Aiming to “provide information that is often harder to come across,” the Shag Shop’s goal is to “empower queer people to have informed sex that is relevant to their desires and bodies!” In an interview with The McGill Daily, the Shag Shop discussed the importance of these resources being accessible for queer people, and emphasized the various barriers they face in accessing adequate sexual education. “There is a lack of standardized and comprehensive sexual education in Quebec that includes queer experiences and bodies,” the Shag Shop said. They also elaborated on the lived differences that queer people experience regarding sex and sexuality, including the notion of having to “come out” as someone with a queer identity, and then subsequently having to navigate the various social expectations and pressures that are often present in heterosexual relationships. Further, the general stigmatization of discussing sex and sexuality is a barrier in itself; the Shag Shop spoke to how “just generally talking about sex openly, especially if one’s desire is not what is ‘expected’ of them, can be really awkward and hard for queer people, [making] accessing or engaging in sexual education challenging.”
To address these barriers, the event started with a discussion facilitated by Shag Shop co-ordinator Leigh Hoffman and co-facililtator Anna Walton on how to talk about sex and sexuality in inclusive and nonjudgemental ways. The organizers used gender neutral language throughout the event when discussing bodies and sex acts in order to ensure that the event was a safe space.
The workshop covered a variety of topics, including STIs, protection and barrier methods, sex toys, and lubricants. The language that was used in discussing these various topics was positive and inclusive, destigmatizing many of the traditionally taboo subjects. The event was also very interactive – the Shag Shop passed around some sex toys that they carry, as well as examples of various protection and barrier methods including a demonstration on how to convert a condom into a dental dam. Throughout the event, participants were free to ask questions to the presenters, and it was clear that this event offered many participants a safe space to pose questions facilitating discussions outside of the workshop’s agenda, opening the conversation to topics such as pornography or how hormones interact with birth control.
Queer sexual education is a crucial resource to be able to access, especially during McGill’s Queer History Month. Speaking to the gaps in sexual education that drove them to run the event, the Shag Shop posed the question: “how can folks explore their sexuality or engage in sex safely if they do not know what risks are associated with the kinds of sex they have, or have never encountered sex ed materials that include trans bodies?” The Shag Shop emphasized why a need exists for fundamental, queer oriented sex ed: “for so many reasons, folks may not have had access to informed, sex positive sexual education. Beyond having access to foundational sex ed, even fewer folks have had access to sexual education that specifically focuses on sex/sexualities of queer people.”
The Shag Shop provided a safe, accessible, and informative Queer Sexual Education event for their attendees that positively contributed to McGill’s Queer History Month. “In order to be best equipped to have happy, healthy, and consensual sex lives, we need access to information that is relevant, informed, and nonjudgemental about the types of sex that we have, the types of bodies we have, and the kinds of relationships we have!”
The Shag Shop and the Healthy Living Annex provided many resources for those who attended the event, including free condoms and access to sexual health services. These resources are inclusive and available for all McGill students. The Healthy Living Annex organizes student-run workshops on a variety of topics including sexual health, and the Shag Shop coordinator is always available to answer questions regarding sexual health. Furthermore, the McGill Shag Shop is a great sex-positive resource to access sex toys, condoms, lubricants, menstrual products, pregnancy tests, and more at low prices (www.mcgill.ca/shagshop). The Shag Shop also referenced scarleteen.com as a reliable additional resource for sexual health.