As Toronto teems with first year students anxious to begin their new lives as quasi-adults at Canada’s top university, a crash course on everything U of T is imminent. Unsurprisingly, this wave of information is going to include a lot of common misconceptions about life after high school. Some of these issues remain universal to higher education in North America, while others will hit far closer to home.
St. Michael’s College has long held strong traditional and religious affiliations with the Roman Catholic Church, while in recent memory it has become widely known as a permanent fixture on the U of T “party” scene. This divergence of spirit has amplified the college’s controversial stance on condoms. SMC has long shied away from the liberal dose of condoms given to first year students across the rest of campus, refusing to include the contraceptives in incoming students’ frosh kits.
Frankly, it is not worthwhile to sift through the merits and flaws of Catholic Church policies here. Putting aside the fact that a few years ago Pope Benedict XVI softened the Church’s hard line against condoms, let’s look at SMC’s policy from a secular perspective. With that in mind, SMC’s refusal to include condoms in frosh kits is the right decision.
Frosh week has long been cartoonishly over-sexualized in popular culture. Many students approach the week with the notion that they are entering a sex-fueled fantasy; for most, however, this is far from reality. Oddly, the University continues to support this stereotype by handing out a condom to every newcomer. Compounded with pop culture’s exaggerated notions of frosh week, receiving a condom from the University administration places unnecessary pressure and expectations on 17 and 18 year-old students. Though well-intentioned, this practice is misguided.
Take a step back from frosh week, a few months back, to the dreaded and sacred prom night. Similar to frosh, pop culture has created delusions about sex and prom that are largely unfounded and unrealistic. Fortunately, the sexual confusion and awkwardness of prom is not magnified by a principal pinning a condom next to every student’s corsage.
It should not be the University’s mandate to indirectly reinforce expectations and stereotypes about when it is acceptable to have sex, while at the same time falling wondrously short of promoting an adult conversation about the topic. This is to say that a more accurate and open dialogue about sex and sexual health should exist on campus. The promotion of important spaces like U of T’s Sexual Education Centre is much needed. Places where students can go and learn about safe sex practices and even pick up condoms free of charge, in a way that does not constantly prompt the question: “Is everyone getting laid without me?” Only this route will promote a student body open to talking about the realities of sex, free of taboo and inane misconceptions.