SHRC not laughing at condom hoax

Letter to the Editor

Dear Editors,

The Sexual Health Resource Centre (SHRC) would like to comment on the front-page article published in this week’s issue of the fake Journal released by Golden Words on Feb. 28. Overall, we’d like to express our disappointment with the decision to publish an article about a fictional recall of defective condoms sold at the SHRC.

Don’t get us wrong — volunteers of the SHRC are a fun group of people. We appreciate good humour and understand that our ties to sex, sexuality and sexual health leave us open to a whole host of jokes and sexual innuendos — and most of the time, we welcome that.

But Golden Words took this too far and the results weren’t funny. In response to Tuesday’s article, the SHRC received phone calls from clients concerned about our condoms and worried for their own health. Issues of sexual health, including STI transmission and unwanted pregnancy, can be quite stressful and deeply personal. Golden Words’ decision to exploit that fact is distasteful and employs an inappropriate means to get a few laughs.

Unlike articles from past editions of Golden Words’ fake Journal, there weren’t any details within the article that marked it as an obvious parody or satire. Furthermore, the placement of the article at the top of the first page left readers without a chance to see that the whole issue was bogus before reading the headline — an excellent tactic to fool readers into thinking the recall was real, yes, but irresponsible given the nature of the material.

Ultimately, joking about sexual health isn’t on par with topics covered in the past. Articles about the Queen’s Pub offering pitchers on weekdays, banning lewd jacket bars or shutting down Victoria Hall are more likely to be enjoyed by all, regardless of who gets duped. But an article involving a condom recall has implications for the way a person feels about their own sexual health and well being that are much more serious.

So, to Golden Words, we ask: do the benefits of a few laughs that came from this article really outweigh the discomfort and worry experienced by our clients who believed the article’s claims? Does the satisfaction of fooling readers really warrant the panic of STI transmission or unwanted pregnancy experienced by your readers?

Satire certainly has its place in commentary, and indeed Golden Words has successfully employed satire in the current issue as well as in the past to point out hypocrisies of the University and of student leaders. However, to label this particular article as satire would be to say that Golden Words is commenting on the idea that the SHRC has deceived its clients somehow or is irresponsible with its products. This idea could not be farther from the truth, and instead of expressing a real opinion on the SHRC or exposing its drawbacks, this article simply smeared the reputation of a well-known and trusted organization on campus in exchange for a couple of laughs from Golden Words’ authors and editors.

We are very disappointed that Golden Words writers and editors would find it so funny to put readers into a panic about their own health and well-being. We gladly invite the publication to poke fun at us — “SHRC to offer tantric sex workshops,” perhaps — but please don’t do so at the expense of our clients by exploiting their vulnerabilities. We don’t think it’s fair to mess with people’s sexual health like this — it’s just not funny.

Leigh Turner, PhD ’12
SHRC director

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