The Sex Positivity Education and Advocacy Centre (SpeaC), previously known as the Sex Positivity Club, has recently become a resource centre. I had the pleasure of sitting down with the Head Coordinator, Samantha Maki, and Assistant Head Coordinator, Lauren Vernaleken, to discuss all about what they offer to students. We had a delightfully informative and interesting conversation.
Tell me about the resource centre.
We do a ton of things. We have a team of sex researchers, we do basic sex education, as well as just having conversations about sex and sexuality because they need to be had.
One of the things we hear most from students is that they don't get sufficient Sex Ed when they're in high school,
So, we are providing more resources and more opportunities to learn and we are providing safe spaces to just engage with ideas about sex and sexuality.
The piece about sex positivity is really important, because not a lot of people understand it. It's a very new concept, but it's the idea that everyone has their own choices. Everyone can be interested in different things. Just because you're not interested in it doesn't mean that I can't be interested in it.
We like to approach everything from a standpoint of inclusivity and diversity and understanding that diversity isn't just race, gender, or physical things. It's also diversity in behaviors as well.
So, I could just walk in and ask you anything?
You could, yeah. If we don't have the answer, then we're happy to find it or investigate with you. The other day, I actually got down on the floor and did a position because I didn't have the dolls we have now. Someone was asking about specifically stimulating the prostate. So, I was trying to explain it with my hands, and I had our sex toys out. But, it's really hard to visualize. So I actually got down on the floor, which isn't what we normally do. But, if it helps you understand. Afterwards, this person was like, ‘oh my God, thank you, that was so helpful.’
So, you can come in here to talk to us about kink, you can talk to us about condom use.
You could really open up any conversation.
We're happy to discuss someone's feelings, or the stigmas and the shame they feel around sex because sometimes just having someone to talk to about how you're dealing with the shame you feel around sex and porn and all that is huge. Right?
Everyone on our team is very passionate about comprehensive Sex Ed and providing better understanding and creating a community of people who are not going to judge you. It’s just about creating those spaces. And, I think that's so important especially since we became a resource centre. So many people have come to us and said, ‘how did no one do this sooner? Why was this not a thing?’ Even on campus, resources like health and wellness and SVPRO [Sexual Violence Prevention and Resource Centre] are all absolutely through the moon. They’ve been supporting us for six months, while we went through the process of trying to make it happen. So it's something that the campus wants and it's great.
What is the difference now that the club has become a resource centre?
Clubs on campus have a little bit less access to things. So, as a resource centre, we are actually a part of the SUO. Now, we have more access to funds for students, so that we can actually do things for you, give back, educate, bring people in, whatever that looks like. But, we can also buy educational tools.
We have a whole kit of sex toys of all varieties so that people can see them in person. We have all of this really amazing stuff that people can actually engage with, which has made all the difference.
As a club, it was so hard to do that because there's only a certain amount of funds that are available. We felt clubs will focus more on the fun events, which are really important.
But, one of the things that we do as a resource centre that clubs don't normally do is that we hold this space. And that's so important because students can actually come into the room, sit down, and have conversations. People will come in for resources, people come in just to chat, people come in to hang out.
What are your future goals for the resource centre?
I think our hope is to continue a lot of the cool things we've done this year. We've started a lot of really great initiatives as well as educational things. We've done a lot of really cool parties too, which is super fun. We've also been focusing a lot on our social media, which has a lot of hilarious reels and silly stuff to watch and learn from.
We have a couple of services that we want to try to bring on campus, and the Sexual Health Awareness Gala (SHAG) will become an annual event. We also have an online educational series, SexU, that we're recording live each week.
We have recently started a service called the Black Bag service. And what that is that we will buy your sex toys for you. We will order them with our account, and you pay us via an etransfer. Then, we have it shipped here, and you pick it up here, it's great. So it's an even more discreet way to buy sex toys. Sex stores are really intimidating and so are online stores sometimes and they're very gendered. And so we're trying to provide as many tools here so that you can see them in person, and then buy them online through us so that you can mitigate whatever shame or feelings you have.
The other thing that we're hoping to do is STI buddies. So, providing volunteers who will go with you to get STI tested if you're nervous, or if you're feeling scared, or to go get your blood taken for that purpose, or even a buddy to come with you to SVPRO, because it can be intimidating.
Is there anything you would like to add?
I think people feel alone a lot, or they feel like, I’m not normal, I’m weird, I'm bad, I’m shameful. We're trying to help move away from that and try to start the conversation about, you don't like what I like, I still think you're a great person. That doesn't mean that you're a disgusting person. That doesn't mean that you're less of a person. You’re still a human being and you have your own rights as long as you're not hurting anyone else without consent.
We operate on the phrase “don't yuck my yum,” which is essentially: if I like it, don't shame me for it. Communication as lubrication is our other one. So, that's what we're trying to do. We're trying to open up that conversation.
We’re really trying to make sure that people have a space to communicate with us, but also talk to someone about how to communicate with others.
We also have our giant thing of sex toys. And that is something that people can actually come and see and they can play with. They’re all functional. We have a wide range. We have gender affirming, we have anal, we have insertion, we have suction. Whatever you could think of we have it, because we want to be able to have that as a resource.
If you are interested in getting in touch with SPeaC, you can follow their Instagram @ubcospc or visit them on campus in UNC 132.