For most teenagers, high school is a time for learning about their own sexuality.
For some, the bulk of this knowledge comes primarily from outside of the classroom, with many students turning to their peers and the Internet.
Allie Klenke, ArtSci ’12, said sex education at her Catholic high school was insufficient. “The only sex education we got was anatomy and sexual reproduction in biology,” she said, adding that sexual and gender identity issues were never discussed. “Unless I skipped that class, it wasn’t touched on. I don’t remember it ever being touched on in school.”
Klenke said she does remember occasionally discussing abstinence in her physical education and religion classes.
“In both classes we watched a video of some woman speaker talk about abstinence,” she said. “It was really a joke when they started talking about sex ed.”
According to Sexual Health and Resource Centre (SHRC) Director James Hotze, Klenke’s lack of proper sexual education coming into university is not unusual. Hotze said many students who come to the SHRC seeking advice didn’t have regular sexual education at school.
“There’s a lot of misinformation about sexuality and sexual health. People often turn towards the Internet for resources, which can be really good, but there’s also a lot of people who are trying to spin their own agendas when they’re publishing things on the Internet,” he said, adding that that’s why an impartial service like the SHRC is so important.
“Really the most important thing for the Centre [is that] it tries to be as safe a space as it possibly can be and so anyone can we want anyone to be able to feel like they can come and talk about whatever they life without feeling judged.”
Hotze said the SHRC’s non-judgemental approach means students can feel safe asking them about anything sex-related, from the most basic queries to more serious issues. He added that while university can be a good place to explore and learn about sexuality, the campus environment also has its drawbacks.
“There’s lots of ways in which university gives the intellectual environment to kind of grow and experiment, but there’s also a lot of ways in which a lot of oppression goes on on any university campus,” he said. “That can be something people have to struggle through and that can be an issue for anyone.”
Klenke said by her first week of university, she was already learning more about sexuality than she had in high school, citing a presentation by the SHRC she saw during Frosh Week.
“I remember them showing condoms, including female condoms, and I had never seen that before,” she said.
Hotze said the SHRC is staffed mostly by volunteers, who train for around 20 hours.
“[Training] is really a combination of trying to impart knowledge but also trying to get our volunteers to think in a way that they’ll be able to enact our mandate which is to be a feminist, non-judgemental, pro-choice, queer-positive information referral service concentrated on sexuality and sexual health,” he said.
“We’re just there to listen and talk and give information. And even if we don’t have information, even someone coming in and feeling like they can talk about it is great.”
For more information and resources check out SHRC’s website at clubs.myams.org/shrc/.
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