Professor's talk peppered with lessons for life, work

Professor and author Pepper Schwartz's Thursday night talk focused on dating and sexuality in society.

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WALLA WALLA -- Sex-ed class was in session Thursday night at Whitman College, but this lesson wasn't spoiled by immature snickering or rude jokes.

Instead students, faculty and community members gathered for a serious, but entertaining, lecture on dating and sexuality in society, presented by visiting University of Washington sociology professor and author Pepper Schwartz, who is also a creator and relationship expert for a dating website, PerfectMatch.com.

Schwartz -- who has written several books including, "Prime: Adventures and Advice on Sex, Love, and the Sensual Years," "Ten Talks Parents Must Have with Their Children about Sex and Character," "Love Between Equals: How Peer Marriage Really Works," and the 1971's groundbreaking "Women at Yale: Liberating a College Campus," -- created a personality profiler that connects users of online dating websites, like PerfectMatch.com, based on similarity and complimentary factors.

The sizeable audience of fascinated students that filled Maxey Auditorium sat and listened with rapt attention as Schwartz -- who is also the AARP's ambassador for sex, love and relationships -- recounted the story of her "unorthodox professional journey."

Shwartz's presentation focused on the use of sociology and how the pursuit of knowledge, in any academic discipline, can lead to a more fruitful professional life and can enrich a student's personal life, too.

During part of her presentation on society's view of gender, Schwartz explained how grateful she was that men and especially women today do not have to face the sexist attitudes that the baby boomers were forced to experience when they were growing up.

"I was told if you weren't married with a baby by the time you were 23 it was all downhill from there and if you weren't a virgin when you got married then your stock value went down."

Schwartz continued with an explanation of how she resisted the traditional gender roles that her family encouraged, and instead forged her own path as a college professor and author.

Like many pioneers, Schwartz's struggles began with a series of small steps, which included getting a female bathroom in a formerly all-male building at Yale. Schwartz repeatedly stressed the importance of finding the courage to take these small steps and being passionate about your goals.

"I was told by my parents to become a social worker or a teacher," she said, "So I could have something to fall back on in case my husband died, but I wanted to be fierce about my career."

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