Student Life

Women’s knees are weak for gay romance

With over 70 million copies sold worldwide and a movie on the way, you would need to live under a rock to be unaware of the 50 Shades of Grey mania, by author E. L. James, that has been going on around us since 2011. Women in particular, regardless of age, love to read about romance and sex. In fact, about 80 per cent of buyers were female, according to a Bowker Market Research analysis (and that goes without counting the men that bought the book not for themselves, but for their lady).

Photo from Flickr.

However, another fact has also come forward in the midst of the “50 Shades” explosion. Straight women do not restrict themselves to typical heterosexual love stories: they also love male on male romance and erotica books.

“By following on the heels and fandom of Twilight, E.L. James put kink on strip-mall shelves at a moment when public sexuality is permitted to go further and farther,” said Damon Suede, bestselling author of gay romance novels Hot Head and the recent Bad Idea.

“The impact on romance audiences has been seismic. The minute readers could access the atypical love stories they wanted without fear of censorship and reprisal, erotic romance exploded internationally.”

Suede’s first novel, Hot Head, sat at number one in its category on Amazon for six months and even made it into the general romance bestsellers list. His biggest fans are, yes, straight women. In fact, his biggest fan club named, Damon’s Bitches, is mainly female, “a group of sassy young women in killer shoes.” But why does male on male culture, love and sex stories appeal so much to straight women?

According to Suede, the easy explanation is that straight women are extremely curious about male feelings, but can’t get information about them from their emotionally silent heterosexual partners. They then turn to gay friends or literature for insight.

“Hetero ladies dream of big, rugged, brutal men…who can also cry and snuggle with that one special someone. They crave books that give them a window into the mysterious male psyche and romances offer that view in spades,” explained Suede.

To him, the difference between women and men growing up, and how it affects their views of things, is another explanation. Since gay men are born in a certain “male” way but adopt new “female” views growing up, they possess both sexes’ perspectives, a “double vision of the world” which is why they are so fascinating to women.

In a Yaoi Research analysis of Geoffrey Knight’s Why Straight Women Love Gay Romance, fantasy author and magazine editor Dru Pagliassotti also explains that straight women love male on male romance and erotica for many reasons. Some like it because it avoids gender stereotypes (especially the damsel in distress), because it’s arousing, more complex, and because women can relate to both male heroes and not be “annoyed by the weak heroine” often found in heterosexual romance novels.

Suede agrees saying, “Male vulnerability, tenderness, ferocity, and vulgarity get unleashed in gay erotica. All that Miss Manners courting gets tossed out; dudes get down to business without any need for niceties.”

One may ask then, “Well, if it’s so exciting, why aren’t all women reading gay romance?” According to Pagliassotti’s research, there are three ways to answer this question. It can either be because there is a lack of exposure, since gay romance and erotica is still not a mainstream genre. It can also be because women are afraid of what they will read or are afraid of getting “caught.” Finally, it could be because of the spiral of silence revolving around the genre; perhaps not all gay romance readers are willing to admit their literary preferences in public. Nonetheless, the genre is being read, whether privately or publicly and books like 50 Shades of Grey has definitely enticed some women to come out of the closet.

Student Life

Cultured Cuisine

I know, I know…What the hell is Dutch food?

Odds are, you will probably never hear, “I’m craving DUTCH food SO BAD right now…” on this side of the Atlantic.

Truth is, not a lot of Netherlanders actually live in Montreal today, compared to immigrants of other European countries. And those who do (under 15,000 people) have integrated themselves so well that they have kept their traditions mostly for special occasions.

According to Joanna H. Lowenstein, author of A Social History of the Dutch in Quebec, after World War II, when Canada was experiencing a huge wave of immigrants, the Dutch population mostly went to Ontario or to other provinces. Some did stay in Quebec, and especially in the Montreal area, but most of them “integrated quickly and many faded away into the general population.”

However, this does not mean that Dutch traditions are forgotten. Most Netherlanders simply keep their ways and pass them on in the privacy of their own homes, never trying to push them onto others.

But enough about history. The dish I am presenting today is a traditional Dutch Stamppot. This is a hearty winter dish, for those snowy days, spent ice-skating on the Amsterdam canals while singing Christmas carols in unison.

OK… For us, it’s more like those “finish class at Loyola at 8 p.m., slip on an ice patch while running after the shuttle, have an unpleasant ride in a crowded metro and finally get home at 11 p.m., all this during a snowstorm” days. Nevertheless, this recipe is cheap, easy to do, and feels good after a long day.

“In the winter in Holland, every family eats it at least once a week. It is usually served in the big pot on the table, with a big smoked sausage on top”, said Gauke de Jonge, representative of Nederlanders in Montreal (and true expat; he has been in Montreal since 1965). Stamppot is very versatile. You can switch endives for spinach, kale, carrots, replace the sausage with meatballs, use sweet potatoes, add bacon, wherever your taste or budget takes you.

Photo by Anne Kingma-Lord.


– 2 large potatoes, cleaned, peeled, and cut into chunks

– 1 head of endives, cut into small pieces

– 1/2 onion, chopped

– 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

– 2 tablespoons of butter

– 1 cup of warm milk

– Salt and pepper, to taste

– 1 large Dutch smoked sausage (Rookworst)

1. In a large pot, boil the potatoes until they easily break apart (around 20 minutes)

Meanwhile, to steam your sausage, place it in your steam machine or on a colander that fits into a pot lightly filled with boiling water. Cover for about 15 minutes.

2.In a smaller saucepan, stir-fry your onions and garlic in the butter until they turn light brown.

3.When the potatoes are ready, mash them with a fork and add the milk to make the mash smooth.

4. Add the raw endives, fried onions and garlic to the potato mix and stir. Use salt and pepper to taste.

5. Place the smoked sausage on top, and voila!

Eet smakelijk!


Student Life

DESTA gives hope to the forgotten youth

Off the streets and into the working class, DESTA, the Black Youth Network, is a government-funded group that helps young people reverse their downward spirals in the Little Burgundy neighbourhood of Montreal.

The founder, Frances Waithe, is a mother of eight and a foster mom. She started the charity in 2007 after realizing just how much there was a lack of citizen support for the black youth in Montreal. Helped by a group of community workers, Waithe and her team began wondering what they could do to help. Since then, DESTA has been an organization that succeeds in demarginalizing black 18 to 25-year-olds in our city.

Waithe has been a caregiver all her life, a trait she takes from her mother, who was also a foster mom. She sees the everyday need for an organization like DESTA, and she makes it a mission to help each person that walks through her office door.

“This is my community; these are my friends and my extended family,” she said, adding that a space like DESTA is a place that young people can walk into and call home.

The first of DESTA’s participants to obtain his high school diploma with the organization’s help was a young man named Dwayne Clark. Tattooed all the way up to his neck, he went from being on the streets to becoming a programmer for computer games at Montreal’s CDI College. “I know I’m in a different place in my life, and DESTA definitely helped out with it,” he said.

There are three main points that define how DESTA works: education, health and personal development.

“They don’t call MTL M-T-Hell for no reason. This age group is getting caught up in the streets or getting locked up, we don’t want that,” said Mustafa, a representative for the network. “What we do is help them go back to school, gain personal development, whatever crisis they have.”

The charity runs numerous resources. For education, among other things, DESTA operates an alternative school to help participants obtain their high school diploma with a one-on-one tutoring service. They also have on-site counselors to assist people with their housing, psychological or direct physical health problems. Also, the organization holds a series of activities to support the interests of participants and help them develop as active members of society. “These go from sexuality, to leadership skills, to T.V. writing and the list goes on,” said Waithe.

Concordia students have a history of working with DESTA as many volunteers and tutors are students.

Concordia students who wish to participate in one of DESTA’s events can attend its Health Awareness Day on May 30, where kiosks and workshops will be held on various subjects ranging from boot camp and yoga classes to HIV and drug information sessions. This will be held in the charity’s offices on 1950 St-Antoine W. St. The very popular annual gala, which is the group’s biggest event of the year, will take place June 4.


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Student Life

Drink up ladies and gents!

In a city full of university students, it comes as no surprise to learn that Montreal is one of the most alcohol-friendly cities in Canada.

Graphic Jennifer Kwan

Since most students are tired of hearing how drinking is so bad for them, it may be of interest to know that some alcoholic beverages do have health benefits. Truth is, no matter how hard I look for a miracle drink, it never manifested… but all hope is not lost!

At this point in time, red wine is the only alcoholic beverage with scientifically proven benefits.

“Because the skin of red grapes contains polyphenols (such as resveratrol), red wine has an important antioxidant power,” said Anne-Marie Gagné, nutritionist at Trois-Rivières’ Health and Social Services Centre. “This doesn’t apply to white wine, since it doesn’t contain the same type of grapes, but red wine has proven to be effective against certain heart diseases, Type 2 diabetes and cognitive decline in old age,” she added.

Resveratrol is a type of antioxidant found naturally in other fruits as well such as blueberries and cranberries.

However, not everybody enjoys a glass of red wine, and some researchers say it might not be the only brand of booze which has health benefits. Madrid scientists, Rayo Llerena and Marin Huerta, have found that alcohol, regardless of the type, can have the same benefits as wine. The subjects of the study were given beer, wine and vodka, showing that ethanol is the beneficial ingredient. In small quantities, ethanol can decrease cardiovascular mortality from heart disease and stroke as compared to non-drinkers, according to the United States National Library of Medicine.

This mind-blowing declaration is explained by the duo’s belief that alcohol can elevate HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) and can decrease LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol), therefore making us healthier.

On top of that, a study conducted by researchers of Oregon State University found that alcohol, consumed in moderation, could also improve bone density, and therefore prevent fractures. According to Urszula Iwaniec, an associate professor and one of the study’s authors, this could especially affect postmenopausal women.

A similar study in Australia, directed by Professor Howard Morris from the Hanson Institute, focused specifically on beer and discovered its health benefits on human bones. The study was based on a sample of 1,700 women with an average age of 48. They were asked about their drinking and underwent ultrasound scans of the hands, as finger bones are the first to show any signs of osteoporosis. The results concluded that the bones of the beer drinkers were denser, thus stronger.

Beer is known to be a great source of dietary silicon, an ingredient that plays a major role in increasing bone mineral density. More specifically, beer that contains high levels of hops and malted barley are richest in silicon.

Eureka! We have finally proven that drinking is good for us! Of course, like everything else, alcohol should be consumed in moderation. “One glass per day for women and two for men,” said Gagné.

Furthermore, we should also be wary that sometimes published studies are later proven to be false. We must keep in mind that scientific studies are peer-reviewed and sometimes biased. Almost everything we consume is a healer one week and a killer the next, so we must use our judgment when comparing scientific results.

In addition, it has not been proven that drinking, even in moderate amounts, is good for the general population. Being intoxicated increases our chances of dying of other causes, especially injury, cirrhosis of the liver and some types of cancer thereby outweighing the benefits cited earlier.

Aside from the pros and cons of alcohol that change with every newly published study, calorie intake is one that is inevitable. Drink hard liquor alone or with mineral water rather than juice or soda or drink light beer because “one gram of alcohol is twice as fattening as one gram of sugar,” says Gagné.


Malala Yousafzai: an unsung hero

“In the world, girls are going to school freely. And there is no fear. But in Swat, when we go to our school, we are very afraid of Taliban. He will kill us. He will throw acid on our face. He can do anything.”

Malala Yousafzai pronounced these words when she was only 11 years old, when she was still able to attend her private school in Swat Valley, Pakistan. Now, at 15, Malala is an icon and encourages people to fight for girl’s education all around the world.

Last Tuesday, Malala was attacked on her way back from school. Why? Because she showed up for class. Because the Taliban wants girls in schools to wear the burka, a veil that covers the whole body and only leaves a grating for eyesight. Because she defied the Taliban by saying things like: “they cannot stop me,” and “I will get my education if it’s at home, school or anywhere else.”

People in Pakistan need to be inspired by this young girl. In a country where women are seriously oppressed, she stepped up and defied the Taliban. This 15-year-old girl has brought a country to its knees.

“This is a turning point. In Pakistan, for the first time, all political parties, Urdus, Christians, Sikhs, all religions prayed for my daughter,” said Ziauddin Yousafzai, Malala’s father.

“She is not just my daughter, she is everybody’s daughter.”

Countries like Pakistan, that are terrorized day after day by groups such as the Taliban, need to find their voice, just like Malala did. More importantly, it is imperative that the rest of the world take action as well.

I am deeply moved by this young girl, and feel ashamed for sometimes taking my education for granted. As educated and free university students, it is our duty to take a stand against this injustice.

“Why should we let a bunch of uneducated cowards and thugs be the press secretaries of Islam when the faith, much like Western secular values, is an illustrious enabler of women education? Please. Understand that we have a shared enemy here,” said Dr. Faheem Younus, clinical associate professor at the University of Maryland and the founder of the website He said he was shocked by the Taliban’s actions and argued that Islamic belief and values have nothing to do with these fearful men.

Fortunately, Yousafzai did not die, she is still being treated in the UK.

The state of things in Pakistan are seriously deteriorating. Children are woken up by the sound of gunfire at night. People receive daily Taliban threats via FM radio and the list of refugees in camps is growing. Worst of all, teachers and children (especially girls) don’t go to school because they are afraid of being beheaded, whipped, or publicly humiliated.

Populations living in fear is what drives organizations like the Taliban. People need to start defying fear mongerers; Yousafzai has done it, and despite threats from the Taliban that she will be killed if she returns, she’s insisting they return home and she’s already started preparing for her exams. Talk about inspiring.

I can only hope that Malala’s shooting will wake people up and expose the horror of what is happening, not only in Pakistan, but in other countries experiencing violent unrest as well.

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