Expanding Sex Education: Resources to Keep Learning
Some students come to UBC feeling comfortable discussing everything from consent to contraception. However, abstinence education and misrepresentations of sexuality in the media leave others uncertain or misinformed when they start college.
For Janice Suhardja, a second-year sociology student from Indonesia, conversations about sex at school and at home were “very conservative”.
“It was definitely things like, ‘Sex is a gift from God, only to be done in the context of a marriage between a man and a woman’ and all that,” Suhardja said. “We weren’t even talking about birth control.”
The internet can connect people to resources about sexuality, especially for queer, trans, and people with disabilities, but reliable information can be hard to find.
“I started teaching myself about queer sex ed online,” said sophomore arts student Ash Muller. He quoted the webcomic Oh joy, sex toy by sex educator and artist Erika Moen as a valuable resource for learning more about topics such as kinks, healthy communication, and gender-affirming sexual experiences.
“It’s frustrating – like where was all this stuff when I first learned about sex?” Muller said.
Although vast, the internet can also be a deceiving resource. When it comes to the more complicated aspects of sex – such as mature communication, issues, or healing from trauma – it can be helpful to interact with trusted experts and community members.
Learning about sexual well-being, health and pleasure is an ongoing process that feels different for everyone. Fortunately, there are a variety of resources readily available to people of all experience levels.
Resources in Vancouver
COVID-19 has suspended many in-person spaces for community learning and support. Still, bookstores, sex toy stores, and virtual support groups are great places to explore what you love.
Little Sister’s and The Art of Loving are small businesses that focus on diverse sex positivity education. Little Sister’s is a “bookstore and art store” offering a wide selection of gay-friendly books, as well as a wide selection of sex toys for all gender identities and orientations.
The Art of Loving sells a variety of toys and erotica. Its staff are trained in sex positivity and can offer informed recommendations to first-timers. Prior to COVID-19, the store held educational seminars on topics ranging from kissing to anal. Although workshops are suspended, the website includes product reviews and expert advice.
Nonprofit Qmunity hosts a variety of support groups, including spaces for queer, trans, autistic, asexual, and non-monogamous people to discuss their experiences, as well as an IBPOC-only group.
BC residents can also ask questions about sexual health and wellbeing anonymously through the Sex Sense Line: a “free, pro-choice, HIV-positive and confidential” service staffed by experts.
Vancouver also has an active kink community for those interested in learning about the safe exploration of non-normative sexual interests and lifestyles.
TheSpace2 is a teaching studio and community center for shibari or kinkabu, also known as the art of rope bondage. It is led by co-instructors Georg Barkas and Addie. Although TheSpace2’s physical location has been closed since March 2020, they continue to host tutorials and demos on their website and run a monthly Queer book club.
“You learn to apply the ropes, but also to interact with each other before, during [and] after a rope scene,” Barkas said. “Rope bondage in a much broader context than some people might expect. We practice rope bondage from a meditative point of view, also of course from a sexual point of view, and especially from a gender point of view [empowerment] perspective.”
To combat the exploitative dynamics that can emerge in BDSM communities, Barkas and Addie said they strive to center anti-racist, feminist, and anti-oppression values in their classes and in the culture they create. This includes asking for pronouns, creating a culture of consent, and not making assumptions about people’s backgrounds or preferred roles in rope bondage.
Resources at UBC
The AMS Sexual Assault Support Center (SASC) is a resource, education, counseling and support center for UBC students who have experienced (or are invested in learning about) gender-based and sexualized violence . UBC’s Sexual Violence Prevention and Response Office (SVPRO) also conducts trainings on media literacy, consent culture, survivor support and more.
Students can also find contraceptives and safer-sex supplies outside of the Life Building Wellness Center. There is also a store that sells lubricants, condoms, pregnancy tests and more at cost price.
It is also essential to eliminate the stigma surrounding STIs and to get tested regularly. UBC’s Student Health Service offers free and confidential testing, and there are other testing sites in the Vancouver area.
For those who have space in their schedule, courses focused on sexuality can inspire UBC students to question their assumptions about society and themselves.
“When I studied the sociology of the family last year, there were conversations about sexual orientation, same-sex families and same-sex couples,” Suhardja said. “It was very open and encouraging.” ❦
This article is part of Privacy, The UbyssianThe sex number of 2022. You can learn more here.