Consent, sexual pleasure and sexual health were all themes discussed during this year’s orientation week. These discussions culminated in a presentation entitled “Let’s Talk About Sex.”
The presentation was led by Halifax-based sex education shop Venus Envy in partnership with Mount Allison Sexual Harassment and Assault Response and Education (SHARE). It aimed to educate first-year students on the importance of consensual, safe and pleasurable sexual encounters.
Orientation Chair Meghan McCracken described the event as “hilarious and engaging.” McCracken said the event took a step forward in promoting sex positivity and preventing sexual assault on campus.
“[Venus Envy] was really awesome at including students of all backgrounds, sexual orientations, abilities, etc.,” she said.
The orientation committee partnered with SHARE throughout the week to ensure discussions of consent and sexual assault prevention were constantly present. Shannon Power, a third-year international relations student and SHARE summer intern, said that Venus Envy’s presentation was welcoming and inclusive. Power also said that the presentation ensured students that “their various identities were going to be respected and celebrated.”
SHARE hosted a number of workshops and presentations with residence assistants (RAs), executive residence members, dons, yellow shirts, and the Meighen Centre to ensure that all orientation participants felt safe.
Power also said that there were limitations and “time constraints [placed on SHARE] within Student Life’s framework of training for the RAs.”
“But consent education [alone] is not nearly enough to actually stop sexual violence,” said Power, referring to campus rape culture.
First-year student Laren Bedgood said that while the talk was humorous and fun, more could have been done throughout the week to ensure that sexual violence and sexual health issues were properly addressed, specifically by discussing pregnancy and STIs.
“I would feel better going to a school where at least I know everyone was given the information,” Bedgood said.
First-year student JB Tambeau said that it was essential for Mt. A to hold such an event during orientation week.
“The more that people understand about sexual health and sexuality, the better they can understand themselves,” he said. According to Tambeau, the presentation focused on affirmatively consensual, pleasurable sexual encounters that promoted an openness about sex at Mt. A.
McCracken and the orientation committee also removed a previous staple of orientation week, the paint party. McCracken said the paint party was an unsafe event for first-year students. “It was a priority for me to tackle this year because [the paint party] was in a dark field…no one was checking bracelets, anybody could have walked over, we couldn’t really see people out there,” McCracken said.
McCracken said that orientation week in general carries a huge risk for sexual violence due to cultural norms associated with students’ first week of freedom. “Some of the events, the way we’ve done them in the past here, don’t promote sexual violence, but they definitely don’t create an environment that prevents it,” she said, referring to the paint party and a lack of alternative events.
McCracken said she believes that this year’s orientation committee moved in the right direction to contribute to tackling issues related to sexual violence.