I was rather disappointed with the Fulcrum’s recent sex supplement, which was published as part of the issue released prior to reading week. Before continuing, I should note that I don’t begrudge the Fulcrum for its interest in writing about sex. Sexuality is an important subject, and the sex supplement was likely of interest to many readers. However, I am disappointed by the cavalier way in which the Fulcrum discussed sexuality, and especially by the absence of any voices supporting sexual abstinence outside of marriage.
According to the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada, approximately 25 per cent of university students have never had anal, vaginal, or oral sex. While this figure no doubt includes some who would have sex given the chance, it does not include those who have had sex before but have since chosen to become abstinent. That shouldn’t be surprising. Our university is quite diverse, and our student community includes people with different religious, moral, and personal objections to the way our broader culture treats sexuality. In fact, there are a significant number of students who believe that only people in a loving marriage ought to be having sex, and who try (with varying degrees of success) to live in light of that belief by abstaining from sex outside of marriage.
I know the things I’ve written above because I’ve spent the past three-and-a-half years of my life at this university, and have learned many of them as a result of my own and my friends’ experiences. But when I first arrived here as an impressionable 17-year-old, I got a considerably less nuanced view. It wasn’t just the exclusion of voices supporting abstinence from the Fulcrum’s sex supplements, nor even just Dear Di columns treating sexuality in a remarkably casual manner. There were also the condoms in my frosh kit, on my CA’s door, and all over the hallways and student spaces. There were the crude, and frequently degrading, treatments of sex in 101 Week chants (because nothing says “let’s make friends” like shouting “fuck you” in response to an attitude check). Everywhere I looked, my campus community was telling me that everyone — and I mean everyone — was doing “it.”
This, together with the vision of a loose sexuality promoted by our commercial and popular culture, and the simple fact that I was a 17-year-old male (with the raging hormones that implies), sent me a clear message. I was strange and out of place, and my religious and moral views regarding sexuality were just eccentric.
I shared my story to personalize the account, but I suspect that there are many students who feel the same way, or at least who have felt the same way at some point their here at the University of Ottawa. To those students, I say that you are not alone; there are many others who believe, like you, in abstaining from sex, at least for the time being. And even if there weren’t, you get to define the limits of your sexuality, not our popular or campus culture.
To the rest of our student community, I would simply suggest that a truly inclusive campus would not cause those students who are trying to define what their sexuality means to them, including those exploring abstinence, to feel uncomfortable or out of place. This is particularly important given the special importance of sexuality and sexual identity in our young lives. We talk a lot on this campus about heteronormativity, euro-centrism, and other forms of bias. That’s a good thing because these norms can have pernicious effects. But we mustn’t forget that there are other norms, like the one that says we all must be having sex regardless of our personal values, that have similarly harmful effects on those who deviate from them. To the extent that the Fulcrum’s sex supplement encouraged this anti-abstinence norm, I think it may have been harmful, but if this letter can encourage my fellow students to work towards a campus sexual culture that includes those who are abstinent, then I think it may have been worthwhile.
Fourth-year philosophy and public administration