Sex positivity in a college setting
By Viv Steele, Pro-sex Warrior
I’ve been writing my sex column in The Other Press for eight months now, and it’s still a challenge to gauge the sexual climate at Douglas College. Are students thinking about sex? Are they having it? Are they reading my column? For our sex-themed July issue, I wanted to do a state-of-sex address to students, to shed some light on the types of services that the college and the Douglas Students’ Union (DSU) can offer to students. To help me answer some questions, I turned to the front lines of sex positivity on campus, Milo Leraar, the DSU’s Pride Liaison, and Shila Avissa, DSU Member at Large and former student staff of the Women’s Centre at the New Westminster campus.
Avissa told me briefly about what the Women’s Centre has to offer to women with questions about sexual health: “Aside from providing free condoms, usually the role of the student assistants is to refer students to the appropriate agencies in the Lower Mainland that provide sexual health services,” acknowledging that the centre “still [needs] to provide more non-heteronormative safe sex kits such as dental dams, gloves, lube, et cetera.”
There’s one tiny problem with the Women’s Centre on campus: it doesn’t seem to be open. Leraar had a few comments to make on the cutbacks at the Women’s Centre.
“It seems obvious to me that what they’re doing is trying to [say] ‘Oh, well nobody uses it anyway so what’s the point of having it,’ which is what they did to the Pride Centre a really long time ago. That’s why it’s in the DSU,” Leraar tells us. If the Women’s Centre ceases to be a college-funded resource for students, Leraar says it’s likely that the DSU will pick up the slack, but cautions that with the greater funding that the centre sees from the college, it can operate with greater efficacy: “While the Women’s Centre is funded by the college, then there are college-paid employees and counsellors who can work there,” allowing for greater coverage than the time-crunched volunteers at the DSU can offer.
With a lack of pro-sex or sex positive resources for students that are directly provided by the college, it’s the Students’ Union and the Pride Centre that end up picking up a lot of slack for educating students about sexual issues.
Leraar mentions that the Pride Centre is in the process of moving to a different space in the DSU building, and adds: “Right now we do have just fairly basic services: we have a resources library, we have condoms, and we’re getting internal condoms and dental dams and lube coming in pretty soon.” Currently, the Pride Centre is open to anyone who feels like they need to access the space. Leraar stressed the importance of keeping the space inclusive of people who aren’t necessarily LGBTQ, because during college some people might be closeted or straight-identified and wanting to learn more.
In my storied career at post-secondary institutions, I’ve noticed that Pride Centres are often a place of sex positivity and openness. Leraar says there’s a reason behind that: “When you get a community [where] most of the people have just done more thinking and talking and analyzing of sexuality and sex it just makes spaces which are a bit more open.”
College is a time of sexual experimentation, and Leraar thinks that colleges have a role to play surrounding students education about these issues, mostly related to consent and safer sex. The college has a responsibility to make sure that counsellors are knowledgeable about consent and safer sex practices, for straight and cisgendered students as well as queer and transgender students. Leraar also mentioned the fight for a queer space at the David Lam Campus, where DSU services are limited because of space constraints.
I believe that college is a place of learning, education, and experience—which often includes sexual experience. Leraar explains it: “A lot of people who attend college are within the age range that is like, largely sexually active but also largely ignorant about what they’re doing. College is supposed to be a place where we learn life skills. I think a very important life skill is how to navigate sexuality, relationships, and consent.”
If you have any comments or questions or if there’s anything you’d like to see in Between the Sheets, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org!