Condoms are always in
The following piece was written as a response to the article Under Pressure, which was published in our Frosh Week 2013 print edition.
Orientation Week and the general university experience is different for everyone.
Without a doubt, many students’ experiences are sexualised, gendered and influenced
by popular culture. While, Mark McCann has argued that not including condoms in frosh
kits, or distributing condoms in mass, is a good practice for dispelling sexual social
expectations, we’d argue that it bolsters an environment that perpetuates sexual and
gendered stigma and expectations.
First, it must be mentioned that by-and-large, the university administration does not
hand out condoms to every student. Frosh kits are organised through students’ unions
and condoms are donated through the Sexual Education Centre. To our knowledge,
only the St. Michael’s College administration actually polices condom distribution.
This is important to mention, because the sexual liberation movements on our
campuses have been driven by students, driven by institutionalised stigma within our
university and culture. Students have decided through a referendum to have a Sexual
Education Centre, and that means a condom for everyone (check out their stocks – they
Second, whenever we approach topics such as this – namely, educating first-years
– we need to think on a harm reduction module. Harm reduction strategies focus on
recognising that behaviours exist, and that by policing and/or ignoring behaviours, we
bolster stigmas and unhealthy practices.
We have to remember that first-year students are new to campus, and thus in a new
environment. This means that they are meeting new people, in exploratory stages,
and many are living outside their family residence for the first time. So regardless
of whatever amazing sexual education outreach we may have done in the previous year, we now must serve a whole
new cohort of students that likely have little understanding of sexual
health outside of their grade 10 Physical Education class. Furthermore, the Ontario sexual
education curriculum has not been updated for over fifteen years! This isn’t even
contemplating out-of-province & international students. The process of education, therefore, must start at step one
We also have to remember that while resources like the Sexual Education
Centre [http://sec.sa.utoronto.ca], the Sexual & Gender Diversity Office
sho] exist, many students do not know they exist or how to access them. While
we can fantasize about having an actualised & educated student body, we know this will never be the case by
Orientation. Further, we do not want these services to be used reactively, but rather proactively.
In a Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario fact sheet [http://cfsontario.ca/
downloads/CFS_factsheet_antiviolence.pdf] that came out in April 2013, it was
found that 4 out of 5 female-assigned/identified undergrad students said they had been
victims of violence in a dating relationship. Many on-campus sexual assaults occur in
the first 8 weeks of classes and female assigned/identified people aged 15-24 have
the highest rates of sexual assault across Canada, while 60% of undergraduate male assigned/identified people
stated that they would commit sexual assault if they knew
they would not get caught. This demonstrates many problems that exist on campus,
whether students are actually even choosing to be sexually active or not. Distributing
condoms is not only a means of promoting safer sex, but it can also open conversations
regarding consent and what consent entails.
We need to promote these services more effectively than we are now. Handing out
a condom is one part of starting that conversation. Unfortunately, making people
uncomfortable is part of this conversation too. How can we mould that discomfort into
a constructive dialogue? Rather than striving to make everyone happy, we should be
looking at a diversity of tactics in educating and starting these dialogues. It is about
consistently educating, agitating & organising. Let’s push our residences, our campus
groups and the individuals on campus groups to adopt better policies, better training
and more resources – but let’s not pretend that handing out condoms is inhibiting these
Finally, handing out a condom does not encourage sexual activity – it promotes safer
sex – and if done correctly, has the possibility of kicking off constructive dialogue.
Ultimately, students are conscious individual bodies that are bombarded with socialised
cultures of sex, gender, race, ability, and identity. Isn’t it better to address it on our own
Corey Scott & Torsten Hamelin are the Public Relations Coordinator & Resources
Coordinator (respectively) of the Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals & Trans People of the
University of Toronto. LGBTOUT has a Drop-in Centre at 73 St. George Street under
the Sir Daniel Wilson Archway. They are always looking for volunteers, check out