Ryerson less sexy than UofT when it comes to sex-ed

A few small but eye-catching flyers around campus advertise a “free handjob workshop” — but they aren’t personal ads or a practical joke. They aren’t even Ryerson advertisements. The flyers promote a Sexual Awareness Week event hosted by the University of Toronto’s (U of T) Sexual Education Centre (SEC).

(Courtesy Google)

(Courtesy Google)

Descriptions about different positions for giving handjobs and information about topics like penis anatomy or lubricants may seem like basic knowledge to some people. But Ryerson doesn’t have anything close to an organization like U of T’s SEC to provide students with basic sexual education — unless you ask for it.Ryerson has a few sexual education services and workshops but they are sporadic and unfocused, nowhere near the quality of U of T’s programs.

SEC is a not-for-profit, volunteer-run organization that has been around for almost 40 years. “We want to make sexual education inclusive and available for everyone at U of T because we realize not everyone comes to university with the same levels of knowledge,” says Rae Costin, an SEC volunteer.

The level of sexual education a university student has at the start of first year is dependent on different factors, like a person’s culture or religion, how much initiative parents take when it comes to explaining sex, or even what kind of high school they went to. For example the extent of sexual education for Catholic high school students is to practise abstinence at all times because the church believes that any sexual activity before marriage is a sin.

At Ryerson, sex-related services, workshops and resources are split between different equity groups funded by the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) — such as the Centre for Women and Trans People, RyePRIDE and TransCollective.

The tricky thing is that each of these groups deals with a specific target audience, so their services relate more to social justice issues with a sex positive twist. U of T, on the other hand, offers the whole community general sexual education in addition to workshops similar to the ones occasionally hosted by the RSU.

This might be because the budgets of RSU equity groups are taken from the total RSU fund. SEC on the other hand has a 50-cent levy from the tuition fees of every full-time undergraduate student each year, giving it a lot more resources to work with.

It was difficult to find out what sexual education services were offered at Ryerson because the RSU’s website hardly provided any information, and the websites of the various equity groups were either blank or faulty. Even visits to the offices of each group to find out what services and programs they had was difficult. They bounced information requests from group to group, because no one was entirely sure of all the sexual education related programs and services they currently offered, or have offered in the past.

A representative for Health Promotion at Ryerson mentioned that Ryerson has no sexual education programs or services available for students, because they are “needs-based.” So, if students want access to resources, they have to go and ask for it.

It’s ludicrous to expect students who want sexual education to find Ryerson Health Promotion’s number or office when they don’t even advertise sexual education resources or services.

Ryerson needs to recognize the lack of consistency in the sexual education that students receive before starting university.

A centre for sexual education might not be needed by the entire student body, but the university still needs to take the lead in offering sexual education services and resources to its students. Ryerson can’t rely on RSU equity groups who already have a full plate of other issues that are being prioritized over basic sexual education.

 

 

Due to misinformation from SEC, an original version story said that SEC receives a 90-cent levy from tuition fees. This has since been changed to “50-cent levy.” 

 

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on Feb. 5, 2015.

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