Sex and Self, a not-for-profit, sex-positive organization, held its first book club meeting last Thursday over Zoom. Readers congregated virtually with Mo Asebiomo to discuss It’s My Pleasure: Decolonizing Sex Positivity—the author’s debut book that challenges the basis of what it means to hold sex-positive attitudes in a white supremacist country. Participants discussed their interpretations, experiences, and observations, and also listened to Asebiomo read and discuss their work.
Sex and Self is a student-run group that aims to educate and empower individuals about their bodies, autonomy, and sexuality. The organization was set up at McGill in 2019 by Felicia Gisondi, but has now expanded across many universities in Canada. Sex and Self’s mission is built on three pillars: Scientifically-backed sex education, intersectionality, and a sex-positive atmosphere. It facilitates various seminars, workshops, and events to educate people about sexual and reproductive health and wellness. Simultaneously, the organization works with sex and health sponsors to attain free products for students and works with health care professionals to ensure their message is scientifically grounded.
The co-president of Sex and Self McGill, Holly Bloomfield, U4 Science, said in an interview with The McGill Tribune that “[o]ur main goal is to provide comprehensive sex education that’s shame-free, pleasure-focused, and scientifically backed to the McGill community.”
To expand its repertoire of sex-positive offerings, Sex and Self’s newest initiative, Book Club, provides a safe space to explore topics that are often not reflected in the media or sex education programs. A common theme surrounding sex education in the classroom is one of abstinence, in an attempt to scrub the important topic out of students’ awareness. Book Club takes a vastly different approach, with open discussions taking the forefront.
“Books ranging from anything, like smut, just give people a safe and informed place to talk about all the different kinds of aspects of sex, while also bringing in perspectives that we may not hear through the books,” Bloomfield said.
Sex education taught at a younger age can be inadequate or even nonexistent; often, sex education lacks information, stigmatizes sex curiosity, and is done through a cisgender and heteronormative lens. With the slogan of “Nobody benefits from knowing less about their bodies,” Sex and Self is trying to help fill these gaps.
“Within our future generations, we don’t have to have this like closing up [around topics like sex]. I would love to live in a world where we can talk about genitals the same way we talk about other body parts like we don’t have to pause and say it quieter or laugh uncomfortably afterward,” said Tess Vardy, the University Coordinator at Sex and Self and a fourth-year Arts student at the University of Guelph. “Like, I’d love to say vagina like I say finger. That’s the kind of world I want to live in.”
This desire for open and shameless conversations about sex is brought into the book club meetings, as Vardy aims to create the most comfortable environment possible when leading the club. They actively ensure a safe space by providing trigger warnings and low-pressure discussions so that people can participate if desired.
The other McGill Sex and Self co-president, Lidie Silva, U4 Science, spoke about her experience creating safe, inclusive environments while moderating different workshops and events.
“Allow everyone to learn and [don’t] assume that everyone has different backgrounds, voices, and information. It’s just like, everyone has space to learn together,” Silva told the Tribune.
Sex and Self’s fulsome resources are available on their Instagram or website, where you can sign up for events and stay up to date with their various initiatives. The organization also provides a wellness pantry on the first floor of the University Centre, where, at any time during opening hours, students can pick up pads, tampons, condoms, lube, ovulation strips, period cups, and (if you turn on their Instagram notifications) even sex toys.