Sexual Liberation at the Bailey Oratorical Competition

While I attended the Bailey Oratorical Competition as a videographer for the live stream instead of an audience member, I still very much enjoyed hearing each speech. I felt that, like years past, each speaker came from a very unique point of view. Some used their personal experience, such as Rachel Desfosses who discussed her experiences being mixed-race or Lara Sharpless who discussed the injustices against the disabled on Juniata’s campus. Some used their voice to bring awareness to others whose issues were not being heard, such as Madison Troha speaking on behalf of the prisoners at the state correction facility in town or Logan Peachey who spoke on the behalf of the elderly who may not be counted in this years census. Either way, each speaker opened up the audience’s minds to something they possibly may not have given thought to before Tuesday night.

Bailey Oratorical Live Stream

However, out of all the unique point of views, my favorite speech was given by Cat Lanigan, who discussed the issue that women face by “not being able to talk about our sexuality in a serious or humane way” and the way that women view sexual experiences being affected by this. By discussing the “internalized reluctance to talk about sex”, Cat brings up a very sensitive topic. While I cannot speak from a man’s point of view, as a woman I was slightly uncomfortable while listening to this speech, which is exactly what Cat is talking about. My — and most peoples’ — uncomforted feeling with talking about sex, listening to someone talk about sex, or being in the same room as my boss and professors while someone is giving a speech about sex, is just the human injustice that Cat is talking about. While all of the other speeches hit on extremely important topics in today’s age, Cat’s speech is the one that truly opened my eyes to something that I had never pondered before: What’s so wrong with talking about sex?

While the speech is started off on a humorous note by Cat saying she is here to talk about her expertise, which is sex, by the middle of the speech Cat reveals that she has been sexually assaulted in the past. She feels that being societally prohibited to talk about sex makes getting help after being sexually assaulted or raped much harder.

When discussing the ways that society stops us from talking about sex, Cat discusses the sex-ed curriculum in many school systems being abstinence-only education. This means that the only education on sex that kids receive is to just not have sex. Just as Cat does, I also believe that this system in outdated and that kids need to be properly educated on safe and healthy sexual practices. She also says that the discussion of healthy sex is prohibited in other realms such as Church.

In the age of the MeToo movement, it is obvious that the US and other countries around the world are not optimal for a healthy sexual climate for women. The reluctance to talk about sexual experiences is shown by movements such as the MeToo movement where if one woman reveals she has faced sexual assault, many other women discuss their experiences too. I feel that the fact that women do not feel comfortable talking about sexual assault makes it easier for perpetrators to get away with this crime. As a society, we should be empowering women to discuss their sexual experiences, whether it is an unhealthy experience such as rape, or a healthy, enjoyable experience.

While all the speeches at the Bailey Oratorical Competition were amazing and eye-opening, I was most able to connect with Cat’s speech. I am grateful to the Bailey this year for opening my eyes to injustices, and I am inspired to talk action. While sex is still an uncomfortable topic for many of us, I hope that writing this blog post was a good first step in the direction of justice for women.

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Anna Sule

Anna Sule

Film and Media Production student at Juniata College