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Volume 52 - Issue 17 February 13, 2019 theeyeopener.com @theeyeopener Since 1967

sex &



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Jacob “Literal garbage” Dubé
Carley “Do” Haakenson-Tetzlaff
Erin “A” Nancoo
Lillian “Total” Li Hua Gong
Emily “Gimme, Gimme, Gimme”
Julia “Maestro” Mastroianni
RSU president Ram
Raneem “Matches now” Alozzi
Sherina “WE’RE HUNGRY” Harris
Hana “Eclipse” Glaser
Matt “Of” Lang
Julia “The” Mlodzik
Rhea “Florals for spring?” Singh
Nabeeha “Moodboard” Baig
Lauren “Lo-fi or die” Kaminski
Ganesh impeached
Emma “Not cool for 680” Sandri Sam “Heart” Harley Jonathan “Still here” Braun By The News Team president of the RSU in a secret bal-
Libaan “I gotchu” Osman Kiara “Valentines day WHO?” lot election.
Photo Raine “Yessir” Hernandez Rudder The president of the Ryerson “Do I want to be president? No.
Alanna “Public speaker” Rizza Patrick “All about the Habs” Tallon Lyba “Build a snowman” Mansoor Students’ Union (RSU) Ram Do I think I can do what needs to
Celina “Yoshi” Gallardo Hayden “Vlad Jr” Godfrey Zach “Broken wrist” Roman Ganesh was impeached by the be done at the RSU over these next
Elana “Bisexual lighting” Emer Kiernan “Follow the budget” Green Andrea “Checks in on her friends” board of directors at a meeting two and a half months? Absolutely,”
Grace “With the camera” Desoe Josic on Feb. 11. deWever said in a short speech be-
Online Madi “See you in May” Wong Vice-president student life and fore members voted.
Skyler “Drinks tumeric” Ash Khaled “Birthday cake Oreos” The Eyeopener is Ryerson’s largest and events Edmund Sofo, vice-pres- “I think that a lot of important de-
Bryan “Eagle eye” Meler Badawi only independent student newspaper. It ident operations Savreen Gosal cisions need to be made.”
Taylor “Always on the” Ball is owned and operated by Rye Eye Pub- and vice-president equity Karo- RSU vice-president operations
Features Ruhama “Cocoro” Dechassa lishing Inc., a non-profit corporation lina Surowiec voted to impeach Savreen Gosal, who would have as-
Sarah “THE NNNNDOC QUEEN Kosalan “We fell from the sky, owned by the students of Ryerson. Our The president. Ganesh abstained sumed the position of interim presi-
HAS ASCENDED” Krichel mate” Kathiramalanathan offices are on the second floor of the from voting on the motion. dent, was suspended pending inves-
Alexa “chill” Patino Student Campus Centre. You can reach Following Ganesh’s impeach- tigation during the Feb. 11 meeting.
Arts and Life Connor ‘best bud ever’ Thomas us at 416-979-5262, at theeyeopener.com ment, student groups director This means Gosal will be stripped of
Tyler “#JanelleMonaeGotSnubbed” Nina ‘EXPORTING’ Brynn Jeffery or on Twitter at @theeyeopener. Maklane deWever was elected her signing authority.

Peter “I’m deaf” Ash
Christian “In my left eat” Ryan

Biz and Tech

Izabella “British Broadcasting
Corporation” Balcerzak

Lidia “Spotlight” Abraha

Nathaniel “Swollen” Crouch

Parnika “Please Try Again” Raj
Katie “It was just a banana” Swyers
Pernia “No Seans” Jamshed

Copy Editor and

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Olivia “Once” Bednar
Catherine “I” Abes
Cynthia “Thought” Farkas
Zahraa “I was” Hmood
Adrian “Falling” Bueno
Premila “In” D’Sa
Rosemary “Love” Akpan
Valerie “But now” Dittrich
Pia “I’m” Araneta
Kelly “Only” Skjerven
Sierra “Falling” Goulding
Isidora “Apart” Roskic
Sarah “There’s” Rowe
Jay “Nothing” Roomes
Matthew “I” Sauder
Sebastian “Can” Yue
4 love, sex & health

thanks to finding
editor-in-chief visual team
Jacob Dubé
managing editor
Elana Emer
Celina Gallardo
Alanna Rizza by
Sarah Krichel
writers Sarah Krichel
models Nathaniel Crouch
Sierra Goulding Olivia Bednar
Catherine Abes
Isidora Roskic Emma Sandri
Kosalan Kathiramalanathan Cynthia Farkas I just want to talk.
No, not the talk. I want to talk. About sex. Because if we don’t talk about it, we’re fucked. We
Zahraa Hmood kind of already are.
Sarah Rowe Tyler Griffin Everyone is impacted by sexual health issues—whether it affects you because you think you
Adrian Bueno have a sexually transmitted infection, or because you’re figuring out your sexual orientation, or
Jay Roomes because you’re a survivor of assault. We all have a story to contribute.
Andrea Josic There have been discussions, but all we do is use the same buzz phrases over and over. When
Matthew Sauder Premila D’Sa people say things like the “post-#MeToo-era” or Ryerson mentions “diversity, equity and in-
clusion,” do we really care about what the words mean anymore? We’ve been taught to “use the
Sebastian Yue Connor Thomas right words.” Well, we are. And it’s not working.
Rosemary Akpan If your Twitter timeline looks anything like mine, those kinds of phrases are thrown at you
Carley Haakenson-Tetzlaff Katie Swyers everyday. I love retweeting groundbreaking pieces about representation on Netflix as much as
the next online leftie, but these phrases only accomplish so much.
Erin Nancoo Lidia Abraha As soon as we learn what something like “consent” means, we feel like we don’t need to push
Valerie Dittrich any more boundaries about the things we don’t understand. But just because my experience
Lillian Li Hua Gong Pia Araneta
doesn’t fit into the box of an already-established idea, doesn’t mean it isn’t real.
At Ryerson, we have equity service centres—like the Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line
Hana Glaser Kelly Skjerven or the Centre for Women and Trans People—that provide people with a place to freely ask
questions, share their stories and learn things that they never did in school or from their par-
ents. But because of Premier Doug Ford’s student choice initiative, which lets students opt out
of certain fees, these centres might not be around for much longer.
your deepest darkest secrets I stutter when I tell my stories, but it’s not because I’m shy. It’s because I still feel the need to
justify my experience to people because I worry they won’t get it, or won’t realize the weight of
The Eyeopener’s annual survey collected your answers it. Social movements can make you feel like you have no reason to take up space if you don’t fit
on all things sexy and healthy. Here’s what you said: their template. But I don’t want to stutter or justify my stories anymore.
In the Love, Sex & Health issue, we hear stories that push the boundaries of what we know
What were you most curious What have you always wanted to about sexual health. People always talk about the visibility of asexual people, but not that they have
about in sex-ed in school? ask but are too afraid to? sexual health concerns, too. Or about lack of sex-ed, but not how that’s different for immigrant
and migrant families.
• How could the girl possibly be on
• How to take care of a hooha and It’s time to embrace a more nuanced and open conversation about our sexual health. You
• Whether an actual penis looked the what’s normal and what’s not? don’t need a label to find the right words.
way it did in my Fully Alive book • Do boners actually have a bone in
• Contraceptives besides condoms them?

What outfit would you wear What is your favourite movie line to shout
What is a misconception you had Where did you get most of your during sex? during sex?
as a kid? info on sex-ed? • Whatever Nancy Pelosi is wearing • Say hello to my little friend
• You need to lose your virginity in that day • They’re taking the hobbits to Isengard
high school • Snow suit • (Someone copy and pasted the entire monologue
14 said the internet • 19th century Victorian gown that Rosamund Pike recites in Gone Girl as she flees
• I literally didn’t know orgasms
existed the scene of her murder, which she staged, to fuck
• With a condom, pregnancy was like 10 said from peers with her husband. It was great, but it’s too long. It is
a 50/50 chance a nearly seven-minute speech and we encourage you
6 The Eyeopener to watch it)
said from class Which office is 85%
better for sex?
15% The Ryersonian How long
does it of people said 15 minutes.
What’s your biggest turn-off in What falsities did you learn take you to 8% Others said it varied by
the bedroom? from porn? finish?
• A Hello Kitty poster staring at me • You’ll cum three times in 20 seconds....
the entire time • Squirting isnt’t like the Trevi Fountain
• Carpeted floors • Scissoring? Responses have been edited for length and clarity. To the person who submitted the Gone Girl speech, we salute you.
love, sex & health 5

why can’t i cum!

men have reached their climax.
now, it's our turn to finish first

words by PIA ARANETA


have never orgasmed from penetrative sex. When I first became sexually active, sex typically
finished when my male counterpart ejaculated. I never vocalized that I, a woman, would have
liked to experience the same euphoric sensation of climax that he was feeling. “It’s the tits,”
my friend once told me after describing her first vaginal orgasm. With high anticipation, I faked
my orgasms so many times that I started to believe that that’s what orgasming actually felt like—a
build-up of arousal, a sprinkle of stimulation and the nothingness that followed.
I faked one orgasm to the next—little did I know my vagina had other tricks up its sleeve. It
took me awhile to discover the tiny magic button called the clitoris for two reasons—I never
watched porn and my sex-ed class was useless.
The progressive conservatives’ Ontario’s new sex-ed curriculum will leave students learn- Schroeder went to physical therapy for three months before she was able to use a tampon.
ing more about the prevention of pregnancy over the possibilities of pleasure. According to Therapy had her inserting one finger at a time and pushing on the uterine wall to stretch her
Toronto-based sex educator Carlyle Jansen, Hollywood and porn can make women feel like vagina. Now, if Schroeder doesn’t maintain her physical therapy or a regular sex life, her va-
an orgasm is only reached through penetration. “It’s all about ‘I have to have an orgasm during gina constricts and becomes tighter.
heterosexual sex, during penetration, at the same time as my partner and now, I also have to
squirt.’” With sex seeming like a big production, expectations can lead to a disappointing real- Jansen accepted her inability to orgasm until a partner broke up with her over it. He told her
ity. There can also be a lot of talk around the erection—how big is it? How long can he go for? that the performance pressure was too much for him. She moved on, but was motivated to find
Can he ejaculate on demand? Expectations around seduction, foreplay and finishing can also pleasure on her own. A friend of hers recommended using a vibrator. When Jansen was 28,
seem over the top and theatrical. “Talk about pressure and this whole performance side of sex. she had her first orgasm using a back massager.
Where is the pleasure in that?” At first, Jansen felt the shame associated with using a tool—like something must have been
wrong with her for needing it. But now Jansen embraces it. She founded Good for Her in 1997,
a shop in Toronto that sells sex toys and has various workshops, including “Learning how to
there probably wasn't a room of orgasm.” In the workshop, she teaches people about techniques that are right for their bodies.
“I see it like: You don’t know that you’re missing chocolate cake if you’ve never tasted choco-
men showing the same kind of late cake,” says Jansen. “And the reality for lots of us is that we need some vibration. Some
people need glasses to see, some people need a calculator to do math, some need a vibrator to
attention to silicone vaginas orgasm, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”
Growing up in a conservative household, Jansen’s family never discussed sex and conse-
quently, Jansen never understood pleasure. Suppressing one’s sexuality can also be another
factor that results from conservative or religious guilt.
In September, Kayla Zhu downloaded Tinder and had her first casual hook-up. She also had In her office on the second floor of Good for Her, Jansen showed me vibrators in her shop. I
her first orgasm with a partner. held a Hitachi Magic Wand. The 12-inch, industrial-looking vibrator had a powerful head that
Zhu finds it easy to orgasm if she masturbates or has oral sex, but most of the guys she’s slept seemed like it would get the job done almost too instantly. At one of the “Bigger, Better, Mul-
with are interested in penetrative sex. “I never feel like my needs are secondary to the guy I’m tiples” workshops, I sat in a silent room, except for the suckling sounds from our mouths on the
with,” the first-year Ryerson journalism student says, “but I never finish.” dildos we were given to practice on. Midway through trying the “dolphin” technique, I realized
Zhu’s reality is one shared with many in the bedroom. A 2017 survey, completed by a mar- there probably wasn’t a room of men showing the same kind of attention to silicone vaginas.
keting company for the condom brand Durex, found only 24 per cent of women in Canada
orgasm every time they have sex, in comparison to 61 per cent of men. Funnily enough, 83 per For Samantha Allen, a senior reporter at the Daily Beast based in Washington, learning how to
cent of women said that they were content with how often they orgasm. orgasm was a process that took two years after her sex reassignment surgery in 2014. “A lot of
Kat Kova, a sex therapist and psychotherapist in Toronto, says that the biggest thing we people picture it as some kind of crude back alley operation kind of thing,” Allen says. This is just
could do to close the gap is to teach the importance of the clitoris—where it’s located, how to another transphobic assumption—along with the misconception that trans women can’t orgasm.
stimulate it and what techniques could feel good. “A lot of people are what I call inclitorate— “A lot of people assume that the surgery is barbaric. How could it possibly leave you anything
they just don’t know about their bodies and we need to teach them.” but anorgasmic?”
But Kova says there are also psychological factors, including relationship difficulties, preg- Anorgasmia, also known as orgasmic dysfunction, was a word Allen took solace in during
nancy fears, contracting a sexually transmitted infection and anxiety—the latter of which often two frustrating years without orgasm; it was comforting to know that anorgasmia is some-
contributes to experiences of erectile dysfunction or premature ejactulation. “The mind plays thing many experience—not just trans women.
such a big role in orgasm,” says Kova. Allen’s first orgasm after surgery came when she least expected it. Using a vibrator one day
Physical pain during sex is also a reality for some. Toronto-based freelance writer Amanda with no expectations, Allen reached climax and the rest was history.
Schroeder has a condition called vaginismus. It causes involuntary spasms that tighten the “Take responsibility for your own orgasm,” says Kova. “Get involved, get your hand down
vaginal muscles, making penetration and pap smears feel anywhere from mildly uncomfortable there, get a toy, don’t be shy and if you are, address that with your partner.”
to excruciatingly painful. When Schroeder first tried using a tampon in her early adolescence,
she felt like inserting it was impossible—it was as if it kept hitting a wall. Because Schroeder Women are told that sex will hurt the first time, that they’ll bleed and that if they’re not careful,
was never taught about vaginismus, she thought the pain was normal. they will end up teen moms. I carried this thought with me as I went into my first hook-up the
After realizing that her pain wasn’t a shared experience for all women, Schroeder went to week of my 18th birthday. Having sex for the first time in a bathroom didn’t quite equate to
the doctor. “She said that I needed to relax,” said Schroeder. “She basically told me to go home, what all the songs and movies had prepped me up for. Thankfully, with some trials and many
drink a glass of wine, and feel it out for myself again.” Schroeder was just 14. Over many years, errors, orgasm slowly became more naturally to me.
Schroeder had to visit many doctors before getting one to put a name to her condition. Coming home from the “Giving Great Head” workshop, I rushed through the door to tell my
“There’s a gender bias in the medical community when it comes to sexual health,” says Schro- boyfriend all the new blowjob moves I picked up. He read a couple terms from my worksheet
eder. “They just aren’t taken seriously. Like when a man goes in and he has erectile dysfunction, like “corn on the cob” and “the harmonica,” and laughed. Feeling frisky, he took my clothes off
there’s a blue pill—there’s an immediate solution. But when a woman not only can’t have sex and got under the sheets. “Wait,” I halted, launching myself halfway off the bed to fumble and
but has pain, nobody has any idea what’s going on. It’s just unbelievable to me.” reach for the vibrator underneath. “Okay, now I’m good,” I said. I joined him under the blanket.
6 love, sex & health

immigrants and
“the talk”
when mom and dad can't help
you, you help yourself

innie Wangui was surprised when she saw the book on her table: geared to- students, it may not even feel relevant. Some of it can be awkward or jarring because it’s taught
ward kids, it detailed things like puberty, periods and reproductive health. The through an exclusively Western lens, according to Elizabeth Wong. Wong is the lead editor
fourth-year public health student thought it must have been her nine-year-old of Nuance, a Toronto-based media platform aiming to expand and diversify the conversation
sister’s school textbook. around sexual health by uplifting the voices of migrant and immigrant youth. Wong adds the
She was shocked to find her mother bought the book for her little sister. Wangui and her resources can also be exclusively white and heteronormative.
two older sisters had never received that kind of support. For this reason, it’s important to provide cultural sensitivity training to educators—to ensure
In most North American households, parents sit their children down for the infamous, capi- their messages don’t exclude marginalized identities. A grand coming-out affair might not be a
tal-T-“Talk,” where parents explain sex to their kids. But for Wangui, who was born and raised reality for all students—some have to express their identity in other ways.
in Thika, Kenya before immigrating to Canada eight years ago, the idea of the talk with her “Educators could do a better job of just acknowledging how views on sex and norms around
parents was foreign, and so was that book. sex are culturally produced,” says Eleni Han, the co-founder of Nuance. “There are more reali-
In Kenya, particularly in the Catholic community, topics like sex, sexual health and relation- ties out there.” Wong acknowledges that there can be tension between different cultures, but
ships are considered taboo, Wangui says. This is especially true for young people, who aren’t there can also be synergy. “There are ways to integrate what’s important to you with teachings
even taught about protected sex because they’re supposed to remain abstinent until marriage. that promote health and wellbeing.”
“In school, you can’t even say the word ‘sex.’ Even the word ‘boyfriend,’ you can’t say,” she says. Han notes that while there were a lot of stories about immigrants as opponents of the 2015
“My mom, she’s been here 10 years, she says ‘friend friend’. Like ‘Do you have a friend friend?’” updated curriculum, a survey of immigrant and newcomer communities conducted by Nuance
Growing up, Wangui had to navigate things like relationships, communication with part- found people from those communities supporting the updated lesson plans.
ners and safe sex practices by asking her older sisters and friends, while learning through trial
and error. Now, Wangui’s mom is opening up the conversation at home, though reluctantly—
Wangui says her mom didn’t have much choice since her younger sister would learn about sex "she still hasn't told her
and sexual health at school anyways.
“That book, that’s a step,” Wangui says. “When I came here, my mom would never do that.”
Wangui’s situation is the case for many Ryerson students: in the 2017-18 school year, Ry-
mom about the kiss"
erson’s University Planning Office recorded over 1,500 undergrad students who came from
outside of Canada to study.
Navigating relationships, identity and growing up can be an awkward, especially with a On an hour-long car ride from Scarborough to Brampton, fourth-year sociology student Han-
limited sex education. This is usually where parents or other caregivers come in: to fill in the nah Purugganan thought it was finally the right moment to tell her mother about her first kiss.
blanks and answer the questions kids are too scared to raise their hands for. But for newcom- She’d been keeping it a secret for about a year—in her Catholic-Filipino immigrant household,
ers, first-generation and second-generation students, this might not be an option. In the ab- dating was forbidden and sex was saved for marriage. If the topic came up, her grandma would
sence of open, healthy discussions at home or at school, immigrant students can get left behind sweetly remind her that “God is watching.” When her family watched movies, the kids were
and miss out on knowledge that is crucial to their health and wellbeing. told to close their eyes during the intimate scenes.
Before Purugganan had a chance to tell her story, her mom switched gears: the conversation
became a lecture on why she—18 at the time—was too young to date. She remembered why she
kept her romantic life to herself in the first place.
"you can't even say To this day, she still hasn’t told her mom about the kiss.
For third-year sociology student Kashika Bahal, talking to her parents, who immigrated from
the word 'sex'" India, was off the table. Her mother offered her support as well as books on puberty, because she
wasn’t equipped with the resources to talk about sexual health­—she was never taught about it either.
“It’s kind of like a generational thing,” Bahal says.
On top of having to navigate the awkward journey of puberty, she lived in fear of being
the last kid to know. Even submitting questions to the anonymous question box in her Grade
Daniel Lis never talked to his parents about sex, never wanted to talk to his parents about sex 9 health class felt too risky. She was too scared that people would figure out who was asking
and to this day, doesn’t ever want to talk to his parents about sex. presumably obvious questions. So, she continued to figure things out on her own.
The fifth-year politics student and second-generation Canadian says his Czech parents
would avoid the topic at all costs—even “accidentally” flipping the channel if intimate scenes Wangui always wanted to work in health. When she lived in Kenya, she was set on becoming a
came up on TV—so the conversation never happened. “If your parents are still embarrassed to doctor or nurse, to help combat the HIV epidemic. Now, her endgame is to work as a health pro-
talk about it, you won’t feel comfortable talking to them about it either.” moter in Kenya, because it will allow her to create a one-on-one relationship with the community
Lis thinks his parents were hoping that his Catholic school would educate him on what they she seeks to serve. She’s also specializing in sexual health to teach the things she was never taught.
didn’t want to talk about. But the old sex-ed curriculum that Lis was taught over a decade ago Wangui is taking an extra year of study to ensure she has the best opportunities to solidify
didn’t help him either. Lis was taught the biological side of sex but never about what sex actually is. her knowledge. Right now, she volunteers at a sexual health clinic in Brampton, Ont., as well
“They talked about it in a way that you’re supposed to know what it is already,” he says. The as the Black Coalition for Aids Prevention in Toronto. After she graduates, she’s hoping to
only time sex was mentioned was around abstinence, and he had no idea about healthy prac- pursue a master’s degree in health promotion, before heading to Kenya.
tices or social dynamics in the bedroom. “I know that it will be difficult going back home…to go and change the whole perspective,”
It wasn’t until high school that Lis got a better understanding of what sex looked like by she says. Nonetheless, she believes that institutions like schools and churches need to provide
watching porn. Although he says it felt vulgar and wrong at the time, it was more informative health promotion spaces for youth to ask questions without judgement.
than anything the school or his parents taught him. “Young people are sexually active, so why aren’t you addressing that issue? These are things
The problem with Ontario’s current sex-ed curriculum is not just that it’s narrow. For some that they need to know.”
love, sex & health 7

colourless care
you know better than your doctor
words by PREMILA D’SA

ever she was doing. When she sensed even an ounce of stress, she would peek over the
cover and check on me.
I brought up my results and the incident that prompted the test. She listened to me,
her face slowly contorting into a frown. “Sometimes we operate differently and not
all doctors know that,” she told me before apologizing for the experience.

Nichole Abamonga wishes more people talked about the stigmas people of colour face
while navigating sexual health. Abamonga is a third-year nursing student who works
Content warning: This story incudes graphic descriptions of medical treatment. at the AIDS Community of Durham Region. She’s been working while going to school, hoping to

effect change, but even as a woman of colour, she knew going into her placement that her classes
he paper lining they put on hospital beds rubs me the wrong way. I always lie down a hadn’t trained her to deal with the specific needs of other racialized women. She especially real-
little too fast so I end up scrunching it up underneath me, and the little crinkles that ized this when she helped a Black patient brush back her hair during a consultation, and brought
form feel like blunt, tiny knives pushing into my back. the wrong brush. “She looked at it and told me that it wouldn’t work for her hair.”
But this is what I’ve chosen to focus on—because what’s actually happening is way, way Besides a first-year course that covers “cultural competency,” Abamonga never heard the topic
more uncomfortable. Below the powder-blue sheet draped over my naked legs, there’s a discussed again.
doctor shoving a cold, metal speculum into my vagina. If you haven’t seen a speculum, it’s a In Colour Coded Health Care: The Impact of Race and Racism on Canadians’ Health, one of the few
few design modifications away from being a pair of barbecue tongs. If you’re unlucky (like studies focusing on race in the Canadian healthcare system, researchers found that physicians
me) and clamp up during clinical tests, you can feel the sharp edges scrape past the walls of didn’t believe they had a race issue. The study also showed that doctors believed that prejudices
your vaginal canal. exist, but denied it played a role in their own work. They see their work as “culture-free.”
But I’m trying not to think about it. Swati Naidu is an HIV/AIDS community development coordinator at the AIDS committee
The doctor, who I had only met a couple minutes ago, inserts her lubricated fingers into where Abamonga works. She says while doctors say they don’t see colour, no care is being taken
me and starts probing around. I’m trying to focus on the lining (there have been so many to meet people of colour’s specific needs.
incredible advancements in the medical field. I mean, we did surgery on a goddamn grape, Naidu’s trying to fill a major gap in the system—Canada doesn’t collect thorough statistics on all
why can’t we make softer bed paper?) but I can’t help but lean forward to take a peek at marginalized groups in healthcare. Naidu can’t fight for better policy when she can’t prove there’s
what’s going on down there. a problem. “They probably see me as the angry brown woman coming into spaces,” said Naidu.
The paper, the speculum, the grape—none of it mattered anymore. All my anxiety shifted “And I honestly don’t care because if you aren’t angry, are you really doing anything?”
toward my white doctor’s expression. Pure disgust. The type of disgust where wrinkles form But there is a problem—according to Colour Coded, Black and immigrant communities face high
between your eyebrows and your mouth sits open without you realizing it. rates of HIV infections. In 2006, the Wellesley Institute found that Black people of Caribbean and
“You have an infection,” she said. African descent in Canada faced an infection rate 12.6 times higher than the general population.
I was too startled to talk, but I didn’t have to because she kept on going. She pulled out her The study also found that immigrant women from “HIV-endemic” countries, which are mainly in
slicked fingers and wiggled them over the sheet. Africa and South Asia, accounted for 50.8 per cent of new HIV diagnoses.
“See? It’s just, like, gushing out.”
The next few moments were a blur as she talked about tests and appointments. The words It was the “we” that really stuck with me as I headed out of the second appointment and jumped
“infection,” “gush” and the unspoken “ew” played in a continuous cycle in my head as I me- back on the streetcar, not crying this time.
chanically put on my pants, signed out of the clinic and bought a bar of dark chocolate from “Sometimes we operate differently,” my doctor said.
the Shopper’s across the street. While working at a Markham, Ont. hospital, Naidu saw a diverse team of medical profession-
It was only by the time that I got on the streetcar, holding my 70-per-cent cacao and hold- als treating a diverse patient group. These physicians, she said, could work over language barri-
ing back my tears that I had processed what happened. That whole experience. It sucked. ers. “A lot of the conversations were ‘how are you doing? I know this is difficult for you because
my parents were immigrants,’” she said. And when my doctor said “we,” she helped get rid of
Let me cut to the chase—I didn’t have an infection. an underlying shame that my body isn’t right—that it was always too hairy, or dark, or smelly.
But the doctor’s reaction seemed like it could have come from a boy that found me gross. To know that this doctor understood my body, not just because she was trained to, but be-
I had nothing to compare my doctor’s reaction to because not even the worst of my sexual cause she had lived through it, was special.
experiences had involved someone being so disrespectful. The system was built around white women. The system is hurting women of colour, but
Going in for my follow-up appointment, I decided to share my experience with a counsel- Naidu hopes future students will be the solution.
lor before getting paired up with a doctor. I didn’t specifically ask for one, but they scheduled Abamonga feels good about her work at the AIDS committee, even on the harder days.
me with a doctor of Indian descent. These things will take time. But for now, we owe it to ourselves to push through, past the
Things were already smoother. I felt my body relax. The doctor talked me through what- stigmas and the uncomfortable experiences, to take care of ourselves, to survive.

It’s the most commonly reported STI caused This can take the form of a sore or rash from

let’s get rid of the STIgma

by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis. It can the bacteria treponema pallidum, affecting the
cause discharge, pain while peeing, lower ab- genital area, throat, mouth, lips or anus. In addi-
domen pain or bleeding during or after sex. tion to sex, users can also contract this through
Maybe you’ve noticed it hurts to pee or The infection is carried in semen and vaginal an open cut. People who share needles are at risk
that you have unusual discharge. You fluids and can affect the penis, vagina, cervix, of contraction. Syphilis is curable and though it
think you’re fine. But are you sure? anus, urethra, eyes and throat. Oftentimes would show up in future blood work, you are
people think they’ll know if they have it. You no longer at risk of passing it on to partners. Go
STIs might be embarrassing, but can’t know. Go get tested. get tested.
they shouldn’t be. The key to destig-
matizing is informing yourself on GONORRHEA GENITAL HERPES
the most commonly reported STIs. Caused by the bacteria neisseria gonor- These cold sores are caused by the HSV-1 virus.
rhoeae, this can affect the anus, genitals If people have unprotected oral sex they can also
words by KELLY SKJERVEN and throat, and is treatable with antibiotics. contract genital herpes from cold sores known as
illustration by CELINA GALLARDO Again, you won’t always know if you have it. HSV-2. You can get herpes even if your partner
Go get tested. doesn’t have a visible outbreak. Go get tested.
8 love, sex & health

henever eight-year-old Gabrielle Clarke
watched Rihanna or Christina Aguilera music

professor porn
videos on YouTube, she would get an intense
feeling of desire she couldn’t explain. She eventually came
across the word ‘sex’ and Googled it in an attempt to satisfy her
curiosity. Thousands of images and videos popped up, showing na-
ked men and women and body parts she had never seen before. Real-
izing she could describe exactly what sexual acts she wanted to see and
have them displayed on her computer screen with the click of a mouse, it
wasn’t long before she was surfing sites like Pornhub and XHamster every sex-ed sucks. so we turn to porn.
night before bed. It was then that something in Clarke’s head clicked. As a
devout church girl, she knew it was wrong to watch porn online. She felt dirty,
ashamed, guilty—and yet she wanted to see more.
here's how it shaped who we are
Watching porn was not only enjoyable, Clarke found it filled the gaps in her knowl-
edge of sex—her immigrant mother never gave her “The Talk.” From that point on, porn sites perpetuated in the pro- words by TYLER GRIFFIN
became Clarke’s main source for sex education. From penetrative sex to blowjobs to rimjobs—if files of gay men on Grindr,
it involved pleasure, porn taught it to her. When Clarke eventually had sex for the first time, she where it’s commonplace for us- photo by CELINA GALLARDO
was beyond prepared. “Porn taught me how to be more confident.” ers to boast their racial preferences
But as much as she learned, an education through porn didn’t come without lasting effects (“Whites only,” “Sorry, not into Blacks” and “No Blacks, fats, femmes or Asians!!!” are a choice
on her sex life. Now a second-year student in the RTA School of Media, Clarke has noticed she few). Liam points out it’s common to be offered money for sex on Grindr, because anyone can
subconsciously chases after white men—a manifestation of what she’s always seen in porn. As message anyone regardless of if they’ve matched. “I got offended by someone’s offer one time,”
a Black woman, she tries to avoid categories like BBC because she can’t stand to see Black men Liam says. “I was like, that is so low!”
in such an objectifying light. Yet, whether she’s watching amateur, Ebony, Asian or whatever’s In his classes, he was taught that the biggest risk with having sex was getting a girl pregnant.
on the homepage of Pornhub, it’s “always a white guy,” Clarke says. “It’s a default.” Since he wasn’t going to get any of his male partners pregnant anytime soon, he ended up hav-
For curious youth, easy-to-access online pornography can become the go-to educator ing a lot of unprotected sex—not realizing he could contract a sexually transmitted infection
when they don’t have comprehensive sex education in their classrooms, making porn the de (STI). The Canadian AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE) says gay, bisexual and
facto sex curriculum for many. But the porn industry is filled with racist and misogynistic other men who have sex with men are 131 times more likely to get HIV than men who do not
narratives and practices. It’s also developing the sexual psyches of Canadian youth. Accord- have sex with men, and according to a report from the Public Health Agency of Canada, one in
ing to André Grace, Canada research chair of sexual and gender minority studies, teenagers four queer men in Toronto have HIV/AIDS. “Porn armed me with the idea that barebacking
who use porn as a method of instruction are often perplexed about “what constitutes healthy was fine, and so did my sex-ed curriculum—because they didn’t bother.”
sexual relationships and consent,” when translating online sex to their real life romantic and Liam also had sex with older men while he was still in high school, including a brief hookup
sexual relationships. with a 27-year-old when he was only 16—something he still grapples with. “I look at it and see
Grace says porn can be validating for those whose sexual and gender identities historically that type of relationship represented in all the porn I watch,” he says. “I have a hard time ratio-
deviate from cultural norms. There should be comprehensive sex-ed that includes content on nalizing that as wrong because that’s in so much of the sexualized content I can see.”
sexual and gender minorities, he says. These students often turn to porn and develop their
understanding of sex through online depictions of gender, sexuality, aggression, consent, race, Watching porn for so long made Clarke an expert in the field of pleasuring men. She knew
queer sex, relationships and body images in porn. how to scream and moan to make her partner feel good, but was at a loss when it came to her
own pleasure and sexual gratification. “I’m afraid to tell guys to do this or to do that because I
don’t want to make the guy uncomfortable,” Clarke says. “I literally did not understand what an
"in porn, you never see any orgasm was from a female perspective...like it happened off-camera or something.”
One day, Clarke brought home who she thought was the hottest man she’d ever seen. When
mess, but you're fucking they got to the bedroom, he became increasingly assertive, putting his hands around her neck,
growling and pushing her around. She had never had rough sex, nor was she ever really into
someone's ass, you know" watching it online. He was about the same height as Clarke, and she reckons she could have
bodied him if she needed to. But as it goes in porn, where women are so often a vessel for the
male’s satisfaction, she believed she was expected to pleasure her partner. So she kept quiet
and went to sleep with a sour taste in her mouth, despite her extreme attraction to him. “I was
Taught by middle school teachers who would dispel myths about porn, Liam considers himself so scared because I was so focused on pleasuring him,” she says. “I didn’t want to upset him.”
one of the lucky ones. The third-year RTA student began watching porn in Grade 6, after he he Now aware of the harmful values and practices porn has instilled in her and her sexual partners,
already started sex-ed two years earlier in Grade 4. He learned about contraceptives, male and Clarke is working to save money so she can afford to buy more ethical porn that doesn’t portray
female anatomy and everything else a curriculum for straight people could offer. His sex knowl- rape, racism or strict gender roles. Sites like Make Love Not Porn aim to showcase the differences
edge even diffused a pregnancy scare with a female partner when she got back some strange between real sex and sex in porn through user-submitted amateur videos, while sites like Pink and
blood test results. Liam knew she wasn’t pregnant, as he had worn a condom every time and nei- White Productions are dedicated to producing porn that reflects “the complexities of queer sexual
ther of them had finished during sex. If he’d been poorly instructed through sex-ed, Liam says he desire.” The Feminist Porn Awards, an alternative to the Adult Video News (AVM) Awards, have
probably would have had a nervous breakdown. “I was actually very calm while she was freaking been celebrating porn films that prioritize equity and real pleasure since 2006. They also have an
out,” Liam says. “I was just laughing like, ‘there’s no way I’m the unluckiest man in the world.’” educational section with how-to videos on things like bondage and pegging.
But Liam’s sex-ed didn’t prepare him when he started to sleep with men in Grade 11. So he “Ethical porn doesn’t just present boring, rose-petals sex,” says Clarke. “It does talk about
turned to gay porn to provide him with instructions on how to have anal sex. In classes, his teach- situations that involve consent or a person’s fantasy.’”
ers wouldn’t talk about lube, tearing or the dangers of barebacking (anal sex without a condom). There’s also Erika Lust, a Swedish feminist porn producer, who runs a series called XCon-
“Prepping for anal sex sucks so much,” he says. “In porn, you never see any mess, but you’re fuck- fessions. Lust takes user-submitted fantasies and turns them into artistic and erotic short
ing someone’s ass, you know.” films. Her project aims to change the way we watch and consume porn, centring women’s
With gay porn and Yahoo Answers as his guide, Liam got a warped perception of his sexual and non-binary people’s pleasure. Her series is for those looking for ethical porn that in-
identity. As a young, queer, feminine man, he immediately categorized cludes diverse bodies and realistic sex, reflecting their own
himself as a bottom, playing into the feminine-equals-bottom, masc- sexual experiences. Users can submit their own sexual fan-
equals-top dynamics he saw in gay porn. He branded himself as a tasy on her website for a chance to see them played out in
bottom looking for a masculine, dominant top. Every video he her next video. “It’s raw, it’s the closest to looking like
watched portrayed ripped, white-bred men as the gospel body real sex,” Clarke says.
type for queer men. This took a toll on his self-esteem, espe-
cially as someone who was bullied for being a chubby adoles- Now, Clarke asks her potential partners what
cent. “I was like, I want that. I want that so bad,” Liam says. their favourite porn genre is to get an idea of
“I feel like I had better sex education than the majority of what to expect in bed. As a Black woman, she
the people I know and I was still fucked the moment I wants to know if guys are interested in her for
came out.” what she has to offer personality-wise, or if
Researchers at the University of Toronto said in a their only interest is fulfilling their own
2018 report that white, fit, muscular and masculine sexual fantasies. One guy she met on Tin-
bodies are favoured in Toronto’s gay community— der said, straight up, “I like Ebony.”
a reflection of dominant body imagery in the me- When he showed her his whole
dia. Many men resort to steroids, eating disor- dating history consisted entirely of
ders and unsafe sex to reach these unrealistic Black women, she quickly realized she
body ideals. wouldn’t be sticking around to satisfy
Queer stereotypes in porn are often seen his exotic dreams.
love, sex & health 9

adeline Sialtsis was in Grade The first documented description
12 when she had her first ap- of asexuality emerged in the 1940s

asexual health
pointment with a psychiatrist. through Dr. Alfred Kinsey’s sexual-
As she sat across from him during her first ity scale, which referred to people
session, she told him about her asexuality. who have “no socio-sexual contacts
She hoped that he would be respectful and or reactions,” as an “x.” Asexuality
accepting. Instead, he told her she would wasn’t explicitly mentioned until
get over it and would eventually enjoy sex. the late ‘90s with the rise of the in-
“You’ll get there someday,” he said.
When Sialtsis came to Ryerson, she
even if we don't ternet. It was discussed in chat fo-
rums and blogs such as the popular
immediately found student groups for
LGBTQ2A+ engineers and built a strong
have sex, we still words by ALANNA RIZZA 1997 post, “My life as an amoeba”
by Zoe O’Reilly. In 2001, David
community of people who understand
her. The now fifth-year aerospace en- have health photo by ELANA EMER Jay posted the definition of asexual
online, which led to AVEN. Tony
gineering student still sees the same
psychiatrist, but she’s never brought up concerns Bogaert, author of “Understanding
Asexuality” and a Brock University
her asexuality again during her appoint- psychology professor, then pub-
ments. While she gets the care she needs, she can’t help but think back to her first session, lished his research on asexuality in 2004, leading to a significant increase in ace visibility.
feeling invalidated by him, as if her identity isn’t real. Asexuality was then seeping into storylines of popular television shows. Fans have speculated
Asexuality means experiencing little-to-no sexual attraction towards others. While asexu- that some of their favourite fictional characters are asexual, like Sheldon from The Big Bang Theory,
als can still be attracted to people, it can take other forms, such as romantic attraction. Their but few characters in pop culture are explicitly asexual, like Todd Chavez from Bojack Horseman.
relationships can still be loving and intimate—it just may not include sex. There are still a lot It’s also being increasingly talked about in Canada. Ryerson held its first asexual awareness
of misconceptions that not only affect the mental health of asexual people, but their physical week in 2014. Last year, Simon Fraser University in British Columbia became the first institution
health. “It’s not the problem with being ace—it’s a problem with how the world views you,” in the world to offer a full-length course in asexuality studies, according to AVEN.
says Michael Doré, an organizer with the Asexual Visibility and Education Network (AVEN).
Asexuals, also known as “ace” people, often feel isolated in a hyper-sexualized society where “What does it mean if I don’t like sex?” Sebastian Yue typed into a Google search around the
not being interested in sex is considered abnormal. Some asexual people do have sex, but even if age of 17. I’ve had sex and I’ve tried all these different sex acts, so why don’t I like any of it? Will my
they don’t, they are in need of sexual health care like anyone else. partner take it personally if I tell them how I’m feeling?
Morag Yule, a Toronto-based sex therapist, says ace people tend to experience more mental Yue, who is East Asian, soon realized that being a person of colour further complicates their
health issues because they are a sexual minority. In a 2013 study, Yule and a team of research- asexual identity. They also identify as trans and genderqueer and says they are seen as submis-
ers found that asexual participants were significantly more likely to report “mood or anxiety sive and feminine, which makes it harder for them to navigate a hyper-sexualized society.
disorders” than straight and “non-heterosexual” participants. Brian Langevin, executive director of Ace Toronto, says asexuals who are racialized or who have
Ace people are often perceived as lonely or that their lives would be more fulfilled if they had a disability often struggle with their ace identity because of stereotypes associated with their appear-
sex. It’s common for healthcare providers to assume that if their patient is ace, they don’t need ance. It is assumed that people with disabilities don’t have sex, so identifying as ace can be difficult
the same sexual health care as someone who is non-ace. These providers sometimes see them as to explain and validate. Black women are often hypersexualized, so being asexual is often met with
a patient who needs treatment, reaffirming that it’s unnatural to have no sexual attraction. confusion or disbelief. Langevin says this further isolates ace people and makes them feel as if there’s
something wrong with them.
Sam Rita* finds herself disgusted with anything sexual since she had her first kiss at a Grade When Yue had sex during high school, they couldn’t help but feel different from their class-
9 party. Since then, she’s struggled to explain her repulsion toward sex, to guys she has met mates. Growing up in a small school where everyone knows each other’s business, Yue didn’t tell
on campus or to potential Tinder dates. As a woman, she feels pressured to make her partners anyone how they were feeling. So they continued hooking up because they thought they would
happy sexually, so she’ll end up feeling guilty about her asexuality. She even encouraged one of eventually start liking it. Yue worried they were going to be single forever, and daydreamed
her partners to have an open relationship so he could hook up with other people, but he wasn’t about how their life would be different if they weren’t asexual.
into it, and they eventually broke up. “He didn’t have the education to realize that my sexuality For about four years, Yue found community on Tumblr blogs, where users would share
is separate from him as a person,” she says. their experiences being ace or questioning. After coming to Canada in 2012 from the U.K.,
While asexual visibility is increasing, so are conversations of consent in ace and non-ace Yue attended a World Pride event at Ryerson in 2014. They were hoping to learn more about
relationships. While some ace people are repulsed by sex, others the intersection of asexuality and race, but couldn’t find anything.
are indifferent towards it and partake because they know their When they reached out to the organizers, Yue was asked to
lover wants it. Navigating consent for aces can get tricky, speak on the topic.
but having the conversation is necessary to ensure the Speaking at the event, they finally found an ace commu-
health and safety of both partners. nity in person. Being able to see the faces of people with the
Sialtsis has had times when she didn’t personally same identity made Yue feel accepted.
care to have sex, but did anyways because she knew it Now in a loving, intimate relationship of about two
made her partner happy. While some advocates might years, Yue and their partner show affection by spend-
express concern about consent, Sialtsis says it’s com- ing time together and giving each other gifts. Yue is not
pletely consensual. They are indifferent to sex, but can lonely and they are not alone.
consent to it. *Name has been changed to respect anonymity.

let’s get intimate

Sidorenko adds that communication is crucial to under-
stand boundaries in relationships with asexual folks. “There
are asexual people who do enjoy sex or have sex to please their
words by EMMA SANDRI partner,” said Sidorenko. “Someone [shouldn’t] immediately think
after someone says they’re asexual that [sex] is off the table.”
There are many reasons why someone doesn’t have sex. Whether they’re According to CJ, everyone can benefit from questioning the soci-
asexual, a sexual assault survivor or for religious reasons, sex isn’t always etal expectations and norms of relationships and sex. “[Asking] what is
needed to be intimate with a partner. The concept of pleasure in relationships it that you want, or I want in any relationship.”
can look different within each one. Some survivors may choose to have sex soon after their assault, while others may
According to a 2015 study, “compulsory sexuality” is the concept that social attitudes benefit from their own ways of being intimate.
can enforce the idea that all people should or want to have sex. But sexual and romantic Farrah Khan, manager of Ryerson’s Office of Sexual Violence Support and Education, said
feelings aren’t always tied to one another. Those within the asexual community can have roman- that part of the healing process is being comfortable with pleasure. “A survivor may say, ‘I don’t
tic feelings and relationships, while those within the aromantic community can have sexual feelings want to have penetrative sex with you, but hey, I want to cuddle with you. I really want to get a
without romantic ones. massage from you, or I want to sit close to you and watch this movie,’” she said.
CJ, a member of Ace Toronto, points out that sex is still taught as the inevitable act of two According to a 2014 self-reported data from Statistics Canada, 37 out of every 1,000 women have
people in a committed relationship. “Somehow, that sex is owed,” CJ said. been sexually assaulted.
Natalie Sidorenko, a second-year aerospace engineering student who identifies as asexual, says “Our sex can be very different [including] our ways in which we engage or don’t engage,” said
there are ways asexuals can have romantic relationships that do not involve sex, pointing to ex- deb singh, a counsellor and activist at the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women
amples like holding hands and cuddling. “I think just being there for that person—that they know Against Rape. “As survivors we want care, consent and we want something that actually gives
that you can confide in them and that they can confide in you.” us the thing that we want, whatever that is, whether it’s sensuality, pleasure, acceptance, love.”
10 love, sex & health

healing unseen scars words by

navigating trauma is hard when ANDREA JOSIC
you don't know it's there photo by
Content warning: This story includes themes of sexual violence and triggers of trauma.

hen Vanessa Chen* was sexually assaulted in her university dorm room
during frosh in 2015, she was living in a city without a support system
and had to deal with the trauma all on her own. After experiencing flash-
backs and having trouble sleeping, a school nurse prescribed her anxiety medication.
But then, Chen had two overdoses. The first was in November, two months after her sexual
assault. She had taken nine times more than her recommended half-dose and drank an entire show that there were
bottle of wine. Her friend took her to the hospital. The second overdose happened the following 636,000 self-reported cases
day, when she took a dose of her medication and mixed it with cannabis. She ended up back in the of sexual assault in 2014. More
hospital and was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). often than not, sexual assaults are
This is when Chen finally told her parents about the sexual assault. She decided to drop out and not reported to the police.
move back home. Although leaving wasn’t easy, Chen knew it was best to get out of the environ- Zaynab Dhalla, a coordinator for Ryer-
ment where the sexual assault occurred and take some time off before transferring to Ryerson. son’s Sexual Assault Survivor Support Line,
In the year after the incident, Chen had to visit a doctor every three months, then six, and now, highlights that sex can also be a trigger. Other times, survivors might not be comfortable sharing
yearly visits. Although therapy helped, it was also one of the hardest parts—sessions were often their stories with their partner.
re-traumatizing. The now-third-year Ted Rogers School of Management student still experiences “Part of healing is finding pleasure again. When you’ve associated sex with something that was
PTSD symptoms when she comes across her triggers. scary for you, it’s hard to backtrack and think ‘Okay, this is something that can be pleasurable for
Survivors may be triggered when they come across a sensation that was present during the me,’” says Dhalla. Survivors can establish boundaries with partners by having conversations about
assault. Chen’s perpetrator had bad body odour, so whenever she comes across the smell or consent and identifying triggers when they can.
sees someone who looks like him, it can bring back the memory. “Smells trigger everything. I “It’s definitely a process of coming to terms with being my own person and liking sex,” says
have PTSD for the rest of my life, and I have anxiety for the rest of my life.” Peotto. “Some things will send you all the way back and some things send you so forward.”
Although sexual assault is being increasingly talked about, there is still little dialogue about sur-
vivors and healing processes. According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, PTSD Sophia Smith, a second-year RTA student, has been navigating her sexual assault by identifying
can be defined as an anxiety disorder that can occur following the experience or witnessing of a her triggers. Part of Smith’s healing process has been avoiding spaces that are mentally harmful
traumatic event. In order for somebody to be diagnosed with PTSD, symptoms like flashbacks, to her, including parties. Another aspect has been self care. She travels and is able to take time to
distress, nightmares and memory loss have to occur for at least one month. herself away from her day-to-day life. Processing her thoughts has been therapeutic for Smith.
There is little new data on how PTSD affects sexual assault survivors in Canada. According to While Smith knows what most of her triggers are, there are times when she dissociates or has
the PTSD Association of Canada, 9.2 per cent of Canadians suffer from the disorder, most com- panic attacks and isn’t able to pinpoint why—she assumes it has to do with her trauma.
monly caused by the death of a loved one, seeing somebody get killed or sexual assault. According
to the U.S. National Centre of PTSD, 94 per cent of sexual assault survivors experience it. These As a part of frosh at her previous university in 2015, Chen watched a consent education video in
statistics come from survivors who have visited a licensed health care practitioner and have been her residence. It used tea as a metaphor for sex, stating things like, “If your friend doesn’t want
diagnosed with PTSD. tea, don’t make them tea.” Most people on Chen’s floor burst into laughter, as the video used stick
Celine Williams-Tracey, a social worker who specializes in PTSD and sexual trauma, says figures and light-hearted narration to show tea being forced onto somebody.
some survivors may never learn exactly what their triggers are—this can lead to bouts of depres- Prior to this, Chen never learned about sexual assault. She had gone to a private, Christian
sion or invoke anxiety. It can be difficult for survivors to navigate and heal from their traumas school which taught abstinence until marriage. Chen woke up the morning after her sexual as-
when they aren’t able to pinpoint their triggers. sault, not knowing what happened. She brushed off the incident as the man just “trying to get
“Until you’re at that point where you’re fully healed, which I doubt happens for everybody, some.” Her friend had to say that it was sexual assault for Chen to know.
you’re always dealing with it,” says Chen. While healing is often a complicated and unpredictable process, survivors like Peotto, Smith
and Chen say it gets easier to navigate with time.
“Before, I was lost,” Chen says. “It took me about three and a half years to get to where I am now,
but I don’t think I’m moving backwards. I’m definitely moving forward.”
"smells trigger everything. *Names changed for anonymity.

i have anxiety for the

rest of my life" how to listen to a survivor
Emily Peotto first learned about consent through a school play. Instead of teaching anything use-
ful, the play conveyed that sexual assault isn’t necessarily the perpetrator’s fault. From the play, Do’s Don’ts
Peotto learned that if a man sexually assaults a woman, it’s because he had uncontrollable urges. • Listen without judgment: • Ask “why” questions:
Peotto was sexually assaulted for three years throughout high school. She didn’t know it was Don’t just listen—believe your Asking questions that imply
assault because of the lack of sex education she had. She repressed her experience and tried to friend. Show you care and have blame on the survivor are harm-
convince herself it was nothing. It was only after sharing her story with a few friends that she real- open body language. ful and can push them away.
ized what had happened to her. Before she moved to Toronto for university, Peotto was seeing a • Respect their decisions: • Be impatient:
therapist who helped her with anxiety and depression from the trauma, and now she experiences Your own feelings are separate They may be struggling already
fewer triggers. By moving away from the city where the assault occurred, it offered her an op- from theirs. They may not want to come to terms with their as-
portunity to start over. to approach their assault the sault, so allow them to take it at
When her perpetrator comes up in her mind, she sits with her experience. Though she can’t al- way you would. their own pace.
ways identify what triggered it, she reminds herself that it wasn’t her fault until the thoughts pass. • Take care of yourself: • Stop checking in:
“I kind of just remember thinking, ‘Nothing that ever happens to me could’ve been this guy’s fault.’ Recognize your own It’s always good to check in on
It’s so hard to heal from something you don’t understand is happening,” says Peotto. limitations. If supporting them from time to time to see
Williams-Tracey says that trauma often comes up through the five senses. If survivors someone is starting to affect how they’re doing.
encounter anything that reminds them of their trauma, this can trigger flashbacks, memories or your well-being, you can direct
invoke feelings of guilt, anger or shame. them to resources that will Tips courtesy of psychotherapist Lesli Musicar
In 2018, Canadian magazine Maclean’s surveyed 23,000 undergraduate students and found that support them instead. and the Women’s College Hospital.
one in five women had been sexually assaulted in their lifetime. Reports from Statistics Canada
love, sex & health 11

five years ago, Alice signed a contract.

now she breaks a promise with God
the contract
fiction by OLIVIA BEDNAR

Catholic schools often teach a more conservative version of sex-ed. Although it’s more common in the was a big difference between the two of them. She never had sex and Sam had.
U.S., some Catholic schools across Canada still teach an abstinence-only education, and get students— Sam was a nice guy. He was fine. Not the man of her dreams, if she was being truly honest.
mainly girls—to sign virginity pledges. He had never pressured her to do something she didn’t want to. But it was their sixth-month
According to the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, abstinence-only sex education anniversary. Two months ago, he had asked her if she wanted to have sex. She felt weirdly
programs are ineffective in reducing adolescent sexual behaviour, and are also unethical. Beth betrayed, how could he even ask her that? She said no, but had tossed around the thought in
Ostrander, a Toronto life and sex coach, says that the biggest challenge for people is to regain the her mind ever since.
self-autonomy that gets lost when we are brought up in religion to rely on God. “So when it comes to Alice thought back to the first day of her gender studies class in her first year of university,
our bodies and relationships and intimacy, we come to struggle around our beliefs,” she says. “We’re where her professor announced that she would not be using the term ‘virginity’ as it was
waiting for someone to tell us it’s okay.” a phallocentric construct. Alice had never been exposed to the idea that virginity doesn’t

exist—it was a shock hearing this just coming out of her Catholic high school.
I am making a commitment to myself, my family and my Creator, that I will abstain from Since her youth, she was taught that her virginity was her most valuable commodity,
sexual activity of any kind before marriage. I will keep my body and my thoughts pure as something worth saving. ‘Losing’ it would be giving away a part of herself she could never
I trust in God’s perfect plan for my life.” get back. Throughout her life, Alice experienced guilt and shame when having so much as a
At Alice’s Catholic high school, this was the abstinence pledge all of the Grade 10 girls had sexual thought.
to sign—a promise to preserve themselves until marriage came along. The credits rolled on the screen as orchestral music boomed throughout the theatre, grainy
In middle school, Alice wore baggy clothes to try and hide any evidence of her woman- in the old speakers. The film was over and the audience gave an awkward but polite applause.
hood. She squirmed during conversations with people chatting about sex. Alice felt no con- Most of the crowd got up to leave but the couple liked to wait until the credits finished.
trol over her body and her sexuality for as long as she could remember. Alice felt an uneasiness she couldn’t quite pinpoint. Her boyfriend turned to her. “Want to
Now in Alice’s second year of university, thrust into a more open-minded environment come over?”
than she was used to, she’s felt more confused than ever. “Uh-um, sure. Yeah,” Alice stuttered nervously. She had been to his place many times, but
tonight, the question seemed to have more weight.
Sam knew about Alice’s feelings toward sex about as much as she knew her own. She loved
him. But still, something didn’t feel quite right to her. They had been dating for a long time,
she was taught her 'virginity' was but for him, it was only a third of his longest relationship.
They arrived at his apartment complex. Sam fumbled with his keys. Walking inside, they
her most valuable commodity, made their way into the kitchen.
“You still have these,” Alice pulled out a plate of cookies in his fridge they had baked
something worth saving a week ago, trying to lighten the strange mood. “They’re still pretty good!” Sam said. He
laughed nervously.
He then made his way over to her and leaned in until their faces were almost touching.
They started making out. He led her to the bedroom.
She had been told her whole life she was supposed to wait until marriage to have sex, that
it was something between a husband and wife. Her older sister had waited, saying it was the
One evening, Alice sat with her boyfriend in a dark, old-fashioned theatre. Alice met right thing to do for a good foundation for marriage and parenthood.
Sam in film class, so it was fitting that they spent their six-month anniversary watching But that just couldn’t be. She wasn’t even sure if she was really truly in love with Sam,
an old Hollywood film she couldn’t remember the name of. Alice was a bit lost on the plot; let alone going to marry him. But she wanted to have sex. The shame and guilt she felt
the black-and-white couple on the screen appeared to be in a heated conversation. The from her church filled her head. She felt as if she would break their contract—she didn’t
male lead swiftly grabbed the leading lady’s hand and whisked her away to the bedroom, think it belonged to her.
and a fairly mild sex scene played out. Alice noticed that neither of them had rings on their She looked around Sam’s room—he had white linen bed sheets, a poster from The Godfather
fingers—they were a young unmarried couple. She readjusted in her seat. Her hand, inter- hung on the wall and photos of them at parties taped around the room. It was familiar. It
twined with Sam’s, clammed up and stiffened. was Sam.
Sam was Alice’s first serious boyfriend. Sure, she’d kissed boys—three to be exact—but Alice breathed deeply. She felt a sense of calm flow over her.
nothing more than fleeting high school romances. Sam and Alice had “Sam, I want to.”
their minor in film studies in common, but to Alice, there “Want to?”
“You know.”
“Are you sure?”

Afterwards, Alice went to the bathroom and splashed cold water on her face. She looked at
herself in the mirror. “I look exactly the same,” she thought.
She went back to Sam and laid down beside him. Sam turned to her, “So, do you want to
go grab some food?”
For Alice’s whole life, a cloud had hovered around doing what she just did. She felt the
cloud evaporate.

A few weeks went by and Alice started to feel herself distancing from Sam. Instead of going
out with him on a Friday night, she opted to stay home, reading or writing in her journal.
She had a new sense of independence and was more interested in fostering her own needs
and new feelings of liberation. She began to rethink everything she had been told, how sex
was something that happened in marriage, something between a man and a woman. Did it
have to be that way?
Sam asked her to meet up for coffee one afternoon. She could sense the tension, which
was confirmed when her boyfriend confronted her about her evasive behaviour. After much
discussion, Alice decided to break things off.
The new semester started the following week. She had film again. As she scanned the
classroom for her ex, she noticed a girl in the row in front of hers with silky brown hair
and grey-blue eyes. As they got up to leave for class, the girl turned and smiled at her. Alice
suddenly felt a spark she had never felt before. She hoped she could sit beside her next time.


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sneak peek of our kink Q&A with a Stag Shop employee and sex blogger

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Ryerson_Sept2016_QuarterPage.indd 1 8/1/18 11:28 AM

14 love, sex & health

your UTI survival guide Treat with heat

UTIs that are inflamed or irritated are commonly known for causing burning or pressure-
here are some tips and tricks for when urine trouble like pain in the pubic region. Applying a heating pad can help to soothe the area. A common
practice is avoiding direct contact with the pained area and to cycle between 15 minutes of
applying the heat pad and 15 minutes off. But don’t burn yourself!
words by NATHANIEL CROUCH Increase Vitamin C
Urinary tract infections (UTIs) hurt. It’s a ruiner of days and causes shudders down the spines Be on the lookout for foods with high Vitamin C—this includes most citric fruits, broccoli
of those who have endured them. UTIs affect millions of people a year and while many get and potatoes—as large amounts of the vitamin make urine more acidic. This acidic urine then
prescribed antibiotics, home remedies can prove helpful for curing and preventing further inhibits the growth of bacteria in your urinary tract.
infections. Clinic wait times can be long, so The Eye put together a list of UTI hacks that will Pee when you need to
help you survive and thrive when your urinary tract isn’t at its best. When you’ve got to go, just fucking go, dude. It doesn’t matter what’s on TV or how com-
Drink plenty of water fortable you are in the moment. Your UTI will celebrate every moment you hold your bladder,
Drink lots of water so you can pee out all of the bacteria in your system! UTIs can also be so disappoint it and take a leak.
caused by dehydration, so drink up. Cut bladder irritants from your diet
Drink unsweetened cranberry juice? Caffeine, alcohol, spicy food, nicotine, carbonated drinks and artificial sweeteners can fur-
Well, no, actually. Recent studies suggest there isn’t much benefit in drinking the all-natural ther irritate your infection. By creating a diet that focuses on high-fibre carbs like oatmeal and
crap juice. So skip the sour stuff—you’ll be much better off. bananas, your digestive health will get the kick in the pants it needs to fight your UTI.

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Apply through RAMSS.

Visit ryerson.ca/curriculumadvising/graduate
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Applications Close
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contributed to building SUBMIT YOUR

community in the Student APPLICATION ONLINE:
Campus Centre (SCC)! www.ryersonstudentcentre.ca

This award is designed to recognize

students within the Ryerson
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