When it was announced that a two-time Fulbright-winning Harvard-PhD professor from the University of Alabama was coming to speak at McGill about her new book, most students probably weren’t expecting it to be titled Good Sex.
But when professor of gender and cultural studies Catherine Roach visited McGill on March 14 to speak on a panel about the book, she was greeted with a room of very interested students and faculty.
“Good sex is good as in ethical, and good as in pleasurable,” Roach said to open up the discussion.
Her book, which she actually finished writing while on a fellowship here, covers five “manisextos” for how to change the norms around sex as part of the new gender and sexual revolution, including positive sexuality, equity and inclusion, body positivity, consent, and mutual pleasure.
The panel featured three students from McGill’s Gender, Sexuality, Feminist, and Social Justice (GSFS) program—Ashna Naidoo (U2), Céleste Pépin (U2), and Juliet Morrison* (U2)—who each shared their views of the book.
Naidoo discussed the hookup culture on campus and how gender norms not only create a double standard but make sex positivity impossible for all students.
“Women who partake in [hookup culture] are seen as promiscuous, […] men as commendable or honourable,” Naidoo said.
She also expanded on the challenges that racialized individuals face in partaking in sex positivity under Eurocentric beauty standards.
“The binary convention of what it means to be conventionally attractive in [a] university of tall, skinny, and white […] perpetuates exoticism for anyone existing outside of this,” Naidoo explained.
Roach’s book covers many of the risks bad sex entails. “As we screw around, sex can screw us up,” she writes.
For panellist Pépin, one of these risk factors is many individuals’ lack of self-awareness and inability to question their intimate preferences.
“We also need to stop for a second and think about what our fantasies might mean to us […] I’m submissive, I’m dominant, but why do you feel like that?” Pépin said.
According to Roach, so much of sex is based on gendered scripts that circulate and embed patriarchy through pornography and social media. These norms also factor into conversations surrounding consent.
“Full consent [arises] out of egalitarian gender norms,” Roach said.
According to all three panellists, the book’s accessibility makes it all the more enjoyable. Roach collected various images, sidebars, and quotes from students at the University of Alabama, making the academic content much more legible.
During the panel, Roach and the students discussed the newly re-released McGill “It Takes All of Us” training module. The attending students also had a lot to say on the matter.
“We can have these great conversations as students here at McGill, but is the administration actually going to take it into account?” said audience member Gabriela Toharia, U1 Arts.
This comes after multiple student groups, including Sex and Self and the Union for Gender Empowerment, expressed their disappointment in a lack of consultation in the program’s redevelopment, with many questioning how a module for improving the norms around sex can be successful without first consulting with students about what those norms are.
In addition to frustration towards the state of sexual health and safety on campus, there was also a resounding hopefulness in the room, with students and staff wanting to improve both the quantity and quality of sexual education opportunities at McGill.
“What are ways in which we can push for more of this education? We need accessibility to those courses and to that education,” said Dominique Magleo, U1 Arts.
“We need to make education so much more fun and accessible, like this book!” said Pépin, adding that “the sexual and gender revolution is for everyone.”
Roach seemed impressed with students’ passion and engagement. She hopes that this book will create conversation about these important topics, and lead them in a positive direction.
“Sex should do good, and feel good.”
If you’re looking to learn about what’s going on with your sex life, have a read of Roach’s new book, Good Sex, on sale at Le Paragraphe, or online.
*Morrison is currently a News Editor at The McGill Tribune and was not involved in the publication of this article.