technology. There are so many people here who care about empowering others, and as I reflect on my four years at the Institute, I feel incredibly privileged to have met them.

    Serving as a Pleducator and being part of the VagMo cast have made me believe that change is possible, and that I can be a part of it. And I know now that I can always go back to the learning zone. After all, if I could join two completely unexpected and totally awkward groups, what can’t I do?

    Want to go ad free? No ad blockers needed.

    Become an Insider
    Already an Insider? Log in.
    Next in MIT News
    Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
    • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

      {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

      Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

      See details+

      Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

      Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

      The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

      Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

      10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

      Ad-free website experience

    /3
    You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.