Seven UCF students and alumni took the stage with performances to promote female empowerment, sexual liberation and reproductive justice at Planned Parenthood Generation Action at UCF’s annual Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby event Friday night.
About 30 people attended the sex positivity party at Stardust Video & Coffee in Winter Park, Florida. PPGA at UCF raised over $100 through raffles on gift cards, merchandise and free services, said Casey Rodney, the club’s vice president.
Although the money earned from the event has traditionally gone toward an annual trip for the club’s officers to attend an activist training camp in Boston, this semester the club will instead designate part of the proceeds to renting meeting spaces and paying for guest speakers, donating the rest directly to PPGA, Rodney said.
“[Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby] is really to promote a community where it’s okay to be whoever you want to be — to be sex positive and break the taboo and let people know that we exist,” Rodney, junior psychology and biomedical sciences double major, said.
PPGA at UCF is the university’s chapter of Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s national network for young organizers and activists, which seeks to “educate the university community about reproductive health and rights,” according to its website.
Shannon Hagan, former club member, performed at last year’s Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby event and returned to sing and play the ukulele at this year’s event. Hagan, who graduated from UCF in 2018 with a degree in humanities and cultural studies, said she appreciated that the event opens up a dialogue about topics that can sometimes feel awkward.
“I think Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby is really good for destigmatizing talking about sex and having very frank conversations,” Hagan said. “I think the fact that they have condoms on the table and stickers and tattoos about consent — those are just really important things to normalize and destigmatize.”
Hagan said she is more involved with Central Florida’s independent Planned Parenthood locations now that she is no longer a student. She said she appreciates PPGA at UCF for raising awareness of the nonprofit organization’s resources.
“I think the club does a really good job of focusing on the services [Planned Parenthood] provides besides just abortion — like the fact that they offer either free or reduced contraception and examinations for women and men,” she said. “Reproductive rights spans far past abortion.”
Rodney said she plans to work as a physician assistant for Planned Parenthood after graduating and said her own involvement in PPGA at UCF has stemmed from growing up in a household where “bodily autonomy was taught from the beginning” and developing a passion for promoting easy access to quality health care.
She said because some students hold misconceptions about the purpose of PPGA at UCF, they will confront the club’s members while they are tabling on campus.
“The number one thing we always have to brace ourselves for is people coming up to us and asking us, ‘Aren’t you guys the abortion club? Do you just talk about abortion all the time?’” Rodney said. “Our biggest goal is to let people know that we are a reproductive justice club, a right to health care club, an environmental protection and right to a free and fair work space club. We are a club that wants to help and protect you.”
Planned Parenthood Federation of America has faced threats of completely losing funding from federal tax dollars under President Donald Trump, who has been an outspoken opponent against the organization’s abortion services.
Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has also spoken out against the organization’s practices and voted “yea” on 2013’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which aimed to ban abortion after 20 weeks, as a state representative.
Hagan said she believes the government’s involvement in limiting women’s access to health care has motivated today’s millennial and Generation Z generations to feel more of a push to fight for reproductive justice.
“I think the culture is shifting, and I think things are becoming more of a threat,” Hagan said. “It feels like we barely sort of scratched the surface with getting these rights that we fought so hard for, so the threat of them getting taken away is especially scary.”
Rodney said she and other pro-choice students are working to protect reproductive justice in all its forms through PPGA at UCF and similar on-campus organizations. She said events like Let’s Talk About Sex, Baby help create more awareness and understanding, while advocating for women’s issues like reproductive rights.
“We try to let people know that reproductive justice is everywhere,” she said. “It’s in your right to maternity leave, it’s in your right to clean air and clean water. We talk about all those issues.”