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Sex week hits the wrong notes

By Kate Jacobson, February 5 2015 —

Sex week is hard to miss. Someone in a penis costume is wandering around MacHall. There’s a list of workshops, ranging from Emotional Connection in Intimate Relationships to BDSM 201. At the Sex Week Carnival, you can try your hand at carnival games like hit-the-clit or a dildo ring toss. But underneath the brightly-coloured condoms and fun posters, this entire week is harmful to the LGBTQ community. 

By putting a carnival game like dildo ring toss under the same banner as a serious workshop about trans identities, Sex Week makes the mistake of assuming that being part of the LGBTQ community is only about sex. There’s nothing inherently sexual about romantic attraction or gender identity, both of which are large parts of the LGBTQ community. 

In fact, many of the most pressing problems LGBTQ people face aren’t sexy at all — high rates of youth homelessness and suicide, marriage equality, high murder rates of trans women and workplace discrimination. 

When we discuss romantic relationships between two heterosexual people, we understand that sex is only a part of it. But when it comes to the LGBTQ community, Sex Week falls into the old stereotype of assuming that identifying as part of this diverse community is inherently sexual. 

There’s a sharp divide between workshops put on by the Students’ Union, which have an overarching emphasis on heterosexuality, and workshops put on by the Q Centre, which has a single conference room to address heavy issues like coercive rape and sexual assault. 

The idea that LGBTQ people, particularly gay men, are naturally more promiscuous than their heterosexual counterparts is a staple of homophobia. It’s a stretch to argue that the SU is buying into this homophobic argument. But it’s still important to constantly re-evaluate our beliefs and our actions. 

The connotations of putting workshops about gender identity next to workshops about sex toys is an unpleasant one. Gender identity is a serious issue that has as much to do with gender presentation and cultural norms as it does sex. And while you might not be able to talk about your new favourite sex toy at work, you aren’t at an elevated risk of murder.

I have no doubt the SU has good intentions. This is an event put on to educate young people about issues we come across in our day-to-day lives and relationships — consent, porn, sexual health, contraception, pleasurable sex. 

But sex is not sexuality. Having information about how to have more enjoyable sex with your partner is fundamentally different than the issues facing the LGBTQ community. There’s overlap between the two, but there’s also a time and a place to discuss that. I don’t think a carnival in the middle of MacHall is an appropriate venue for that discussion. 

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