‘We’re trying to normalize being sexually healthy and make it as normal as going to the dentist’
Lucie Atangana, a fourth-year political science student at the University of Ottawa and her friend, Marina Verde, a fourth-year history student came together to launch the digitally-operated University of Ottawa Sexual Health Centre (UOSHC) on Instagram.
In early March, Atangana decided to begin working on launching an online resource centre for everything related to sex and sexuality after noticing a lack of information on campus and had been discussing the idea with friends for over a year prior.
“I’ve noticed that sexual health is not something that is very discussed on campus,” said Atangana.
“Through personal experience, there is a big need on campus for more accessibility … more knowledge and information with what it means to be sexually healthy.”
“The quality of sex education has always been quite low,” expressed Atangana.
As a previous volunteer with the Womxn’s Resource Centre (WRC), Verde reached out and helped Atangana facilitate and begin the process of launching the UOSHC.
“She’s [Atangana] a very determined person and she made it happen so quickly,” said Verde.
With over 130 followers and counting, the feedback thus far has been positive, with students, the University of Ottawa Students’ Union (UOSU), the Women Resources Centre and the Pride Centre all expressing support for the UOSHC.
A social media campaign was also launched late this summer that will span across the entire year. Verde and Atangana were very clear that the UOSHC is not a medical centre who will provide medical advice, but they will provide students with places they can go and get treatment or proper medical advice.
“I think social media really is the best way to get people the information they need … it’s the best way to get the health centre started,” said Verde.
The social media campaign will focus on a different topic every month. They plan on covering topics such as personal hygiene, sex 101, kinks and kink-shaming, consent and safe sex, sexual disorders, cultural perceptions of sex and sexual violence.
“The main thing we want to do is not only information and content, but everytime we post something we post resources in Ottawa related to what we’re talking about,” said Atangana.
“It’s [UOSHC] for everyone … the entire LGBTQ2+ community, men. We want everyone to feel like it’s a safe space to get help, talk and learn,” said Verde.
Doctor Peggy Kleinplatz, a professor of medicine at the U of O who also specializes in sexual education said that the effects of an inadequate sexual education are far reaching.
Ontario previously had a comprehensive sexual education implemented by former premier, Kathleen Wynne. In addition to the things that are currently taught in our sexual education, comprehensive sexual education encompasses things such as the LGBTQ2+, relationships and individuals desires to have sex and how to ask for it explained Kleinplatz.
“It is far more inclusive,” said Kleinplatz. “It would be helpful for adolescents to have a clear idea of how to ask for what they want responsibly and to be able to say no effectively,” she said.
A lack of a comprehensive sexual education can make individuals feel less equipped to ask for and have the kind of sex they want, as well as have their boundaries respected. On a broader level, the inclusivity and mutual respect that is often taught within comprehensive education is lost when people are not taught it.
For Atangana and Verde, emphasizing how sexual health is an important part of your physical health (despite how taboo the topic may come across) and helping people understand how their sexual health impacts their life are motivators for the UOSHC.
“We’re trying to normalize being sexually healthy and make it as normal as going to the dentist,” Atangana said.
Looking forward, Atangana hopes to have a physical location on campus with a doctor and nurse present to help test students for sexually transmitted infections. She hopes a location on campus will allow for a centralized spot for students to go to for everything related to their sex and sexuality, instead of having to go to multiple different locations on campus.
“It shouldn’t take you over five hours to get tested from the moment you step into the walk-in clinic [on campus],” said Atangana.