News | Vaginal fisting workshop garners attention

Confidential meeting called by the Deputy Provost for follow-up

Updated on March 24, 2012. 

Over Reading Week, SSMU VP Clubs and Services Carol Fraser received a call from Deputy Provost (Student Life and Learning) Morton Mendelson concerning a demonstration of vaginal fisting that had occurred a week before, as part of Queer McGill’s Rad Sex Week.

“He asked me who organized the event and I said, ‘It’s Queer McGill, but I don’t really know anything more than that,’” Fraser told The Daily. Fraser said she was aware of the fisting demonstration occurring, but added that the event “didn’t seem out of the ordinary to me.”

The live fisting demonstration is a regular part of Queer McGill’s (QM) Rad Sex Week, an annual week that started three years ago, and occurred the week of February 13 this year.

The first event of the week was a workshop called “Take Five: The Pleasures of Fisting” and was presented by Andrea Zanin, a sex blogger and kink historian. The workshop discusses the practice of vaginal fisting and, according to her website, covered anatomy, techniques, and safety tips.

The workshop Zanin gave at McGill included a live demonstration. The live demonstration was included in QM’s publicity of the workshop on Facebook.

In an interview with The Daily, Mendelson said that McGill’s Media Relations office picked up on the event via Google Alert, a web monitoring service that emails updates on relevant and recent Google search results based on a specified query.

“They [Media Relations] are alerted to articles that identify McGill,” he explained. The article identifying McGill in relation to the live fisting demonstration was published on Vice, a global youth media company that publishes print, event, music, online, television, and feature films.

“It involved a student group, so that’s why I heard about it,” he added.

According to Fraser, a meeting was set up between Mendelson, QM organizers of Rad Sex Week, SSMU President Maggie Knight, and herself.

Mendelson spoke to why he set up the meeting. “Sometimes when I read something in the media I like to speak to people who were involved just to find out what was going on,” he said. “It’s not unusual for me to follow up on events.”

Fraser said the content of the meeting had been agreed on by all parties present to be kept confidential, however, she confirmed that a part of the meeting’s discussion touched upon the live fisting demonstration.

“I think it was more McGill just wanting to know what happened,” she said. “Last year the event took place in the SSMU building, this year it took place in Leacock [232], and McGill just wanted to ask organizers some questions.”

This is the first time the fisting demonstration was held in a McGill administered building, though, other events during Rad Sex Week have been held in McGill-administered buildings in the past. For the last two years, the fisting demonstration has occurred in the Shatner building.

One of the founding coordinators of the first Rad Sex Week in 2009, Adam Wheeler, said consideration of where to hold events – in the Shatner building administered by SSMU or campus buildings administered by McGill – was something he and the other organizers had “kept in mind.”

Wheeler highlighted the greater autonomy around room bookings, security needs and financial costs available in the Shatner building.

“There’s presumably more latitude in what goes on in SSMU, in [Shatner], because [Shatner] is controlled by SSMU, so they may have less constraints on what sort of activities they would deem appropriate,” said Mendelson, regarding the University and SSMU’s response to the live fisting demonstration.

“On the other hand, there have been talks that we’ve had in University space that the SSMU has deemed inappropriate for its space, so it works in both directions,” he added in reference to a 2009 Choose Life event, also hosted in Leacock 232.

QM Social Coordinator Lindsey Clark said that the week was scheduled to occur in campus buildings due to increased accessibility for booking event space, and to make it easier for students to attend those events.

“It was a mixture of consciousness and also just ease of event,” she said. “It partly was conscious that we were having it within the school environment because we feel it is an educational series, that it is important that that be a part of the ‘McGill education,’ but I think it was never fully a conscious choice.”

Wheeler did not recall issues with McGill during the week’s first year. Current QM co-administrator Francesca Buxton stated that, since its creation, Rad Sex Week has been a “fairly accepted thing” on campus.

Current QM executives involved in organizing Rad Sex Week refused to comment on the confidential meeting with Mendelson, however, Clark spoke to The Daily.

“We at Queer McGill feel that Rad Sex Week is very important for education and awareness of sex issues, and we really appreciate the support [the] McGill administration has given us in allowing us to have these kinds of events in University spaces,” she said.

Mendelson said he was unaware of the week’s history of the live fisting demonstration. “Just because something happens at the University doesn’t mean that everyone is fully aware of it,” he said.

When asked whether the live fisting demonstration would be handled differently by McGill in future, Mendelson said, “I can’t comment on a hypothetical [situation].”

Fraser spoke to her reaction coming out of the confidential meeting. “There was no conclusion to the conversation, but, no matter what happens, I’m going to continue to support students providing those kinds of services to other students,” she said, describing the live demonstration as “necessary” and an “education.”

“It’s really more about the relationship that we have with McGill, keeping things open, and asserting that students can, and should, have those kinds of events for students,” Fraser added, referring to live sex demonstrations.

Clark said that three of Rad Sex Week’s events included live demonstrations.

“It’s a lot easier to learn something, and learn how to do something in the safest way possible if someone is giving you a full education from what it is that’s happening, and the easiest way to learn a lot of the things that we’ve demonstrated, is to see them happen,” she said.

She added that live demonstrations could add to de-stigmatizing acts like vaginal fisting; firstly by holding the demonstration at all and secondly by showing it an open forum like a workshop.

Buxton added that “we [QM] think that it’s really important because sex – especially queer or kinky sex – is treated as dirty in the media, and so to create an environment where a lot of the stigma is taken out of it is really important to us.”

 

In an earlier version of this article Lindsey Clark was identified as QM’s Political Action Coordinator. She is in fact one of the social coordinators. The Daily regrets the error. 


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