Whether you’re having it or not, everyone has strong opinions about sex. What it really is, who should be having it, good vs. bad, fears, fantasies, successes and shames. We have left high school, often the first environment where sex becomes a factor in interpersonal communication, and entered the big, new world of university. Suddenly surrounded by thousands of peers with dramatically differing backgrounds and lifestyles, you start to notice changes. For many of us, university is the first time we are granted full autonomy in decision-making, without the usual parental (or other authoritative figure) supervision. Are we prepared to start making these decisions, especially when it comes to sex?
It is tough to summarize sex’s influence in the lives of people within the McMaster community. Unlike University of Toronto or Queen’s, McMaster does not have a sexual health-specific resource and education centre. Our beloved SHEC combines physical, emotional, mental and psychological health issues along with a dedication to sexual health promotion. Unfortunately, SHEC’s association with sex ed has overshadowed many of its other focuses on nutrition, stress, fatigue, body image concerns and more. It is a major concern that many of SHEC’s services are underutilized based on some students’ perception of SHEC as the “sex ed place.” This begs the question: why are many of us so uncomfortable being associated with sex?
The stigmas and judgments surrounding sex are nothing new to us. It is still quite challenging to navigate conversations on sex with our peers in a candid and open manner, especially when our preferences, experiences and knowledge on sex are completely unique and often not discussed. This awkwardness is perpetuated by society’s narrow view that male + female + nothing freaky = the right kind of sex, anything that strays from that = wrong. Then you start realizing the people who are vocal about sex come from a wide spectrum of those who are very active, very opinionated, or even very immature. That leaves the rest to believe their views on sex don’t belong anywhere.
Most of us have been involved in sexual health education for years, ever since that memorable day when we brought home a parental permission form for next week’s reproductive health unit in elementary school. But now that most of us have finished our formal sex ed curriculum from high school health class, our sex questions are often answered via anecdotal evidence from peers or the “trustworthy” World Wide Web. We know we can’t simply organize an info session or discussion group to eliminate the stigmas on sex preventing some of us from accessing accurate sex ed sources. So what can we do to create an environment where peers can view discussions on sex ed as positive, inclusive, non-judgmental and fun? As university students, we represent much of society’s hopes of an open-minded future prepared for change. Personally, I felt the right thing to do was write about it.
Too many people that you know, that you walk by on the way to class, that you sit next to in lecture or on the HSR have struggled with questions and fears regarding sex. It is up to all of us to not only initiate these discussions, but to lead an accepting lifestyle where opening conversation about sex will be met with sensitivity and respect. We all know the stigmas exist, but it takes an effort from all of us to overcome them.
From STIs, birth control, questioning sexuality, virginity, pregnancy, navigating safe sex options, sexual abuse and manipulation, fertility issues, sex ed curriculum changes and more, we’ll be here to provide new information and perspectives on the wild, weird and wonderful world of sex ed. Start thinking.