Guelph Sexuality Conference explores sex ed through the theme of pain   


“The Talk” never sounded like this, but it should have

The 39th annual Guelph Sexuality Conference (GSC) was held from June 22 to 23 at the University of Guelph. The 2017 conference’s theme was pain.

The GSC is the largest and longest-running sexual health forum in Canada.

A diverse range of members in the sexual health field attended, such as researchers, students, educators, therapists, counselors, public health professionals, and community service providers.

 

In addition to learning more about sexuality through the presentations, the conference fostered networking. Between presentations the concourse of U of G’s Rozanski Hall was full of people socializing and visiting with exhibitors.

Shame: The Imprint and Residue of Psychological Pain

Presented by Rahim Thawer

Tasha Falconer

Education: Masters Social Work from University of Toronto
Therapeutic training: gestalt, psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy
Occupation: Therapy private practice, speaking engagements, family health team in health center in Toronto, Salaam Canada

Rahim Thawer discussed the shame that can accompany sexuality. He noted that although shame is painful, it’s important to talk about. Thawer defined shame by considering the difference between guilt and shame.

Guilt is something we feel bad for doing, while shame is something we feel bad for being.

Thawer went over the sources of shame for gay/queer men and the defenses against shame. He also used case studies to discuss the ways that shame leaves an imprint. Thawer engaged the audience with his work by asking questions about a case study in order to determine what he calls the imprint of shame. Through this exercise Thawer was able to explain some of the ways people protect themselves against the residue of shame. Thawer used personal stories and humor to make the presentation engaging and relatable.   

Hurts So Good: How Pain Disorders Can Affect Sexuality

Presented by Kristen Schultz

Tasha Falconer

Education: Currently working towards Masters in Health Care Administration at Utica College
-liberal arts based education
-self-degree with experience
Occupation: Sexuality Educator, writer, and activist.

Kristen Schultz discussed the different components of a chronic illness that can affect sexuality, including emotional, physical, and treatment-related. A chronic illness persists over time, and is not curable.

Sex and sexual education are human rights, and that includes those who have chronic illnesses.

Schultz also discussed the barriers to discussion, including a lack of sexual education for both doctors and patients, societal norms, and accessibility being more than a ramp.

Lastly, she discussed some solutions, such as sexual education, communication between partners, scheduling, using tools, masturbation, and remembering there are ways other than penetrative sex to be intimate.   

Human Trafficking from a Service Provider Perspective

Presented by Joy Brown and Jennifer Keeler

Tasha Falconer

Connie Stevens (left) is on the Sexually Transmitted Infection planning committee. Jennifer Keeler (middle) works with Trillium Health Center – Chantel’s Place. Joy Brown (right) works with the Peel Regional Police.

Joy Brown and Jennifer Keeler discussed human trafficking in the Peel Region. Brown discussed the Peel Human Trafficking Service Providers Committee, which aims to eliminate sex trafficking.

Due to the transient nature of human trafficking the committee has partners from all over Ontario.

Brown and Keeler explained how human trafficking works and emphasized that it can happen to anyone. Keeler went over some myths, including the idea that Canadians aren’t trafficked, but 93 per cent of trafficked survivors in Canada are domestic.

A video describing one way sex trafficking happens was also played during the presentation.

Brown and Keeler then made sure to note that anyone could be recruiting. The presentation ended with information on how service providers can support someone being trafficked.

Encouraging Pleasure, Ending Assault:

Utilizing Pleasure-Positive Education to Reduce Sexual Misconduct and Increase Healthy Relationships on College Campuses

Presented by Reid Mihalko

Tasha Falconer

Education: Bachelor of Fine Arts from Brown University
Occupation: Sex and Relationship Role Model

Reid Mihalko discussed an alternative approach to sexual education. Mihalko noted some issues with the old approach of limited information and abstinence-only education. Sex is considered taboo, so discussing pleasure or assault is the taboo of the taboo.

Mihalko presented the idea of pleasure-based sexual education. This type of education tells students what to do instead of what not to do and normalizes pleasure. Mihalko said that it is important not to overload the students.

Instead he strives to teach three things students will remember on a Thursday night after three beers and two shots:

1. Safer sex

2. Wear a condom

3. Say thanks the next day

Wrap(ping) It Up!

A How-To Guide for Developing Youth-Engaged Condom Interventions

Presented by Jillian Schwandt, Natalya Mason, and Vero Kokolus

Tasha Falconer

Jillian Schwandt (left)
Education: Masters in Women’s and Gender Studies from University of Toronto; Bachelor of Social Work from University of Regina
Occupation: Executive Director at Saskatoon Sexual Health
Natalya Mason (right)
Education: Currently working towards her Masters in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at University of Saskatchewan
Occupation: Education and Outreach Coordinator at Saskatoon Sexual Health
Vero Kokolus (not pictured)
Education: Masters in Creative and Media Enterprises from University of Warwick
Occupation: Account Manager & Strategist at Territorial

Jillian Schwandt, Natalya Mason, and Vero Kokolus presented a condom intervention used by Saskatoon Sexual Health with the goal of increased acceptability and usage of condoms. Saskatchewan has the highest rates of HIV, chlamydia, and unintended teen pregnancy in Canada.

To help change this, Saskatoon Sexual Health, in partnership with Territorial, started a condom-distribution project. The presenters noted that when creating this kind of campaign, partnerships are extremely important.

The project used local city names and common sayings to create condom packaging that would be appealing, such as “climax, please come again.”

The response to the campaign has been positive, with people engaging in the campaign through social media.

Teaching “Sex-Ed” Beyond the Basics

Presented by Ani Colekessian, Brittany Neron, and Makeda Zook

Tasha Falconer

Makeda Zook (left)
Education: Masters of Public Health in Social and Behavioral Health Sciences from University of Toronto
Occupation: Special Projects Officer at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Ani Colekessian (middle)
Education: Masters in Gender and Peacebuilding from the United Nations mandated University for Peace
Occupation: Communications Officer at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights
Brittany Neron (right)
Education: Masters in Feminist and Gender Studies from University of Ottawa
Occupation: Health Information Officer at Action Canada for Sexual Health and Rights

Ani Colekessian, Brittany Neron, and Makeda Zook are part of Action Canada for Sexual Health & Rights, and presented on a new sexual education program. The program teaches more than the basics of sex education by also focusing on human rights. They noted that research shows that students want to learn more than the basics.

They find that human rights is a great approach because it is not about personal morals or judgements.

Colekessian, Neron, and Zook discussed human rights and the fact that sexual rights are human rights. They noted that without the right to sexual education, the right to health is not guaranteed. The approach can create comfort in teaching controversial topics and empower students as rights holders.

Sex in Color: Anti-Racist Sexual Health Education

Presented by Ariane Wylie and Rosy Dougé-Charles

Tasha Falconer

Ariana Wylie (not pictured) works in Community Education at Planned Parenthood Ottawa
Rosy Dougé-Charles (pictured)
Education: Bachelor in Women Studies from the University of Ottawa
Occupation: Options Counselling Coordinator at Plan Parenthood Ottawa

Ariane Wylie and Rosy Dougé-Charles explored issues of racism in sexual education. They talked about the history of sexual movements, including eugenics and Margaret Sanger, who founded the organization that would later become Planned Parenthood.

Wylie noted three levels of teaching: formal curriculum, hidden curriculum, and evaded curriculum.

Although the formal curriculum may not be racist, the hidden and evaded curricula have underlying racism.

For example, most genital diagrams are beige, which excludes many races.

The presentation included an activity during which participants had to identify where racism exists within doctors’ offices, classrooms, and counselling rooms. Wylie and Dougé-Charles concluded stating that individuals can make small changes to combat racism in sexual education, such as using diagrams representing a variety of races.

Photos by Tasha Falconer.

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