January was Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), an initiative that aims to raise awareness and understanding about the issues around sexual assault. Sexual Assault Awareness Month is a collaborative initiative that has been running since 2010 at UBC, involving many campus partners to provide inclusive and action-based programming. This year, some events for SAAM included Denim Day, a number of workshops on issues on sexual violence, and consent booths around campus.
As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I decided to attend an event hosted by the Global Lounge, called Sex in all Languages. As someone growing up in a traditional Chinese household in Canada, I was curious about the different experiences and perspectives on sexual norms, expectations, and practices from others cultures.
Upon arriving at the Global Lounge, I was surprised at the sheer number of people who came to attend the event. My surprise mostly came from my knowledge that sex has historically been a rather taboo conversation topic and the fact that 40 or more people of various backgrounds attended meant that there was huge interest in discussing the topic!
After mingling with the attendees and facilitators before the start of the event, I realized just how diverse a group this was. There were people of all cultures, orientations, and religious backgrounds – to me, it was a truly unique experience.
After hearing about the experiences and perspectives from a diverse group of panelists, we were able to choose a topic that interested us for smaller, more in-depth discussions.
- Virginity and sexual debut, sex before or after marriage, first time experiences
- LGBTQ, gender non-binary
- Sexual norms in different cultures
- Consent and talking about sex in a healthy way
- Interracial and intercultural relationship/sexual experience
- Your sexual journey
The small group tables for each topic were arranged so that people could all sit around them cross-legged and were draped in a colourful embroidered fabrics. Each table was stocked with a different kind of tea and colouring pages. I chose to go to the LGBTQ+ and the My Sexual Journey tables. We talked about a variety of topics such as whether consent was different for people in the LGBTQ+ community, how identifying as a particular sexual orientation can have political reasons, and how our views on sex have changed over the years. Any discomfort I had at first was quickly diminished by everyone else’s open-minded, non-judgmental attitudes. At the end of the night, I was left wanting to go to more tables. Being able to talk in such an inclusive space with complete strangers about one of the most intimate, personal aspects of myself was a unique and powerful experience for me.
I think this was a great event for Sexual Assault Awareness Month as it opened up the dialogue for various topics surrounding sex that are not normally discussed. I hope organizations on campus continue to create safe spaces like this one for people to feel empowered to talk about their own experiences with sex.
The event was developed in partnership with a number of campus groups including:
If you’re interested, make sure to check these groups out!
Post written by: Maria Zhu