The excitement is palpable as the University of Calgary gears up for its second annual Sexual and Gender Wellness Week from Feb. 11–15. A carnival, seminars, panel discussion and other events will be held in MacEwan Student Centre throughout the week to educate students about healthy sexuality.
“Our core goal is to provide a forum for dialogue about issues relating to sexual health, relationships and gender expression. For students, now that they’re older, they have more critical-thinking skills to engage in these topics in a way that might be more meaningful,” said registered psychologist at the Students’ Union Wellness Centre and a committee member for Sex Week Carolyn Claire.
Workshops during Sex Week are varied, from discussions about pornography and healthy relationships to sexual violence, sexually transmitted infections orgasms, feminism, healthy relationships, religion and sexual violence prevention.
In Canada, 854,817 people have contracted an STI at one point in their lives. Worldwide, 448 million contract an STI every year.
Although Claire says safe sex awareness has improved over the last 10 years with the rate of unplanned pregnancies dropping, she says these workshops are still important for students to be informed about risks and learn how to communicate sexual boundaries.
“There’s been a lot of fluctuation [in STI rates]. Calgary is kind of known as a hotbed,” she said.
In addition to talking about safe sex, Claire said Sex Week will raise awareness of sexual orientation and gender expression.
“I think there’s something for everyone,” said Claire, adding that the Sex Week workshops are an excellent opportunity to receive comprehensive sexual education about healthy sexuality.
There will be panels, seminars with sex experts and film screenings.
Claire emphasized the importance of students’ involvement in Sex Week, adding that the week is driven by student involvement.
“We want to keep meeting the needs of students,” said Claire.
First-year psychology student and member of the Q Centre Richard Pham said there needs to be more dialogue about sex.
“In the gay community we have talks and panels all the time. I don’t know about the rest of the community, but it seems really generic,” said Pham. “I think people need to talk about sex more often, and more regularly. It’s important to know about these things, because people do it all the time. Sex is normal and, if you don’t know about it, it can get messy.”
According to Women’s Resource Centre co-ordinator Nanako Furuyama, Sex Week is an opportunity to discuss healthy sexuality. She said that many people are afraid to talk about sexuality.
“Students are hesitant to talk about sex and there’s a lot of very important information that students need to know to prevent diseases or to maintain healthy sexuality,” said Furuyama. “It is very important to have normalized conversation around healthy sexual relations, relationships, sexual health and wellness.”
Furuyama wants to have Sex Week every year to increase dialogue and sexual knowledge.
The Q Centre will be hosting panels to introduce students to the gay, lesbian, bi-sexual, transgender and queer community, dispel stereotypes and familiarize students with the vocabulary used within the community. There will also be a film screening with free popcorn and drinks at That Empty Space.
Third-year U of C drama student Marie Boston said that dialogue around sex, though important, is not enough to erase negative attitudes of sex.
“Talk around sex needs to be more respectful, and we need to respect people’s views because there are a lot of negative attitudes and issues that people should be more aware of,” said Boston. “I think some of the dialogue is a little bit too objective, and it objectifies sex, so that in a sense could be changed.”