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UCR Conference Focuses on World Attitudes Toward Sexuality

UCR Conference Focuses on World Attitudes Toward Sexuality

(February 4, 2002)

The AIDS epidemic, imprisoned homosexuals in Romania, and sex tourism in the Caribbean are among the topics of the “Sexualities and Knowledges Conference” sponsored by the University of California, Riverside Center for Ideas and Society, 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 22 to 11 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 24.

The conference will include the screening of Cheryl Dunye's award-winning film “The Watermelon Woman,” at 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22 followed by a conversation with the producer and director. The conference will also include a preview of a UCR version of Eve Ensler's Obie-Award winning play “The Vagina Monologues” at 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23.

The three-day conference will draw 30 academics, filmmakers and other experts from around the world to the University Extension Center for panel discussions centered on issues such as the emergence of gay, lesbian and transgender movements, the way nations define what is legally acceptable sexual behavior and the relationship between sexuality and spirituality.

All events are free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged, said Marguerite Waller, professor of English and Women’s Studies at UCR who is organizing the conference along with Alicia Arrizon, associate professor of Women’s Studies and Ethnic Studies.

“In a lot of places around the world there are very active groups who are concerned with the intersection of human rights and sexualities,” Waller said. “.'This conference was in the works long before Afghanistan, but 9/11 has made the intersection of sexuality and the state front page news.”

In fact, Waller said she is in contact with groups from Kirghistan and Pakistan who hope to travel to the conference. “Many people who are devout Muslims are concerned with defending the rich traditions of Islam and analyzing the criminalization of female and same-sex sexuality in political rather than religious terms.”

On Saturday night, Arrizon will direct UCR students in a free dress rehearsal of the Eve Ensler play “The Vagina Monologues.” The play will be performed in front of a paying audience at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 27 during the V-Day College Campaign to raise awareness of the problem of violence against women. UCR is among more than 42 colleges and universities in California performing the play near Valentine’s Day.

Waller said the conference will address relevant international issues, such as how difficult it is to educate each other about safe sex practices if our ideas of sexuality are completely different; or how homosexuality is still considered a crime in many countries, punishable with long prison terms.

“Our own way of conceptualizing sexuality defines our way of thinking,” Waller said. “We equate sex with the body, and the body with women, and we objectify and commodify both. We start studying sexuality as if it were an object. A conference like this shakes the very foundations of how we produce knowledge.”

A website at includes a complete schedule. Registration or more information is available at (909) 787-3987 x1555

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The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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