Netflix’s dating shows have a sex problem

The streaming service’s roster promises raunchiness but delivers an antiquated scolding

Since the start of the pandemic, Netflix has been pumping out reality shows left and right. Once the place to go for high-concept prestige TV, with early titles like “The Crown” and “House of Cards.” In recent years, Netflix has cast a wider net, venturing into the murky world of dating shows. This move makes sense, as while in lockdown, many yearned to be able to go out and meet new people, with casual dating being risky at best. So, what could be better than absorbing the sexy, flirty, and even awkward experiences of strangers, right from the comfort of your couch?

Unfortunately, Netflix’s quarantine roster did not deliver on the fun raunch viewers have come to expect from reality dating shows. Instead, it doled out a heavy hand of sex-negativity and falsehoods on basic human attraction.

This trend is no more obvious than in the streaming service’s breakout hit “Too Hot to Handle.” In this show, so-called “sex-crazed singles” are lured to an island vacation on the false promise of all-night parties and uninhibited hookups. However, in what can only be described as a horror movie-esque twist, they soon realize that they are actually going to be judged on their ability to remain celibate, while under the pressure of a cash prize that decreases with every sexual indiscretion. The show’s Amazon Alexa-style robot judge posits this test as a way to force the contestants to foster “real” romantic connections with each other, rather than focusing on sex.

What results is a show with a perfectly serviceable amount of relationship drama, where the contestants learn to be “better people” through activities like wellness workshops, and break a few rules along the way. But, despite the moderate fun, always in the background is an impossible-to-ignore puritanical view that casual sex is somehow incompatible with a happy and fulfilling life.

“Too Hot to Handle” is not Netflix’s only show peddling this ideology. Both the recent “Sexy Beasts” and the early-quarantine smash hit “Love Is Blind” fall prey to similarly regressive views. In “Love Is Blind,” singles meet each other through an opaque wall, with only their conversations to connect them. The aim of the show is to foster relationships not built on physical attraction.

Similarly, in “Sexy Beasts” the romantic hopefuls can’t see each other. However, in this show, that is because the contestants are decked out in ridiculous animal and monster prosthetics for their dates. This renders them unrecognizable, and rather ugly. Both of these shows argue that when dating, physicality is the least important indicator of compatibility, and in fact, we should ignore it all together.

The issue is, this isn’t exactly true. For the vast majority of people, physical attraction is, if not very important, at least an influential factor in determining compatibility. While yes, there can be a point in which someone becomes vain or overly obsessed with looks in their partners, as humans, we generally experience sexual attraction as a fundamental fact of life.

With that, pairing couples up with either no clue what each other looks like or no experience with each others’ physical touch could lead to some awkward encounters later down the road when they realize they just aren’t compatible in that way.

But that shouldn’t be punished, right? Simply not being physically or sexually attracted to someone isn’t a moral lapse. All these shows try to convince viewers that the sheer desire to be with someone you find attractive is a non-sequitur to romance and we should try to learn to date differently.

While I think most of us would agree with the cliché that inner beauty is what really matters, and that there are some real issues with contemporary hookup culture, it’s impossible to take physicality out of the equation for the vast majority of people. It begs the question why Netflix’s shows need to demonize this fact of life.

Furthermore, on both “Sexy Beasts” and “Love is Blind,” once faces are revealed (spoiler alert), all the contestants turn out to be wildly conventionally attractive. So, if all the options were thin, young, clear-skinned, seemingly able-bodied people anyway, what sort of message is this even conveying? What are the stakes here?

These shows seem to have to convince the viewer that the show has a reason for existing. Rather than relying on the fact that many of us simply want to watch a bunch of hot dummies create drama with each other like we have for two decades on Bravo and E!, Netflix needs to convince itself these new dating shows are all “social experiments” made to uncover some hidden dirty truths about modern romance. Thus, no, a show where singles dress up in animal prosthetics to go on dinner dates can’t just exist for fun. It must now spoon-feed viewers a moral on the importance of inner beauty. This leads to a series of shows with convoluted rules and uninteresting storylines.  There’s obviously space in the culture for thought-provoking stories on love and relationships, but come on, can’t Netflix just throw us a bone for once?


Photo collage by Kit Mergaert


“Big Mouth” captures the awkwardness of puberty

Brutally honest, the Netflix animated sitcom highlights a topic that’s been taboo for too long

There is a prestigious history of animated sitcoms that have proven to be influential on society. From The Simpsons and Rick and Morty to South Park and American Dad, we’ve seen subtle (and not so subtle) social commentary unfold with our favourite four-fingered icons.

Big Mouth is yet another hilarious animated sitcom but with a very taboo focus: puberty. It addresses the uncomfortable, horrible, exciting and confusing time in adolescents’ lives with hilarity and shamelessness. Its range of characters from different backgrounds invokes perspective and empathy. The show examines young boys and girls’ hormonal issues in ways I have never seen before. It is a revolutionary approach to sexual health, and I am convinced it’s a step toward a healthier view of sexuality in our society.

Big Mouth was created by Nick Kroll and Andrew Goldberg. These real life best friends grew up alongside one another as they explored puberty and body changes in very different ways. The character, Andrew (voiced by comedian John Mulaney) was hit by a puberty truck; he grew up with intense hormonal urges that Morty (voiced by Nick Kroll) personifies with his character, the Hormone Monster. The dissonance between Andrew’s awkward, gentle personality and his intense developing sexual desires touches on a huge problem young boys face. The show engages in a conversation surrounding these hormonal impulses, which shines a light on how to properly handle these inevitable urges.

Unlike Andrew, Nick, his best friend (voiced by Nick Kroll) hasn’t hit puberty yet, although he experiences his own anxieties as the show unfolds. Envying his best friend, Nick becomes extremely self-conscious about his underdeveloped body.

Another ingenious character is the Shame Wizard (voiced by David Thewlis). According to Psychology Today, sex induces shame more than anything else in the human condition, in part because of the lack of conversation surrounding it. Many young adults feel alone in their introduction to sexual acts. In the show, the Shame Wizard affects all the students in different ways, and they slowly come to understand that all their peers feel shame in some way or another.

Along with addressing toxic masculinity, it also addresses male bisexuality, an under-discussed topic in today’s society. Male bisexuality is criticized and judged because of false implications about a lack of masculinity. Jay (voiced by Jason Mantzoukas) is a child exploring his intense hormonal impulses with female and male counterparts. In a hilarious and uncomfortable manner, his confusion with this topic unfolds.

Big Mouth also addresses female sexuality, from wearing a bra in public for the first time to exploring masturbation and confusing impulses. It wrestles with consent, communication and contraceptives.

In light of the #MeToo movement and the discussion surrounding sexuality, I think this show pushes boundaries and starts conversations that, for many years, society has been too afraid to discuss. Much like comedian Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade—a 2018 movie that depicts a girl going through puberty with raw and often uncomfortable detail—Big Mouth starts the conversation that society needs to be having right now.

As I laugh along, I’m simultaneously engaging in the most productive conversation I’ve ever had concerning gender roles, shame and sex. So watch the show and prepare to be grossed out and brought back to an uncomfortable time in your life. Nevertheless, watch it with your eyes and ears open. Tell your friends and parents to watch it. But please, don’t watch it with your parents. Or do—you’d be braver than me!

Graphic by Ana Bilokin



Navigating HIV in university

Concordia to offer free rapid HIV testing pop-ups and film screening

In a country where it is a crime not to disclose that you have HIV before having sex, it’s no wonder having an STI comes with so much stigma.

Canadians who are HIV positive can face criminal prosecution for reasons like forgetting to use a condom or failing to alert their sexual partner of their illness before engaging in sexual activity. These people can be charged with aggravated sexual assault, which carries a mandatory designation as a sex offender and a maximum penalty of life in prison.

While these laws are in place for the sake of public health, they might deter people from getting tested. If you don’t get tested, then you can claim ignorance. If you aren’t absolutely certain you have HIV, you can’t be held legally responsible—right?

Unfortunately, this is the worst time in recent history to practice non-disclosure and unsafe sex. According to the Community AIDS Treatment Information Exchange (CATIE), the prevalence of HIV in Canada is increasing and has been since the late 90s. In 2014, an estimated 75,500 Canadians were living with HIV. This number represents an increase of 6,700 people, or 9.7 per cent, since 2011.

CATIE’s website states that more than one in five people living with HIV are unaware that they have the disease. This is extremely dangerous because HIV is a virus that anyone can contract, regardless of their gender or sexual orientation. The illness is most often contracted through sexual contact or needle use. According to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), bodily fluids—such as blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk—from a person who has HIV can transmit the virus to someone when they come in contact with mucous membranes (including the rectum, vagina, penis and mouth), damaged tissue or the bloodstream in any way.

In a university setting, where many young adults begin to experiment with sex and drugs—and sometimes both, together—students may be putting themselves at a higher risk of infection as a result of limited or no condom use. Luckily, resources to increase sexual education, STI prevention and knowledge about treatment options are available to students now more than ever—you just have to know where to look.

Graphic by Alexa Hawksworth

If you think you have an STI

If you’re a Concordia student and you’re worried you might have an STI, you can book an appointment for STI testing Monday through Friday at Concordia’s Health Services on either campus. If you’re experiencing symptoms, you book an appointment with a Health Services physician. If you don’t have symptoms, you can see one of the nurses. There are also a variety of other places around the city where you can get tested for STIs, including CLSCs, Head & Hands and a number of clinics in the Gay Village.

It will take approximately 10 to 14 days for Concordia’s Health Services to receive your test results. You must come to the clinic in person to get them, either through the walk-in clinic or by appointment, where a nurse will explain your results to you and refer you to the appropriate treatment options, if necessary.

The Concordia website warns that it is the patient’s responsibility to follow up after an STI test, noting that students should “never assume that ‘no news is good news.’”

Even if you are convinced you don’t have an STI, testing is recommended for everyone who is sexually active. Many infections show no symptoms, so Concordia’s health professionals recommend students get an STI screening done every six months to a year.

If you’re at high risk for HIV

If you’re planning on having sex with someone who may have an STI, use a condom. Using condoms properly and regularly is the only form of contraception that also reduces the risk of getting or transmitting an STI.

For students at a higher risk of contracting HIV from a partner or through injection drug use, Concordia can also supply you with pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a preventative medication that people with a very high risk for contracting HIV can take regularly to lower their chances of getting infected. According to, prescription guidelines recommend that PrEP be considered mainly for people who are HIV negative and in an ongoing sexual relationship with an HIV-positive partner.

PrEP can only be prescribed by a healthcare provider. Concordia students can book an appointment with a Health Services physician to discuss whether or not it is the right HIV prevention strategy for them.

Without health insurance (public or private), the monthly cost of PrEP can be up to $995, according to Rézo Santé, an organization that provides gay and bisexual men with sexual, mental, social and physical health information. However, if you are covered by the Régie de l’assurance maladie du Québec (RAMQ), PrEP is covered under your plan. However, unless you have received an exemption, there would still be a monthly fee (as of 2015) of up to $83.33.

Montreal pharmacist Maciek Zarzycki told The Concordian that, while PrEP is effective for preventing HIV, it might not be the most cost-effective prevention method.

“It is significantly more cost-effective to use condoms,” Zarzycki said. “For PrEp, you need a prescription from your doctor, as well as a form filled out by your doctor that would approve you to be covered by insurance.” He also noted that PrEP can have several adverse side effects, such as a negative impact on liver health and cholesterol levels.

“Considering the side effects and the cost, it is not the best solution,” said Zarzycki. “Condoms are just as effective in HIV prevention, are significantly less expensive and do not give you any side effects.”

HIV resources at Concordia

Concordia’s HIV/AIDS Project’s mission is to provide a permanent space for dialogue and research on HIV/AIDS and to support students who might be the next generation of HIV/AIDS researchers, activists and teachers. They offer community lectures, courses and internships for students. Their next event will be a film screening of Memories of a Penitent Heart, a documentary that “explores the relationship between memory, stigma and the AIDS crisis,” at 7 p.m. on Feb. 15 at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. The screening will be followed by a discussion with the filmmaker, Cecilia Aldarondo.

Concordia Health Services and the Concordia Student Union (CSU) will be offering a free, three-day, rapid HIV testing clinic this month. Testing at the pop-ups will be confidential, and the whole process will take only 20 minutes. Patients will simply be required to fill out a health questionnaire and briefly meet with a nurse to review the form. After the nurse collects a few drops of the patient’s blood by pricking their finger, they will receive their results about a minute later and have a post-test discussion with the nurse.

The free, rapid HIV testing clinics will take place downtown at the CSU in room H-711 on Feb. 13 and 14, and at the Loyola Hive on the second floor of the Student Centre building on Feb. 15, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Graphic by Zeze Le Lin


Delving into queer experiences

Dane Stewart debuts a self-written, directed and produced endeavour

While reflecting on the intent behind writing his newest theatrical piece, Dane Stewart expressed that he wanted “to combine Foucauldian, feminist, queer theorists and their texts with lived experiences of people in Montreal.”

As one of Concordia’s recent graduates of the individualized master’s program, Stewart is set to debut his play at the MainLine Theatre on Sept. 21. The production, titled The History of Sexuality, explores themes of power, sex and queerness in the context of student life in Montreal. The plot follows five graduate students who are enrolled in a seminar studying the philosophy of French intellectual Michel Foucault. Stewart said he had studied Foucault’s work at Concordia himself and became particularly inspired by the philosopher’s book, also titled The History of Sexuality.

Foucault’s philosophy, along with a number of theatrical pieces using a technique called verbatim theatre prompted Stewart to start writing his own play. Verbatim theatre involves the playwright conducting a series of interviews, transcribing the interviews and using the direct quotes to script the play. So, as Stewart explained, the actors in a verbatim theatre piece would speak the words of the interviewees.

Dane Stewart wrote the play as part of his thesis for his master’s degree. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Typically, this method is used in documentary-style plays so actors portray the real-life people whose words they are speaking. Stewart, however, decided to use the verbatim theatre technique in order to adapt real-life experiences into the lives of fictional characters. He conducted interviews with several people within Montreal’s queer community about their experiences. Then, Stewart extracted sections of these interviews to be spoken by the characters in his play. By doing so, the playwright added, he was able to include a variety of perspectives outside of his own without needing to speak for anyone.

Stewart called this technique “fictionalized verbatim theatre,” although he recognizes that he may not be the only playwright using it. He developed this method while working on his thesis for his master’s degree, and received a grant from CALQ (Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec) to further improve it himself. The grant allowed him and his team to hold workshops in order to explore and develop this writing technique. With this help, they were able to write several drafts and spend time perfecting Stewart’s work.

After finishing his thesis and graduating from the master’s program where he studied theatre, communications, and gender and sexuality studies through an interdisciplinary program, Stewart began working towards showing his play at the MainLine Theatre. He worked alongside Michelle Soicher, a fourth-year undergraduate theatre student who took on the role of assistant director and stage manager to gain experience as well as academic credits.

“Queerness, non-normative sexual identity and sexual practice have been a big part of my life. It’s also been a very challenging part at times,” Stewart said.

Although drawing upon his own experience as someone who identifies as queer was extremely useful, Stewart said he wanted to capture the realities of other people in Montreal’s queer community as well. Through conducting a number of interviews and refining his writing technique with the workshops funded by CALQ, Stewart is finally left with a piece that he said he believes tells the stories of the individuals featured “very well.”

The playwright also recognized that the stories explored in his play are just a small portion of the diverse experiences that make up the queer community as a whole. He added, “I also am a believer in intersectionality and striving—as someone who takes up a lot of space or has the capacity to take up a lot of space in life and in society—to subscribe to the mandate of ‘take space to make space.’”

According to Stewart, The History of Sexuality is very much based in reality. The setting is a replication of what attending graduate school in Montreal is like today. It was important to Stewart to not only acknowledge the diversity within the queer community in Montreal, but also to represent the characters in his play as real people living real lives.

“One of my goals with the piece,” he said, “is to present queerness—to present non-normative sexual practices, sexual identities and expressions of gender—as just intimate and honest and real.”

“A lot of media and a lot of art that’s surrounding queerness and queer sexualities and genders these days, I feel is quite sensational,” he added. “[The characters in the play] are just people going through their daily lives. I think it’s important for us to see that.”

The History of Sexuality will be playing at the MainLine Theatre, at 3997 Boul. St-Laurent, from Sept. 21 to 30. Showtime is at 8 p.m. with additional showings at 2 p.m. on Sept. 23 and 30. Tickets are available through the Facebook event and the MainLine Theatre’s website. Prices can vary depending on your financial situation.

Feature photo courtesy of Erika Rosenbaum Photography

Student Life

Let’s talk about sex

I’m picking up good vibrations. Good good good good vibrations.

At a (very civilized) dinner gathering last week, as my friends and I depleted the last drops of our fourth bottle of wine and geared up for a viewing of Hysteria, conversation naturally turned towards the many splendors of the vibrator. One friend cringed as she recalled a painful moment of her not-so-faraway youth when her mother gifted her with a shiny silver bullet-like vibrator (the gift that keeps on giving, amirite ladies?), which led to an evaluation of the personal massagers we’d known and loved.

The two men at the table were both slightly confused and one asked, “I don’t get it, why do you need more than one type?”

Sweet, innocent boys. That’s like asking if you have whiskey in the house, why do you also need to be stocked with gin, rum, vodka, and several kinds of wine? Or why would you ever need more than one flavour of ice cream? More than one kind of sweater? Variety, as they say, is the spice of life. Just as every snowflake is special, so is every sweet pattern of vibration on your special snowflake.
So, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, the tools to lend yourself a different kind of lovin’ every other day of the week:

1. The bullet
Small, compact, and easily disguisable as a lipstick (or other vague cosmetic), these ’lil buggers are a nice starter vibe. They’re usually between two and three inches tall, so unless your vaginal canal is microscopic, these guys are really best for external stimulation. Most have only two or three speeds, but more sophisticated varieties have more.

2. The rabbit (or off-brand rabbit cuz those babies are not cheap)
Charlotte in Sex and the City loved hers so much that she shut herself off from the outside world in favour of a weekend-long love-in with her new, erm, pet. The good ones have a rotating dildo-esque piece as well as the little bunny (or dolphin, puppy, cat, ladybug, etc.) branch piece for clitoral stimulation, so you can double-whammy yourself till the cows come home. Most have several speeds, with various rhythms that pulsate both internally and externally. There exists a variety of sizes, as well as options for all the cutest animals that Noah let onto his ark. Now let them sail your lovely lady waters.

3. The his and hers
Giving into some good vibrations doesn’t necessarily have to equate to being a lonely celibate spinster, sitting alone in an unmade bed pouring Half Baked and cheap Chianti into your mouth. Quite the opposite, in fact, as certain toys like the We-Vibe and the Lelo Tiani, amongst others, are specially designed for simultaneous his-and-hers pleasure enhancement. The basic concept is a U-shaped little trinket that allows for clitoral and G-spot stimulation while also keeping room for a peen. The vibrations apparently are guaranteed to tickle both your fancies, hitting all her important bits and giving a little bit of buzz to his shaft as well. As you rock and thrust and shift and shake, the vibrator rocks and thrusts and shifts and shakes with you, giving that little extra pep to your coital step. Can’t possibly be bad, right?

4. The novelty
There as as many different vibrators as there are stars in the sky (and in your eyes after you use one of these bad boys). After you tackle the basics, get something to satisfy your niche needs. There are vibrators, like the one designed by OhMiBod, that hook up to your ipod or iphone and pulsate along with the rhythm of your favourite music. Talk about rocking your body. If you’re a fan of cunnilingus (and who isn’t?) there’s a toy for that too. The Lelo Ora, and its wallet-friendly knock-offs, swirls and throbs and essentially licks you, emulating the most sophisticated of tongue-work. Then there are endless varieties of remote-controlled vibrators, which come quite in handy for long-distance sext sessions (the other person can control your vibrations from afar—but more on that another day). Really, the possibilities are endless.

So arm yourselves with a bulk pack of batteries and give something new a spin. There’s a whole world out there to discover. One last word to the wise: you’re better off splurging a little more, as the $30 variety from that sketchy sex shop on the corner are either nothing you want near your sensitive bits, or else will be pitifully anticlimactic. Trust me, this is one area where you don’t want to skimp—it’s worth doling out some extra dough for something that will bring you so much happiness, again and again and again.


Dild-uh-oh: not the kind of “toy” kids were hoping for

Play-Doh dildo toy ‘ruins Christmas’, claim parents

Everyone has been there. One last holiday present to buy for the child of a friend you haven’t seen in ages. What do you get the child who has everything, and for whom a sex toy may be too risqué? Mattel is there for your needs, with the Sweet Shoppe Cake Mountain playset.

Included is an “extruder”—or plastic icing topper—for use with Play-Doh putty. It is shaped much like half of a cucumber with a spiral along the cylinder and a beaded texture ring for the child’s comfort. Parents should not be worried about the object slipping from their child’s grasp, as Mattel has been kind enough to include a flared base.

Needless to say, much like the “butt-plug” sculpture in Paris, not everyone was appreciative of the company’s newest product. As reported by CBC News on Dec. 31, customer Jennifer Turner claims that her daughter receiving this gift “ruined our Christmas.” Similarly, others on Twitter questioned how such an adult-seeming toy came to be included in the Play-Doh set.

Congratulations should be extended to the individual(s) who came up with the creative design and managed to convince marketing to package this product. How did that even happen? Only two possibilities come to mind: a dare gone too far, or an awkwardly intimate evening.  Regardless, the decision to replicate something from the “pleasure chest” was daring to say the least.

Angry parents claim that the extruder tool, included with Mattel’s Sweet Shoppe Cake Mountain playset, is age-inappropriate. (Photo by @bmance_kingdoms on Twitter)

The marketing department clearly dropped the balls on this, but probably meant well. Any individual looking at this design would know how difficult it would be for the general public to take.  Were there no focus testing among the parents, who would, one would imagine, be buying your product? If so, their odd expressions were probably a clue of what was to come.

As a result of the extruder production, customers poured onto Play-Doh’s Facebook page with comments and pictures. Mattel, for their part, handled complaints with the grace expected of any major corporation. All questions, comments, suggestions, and angry assertions were removed from the Play-Doh Facebook page. To their credit, a new design has been announced and they will be sending disgruntled customers new extruders.

The victory was well-won by the outraged parents. One can only wonder how they plan to rid the world of other Johnson imitators. First among them being the cucumber, which would need to be taken out of homes and school kitchens. Characters such as Disney’s Pinocchio would require a major overhaul as well, or at least rhinoplasty. The Washington Monument would also need to be reworked, in order to remove the unseemly design.

The question that no one seems to be asking is how does this affect the children? At the time of writing, no information was available on this.

It would seem, from evidence in children’s cartoons, that they don’t understand sexual humor or necessarily recognize shapes the same way as adults. BuzzFeed, for example, has published many lists showing adult humour that was not understood by their intended audience. For example, in SpongeBob SquarePants, SpongeBob is caught watching sea-pornography in one episode. In another, he tells another character not to drop the soap. Children do not understand this in the same way as their parents will.

Regardless of how damaging this toy is to the young psyche, the true danger is clear. Parents seem worried about that day when their child goes looking for their extruder and can’t find it anywhere. When the parents can’t be bothered to look. The day that their youngster enters the room with another object, says they can’t get the “icing” to come out—and is holding Mom’s toy instead.


Fifty Shades of misrepresentation

Mainstream media and Jian Ghomeshi don’t represent Kinksters

With the recent events surrounding Jian Ghomeshi and the popularity of the erotic fantasy novel Fifty Shades of Grey, I would like to take some time to clarify and demystify some popular misconceptions regarding BDSM. Foremost, I would like to clarify that I am neither condemning nor defending Jian Ghomeshi, nor his actions. The purpose here is to introduce you to BDSM, and elucidate some of the big misconceptions that mainstream media has created.

BDSM stands for “Bondage & Discipline, Domination & Submission, Sadism & Masochism”. Usually, people in the BDSM world refer to themselves as Kinksters, because they are into kinkier forms of sexual play (yes, it is play). But does an unconventional sexual preference mean that it is violent, non-consensual, and utterly disrespectfully done? Not at all!

BDSM is an activity that is often misrepresented and vilified. Photo by Javier Pais on Flickr.

It actually splits into three categories of people: Dominants, Submissives and Switches. Dominants—doms, or dommes—are the ones who will take control in the sexual play, and are usually the ones giving and saying what to do. Submissives (subs) are the ones who receive and are told what to do. Switches are those who can swing between being submissive and dominant. Within each category, there are spectrums. A switch can have predominantly submissive or dominant tendencies. Subs can be more or less submissive. And, naturally, Dom/mes can be more or less dominant. And all of that is more than okay, because not everyone likes the same stuff.

Fifty Shades of Grey’s male protagonist, Christian Grey, wants Ana to sign a contract. Signing a contract is not unusual when people are not in a committed relationship (although one like the one in Fifty Shades is highly unlikely). It sets the soft limits (an activity that may become something the person is comfortable with) and hard limits (the activity will never happen). Usually, in a BDSM relationship, the sub sets the limits as to how far the play will go. It is good to have someone that you are sexually compatible with and has the same tolerance levels as you, because it makes the sexual experience more pleasant for everyone.

What goes on in a BDSM relationship can be as mild as spanking, biting and pinning down all the way to tying someone up (sometimes intricately, might I add), dripping hot wax on them, and, yes, even wearing the leather/PVC suits that most people associate with BDSM.

But there are three important things to remember. First of all, there is a mutual respect between partners: making sure that both parties are consenting and comfortable is not a given, it’s an obligation. Furthermore, after the deed is done, there is a period of aftercare. Meaning, the Dom/me will tend to the Sub’s needs or pains and talk to them about what the experience was like. They don’t just leave them there in the end—far from it! Last, but certainly not least, is the safe word (or signal). When the safe word is said by the sub, everything stops. Even if the Dom/me has most of the control, the sub retains the most important control of all: saying when it stops.

So the takeaway messages are these: 1) a relationship, be it kinky or not, is based on respect; 2) everyone has different degrees of tolerance and those who have more should be flexible; 3) beating someone against their will is NOT kinky, that’s abuse.

If you are interested in discovering a little bit more about a BDSM relationship based on respect, a good movie to watch is The Secretary.


When sexy does not necessarily mean sexist

Here’s a video game female character that won’t fall under the usual typecast

Sometimes, it feels like women in video games might as well be oil and water. No matter how much you stir and stir, you’ll always see them ever-so-slightly separate. If it’s done right, it doesn’t sell; and there’s seemingly no consequences if it’s not.

Recently, a game with a female lead has been gaining a lot of attention, for all the wrong reasons. Bayonetta 2, the highly-anticipated sequel to the action game Bayonetta, stars the titular witch Bayonetta as she fights off demons and angels alike to save her fellow witch comrade Jeanne from the depths of hell. We have a female protagonist literally fighting heaven and hell, and kicking ass while doing it. So, what’s the problem?

Bayonetta is—to put it mildly—a sexual character.

Her clothes are tight. She licks her lips. The items that give her boosts are lollipops. And perhaps most damning is that Bayonetta’s power comes from her hair, and all of her powers are centred around it, including her clothing. The more powerful the attacks, the less clothes Bayonetta will have.

And as I write it, I realize that to an outside observer Bayonetta probably seems like a disgusting male fantasy. Let me tell you why you’re wrong.

Bayonetta (left) and Jeanne (right) are the main protagonists of the Bayonetta 2 video game

First of all, let’s look at the problem with women and video games: sexuality is often forced upon the characters. We have characters that are clearly not outwardly sexual in their actions—warriors and princesses, average women and superheroes—who are boiled down to nothing but their sexuality. Chainmail bikinis are standard, and often women are introduced with a long shot on their chest or their behinds. Even their pain is sexualized: when they are hurt they don’t scream, they moan—sensually. I’ve seen more than one game where a woman is hurt or in a fight, and comes out of it with far less clothing than they went in with.

Contrast that to Bayonetta. Bayonetta doesn’t have anything thrust upon her; she owns her sexuality, and she chooses to show it off. The game very rarely resorts to unsavoury camera shots, and when it does, you can tell Bayonetta is almost aware of it, usually with a small smile or a wink in the direction of the viewer. For perhaps the first time, a female character has been made sexual without being a sexual object.

In any other game, even if there was a sexual character, she would not be the hero. Bayonetta even has a stubbled, white male adventurer character named Luka—and they make fun of him constantly. He’s shown to be a dork living out the male fantasy, more than once swooping in to “save” Bayonetta, only to fall flat on his face. Bayonetta, simply put, is never in a position where she is to be saved.

Bayonetta owns her sexuality, and even better, she has weaponized it. She’s placed guns on her high heels, and when Bayonetta loses her clothing—which is never a focus, through the camera or otherwise—you know you’re about to be in for a world of pain. She actively fights men who represent heavenly ideals (known as Lumen Sages). As if this weren’t enough, there’s plenty of evidence that Bayonetta lies somewhere on the queer spectrum, especially where Jeanne is concerned—and did I mention that two people of colour are her comrades-in-arms in Bayonetta 2? Or that the character was designed by a queer woman? The entire game is a subversion of the traditional video game dynamic of the male power fantasy.

I am firmly of the opinion that if there were more female protagonists, Bayonetta wouldn’t be a problem. It’s admittedly unfortunate that one of the first popular female protagonists is sexual, but this does not make Bayonetta sexist. If you want strong female protagonists that don’t need to be sexy to kick ass, then support games like Beyond Good and Evil, Remember Me, Mirror’s Edge and Hyrule Warriors (which, out of a playable cast of 16 characters, has a female majority of nine women).

If you want more women in video games, great! But that responsibility doesn’t lie with Bayonetta’s creators: it’s on you, and your wallet. You need to put your money where your mouth is.

Student Life

Let’s talk about sex

Sometimes it’s not about getting there, it’s about enjoying the ride

The elusive female orgasm has always been a topic of fascination. Articles about “how to have the best one,” and “what’s wrong with you or your partner if you can’t achieve it” have found their way into almost every magazine targeted at women.

But the thing about female orgasms is that they are not the be all, end all of sex. And there is nothing wrong with you if it takes you more time to get there, or if you cannot get there at all.

Many men feel that intercourse is not over until they have climaxed, and while it would be ideal for both parties to have an orgasm, sometimes it’s just not in the cards. They are definitely appreciated but are not necessary for a sexual experience to be pleasurable.

Many women can enjoy sex without orgasms. Some women are incapable of reaching orgasm at all; in fact, anorgasmia occurs in around 10 per cent of women, according to the Society of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Canada (SOGC).

Others simply need different stimulation — there isn’t something wrong with your partner, and you’re not “frigid,” if you cannot achieve orgasm simply through intercourse. Only one third of women climax through penetrative intercourse alone, according to SOGC. The remaining women either need extra stimulation during intercourse or can only achieve it through manual or oral stimulation.

The bottom line is, there is no right or wrong way to climax. If it takes you an hour, so be it; if it takes you five minutes, that’s okay too.

The other myth that often gets thrown around is that if a woman cannot climax it is her partner’s fault. This is hurtful to both parties, but that doesn’t mean that you should stop trying if your partner is having trouble getting there quickly. It could just be that the wrong stimulation is being used and for not enough time. Since achieving orgasm can prove to be a bit trickier for some women, sometimes the key is simply to relax. We’ve all heard that the female orgasm is a mental phenomenon as much as a physical one, so overthinking it can actually make it harder to climax. Fantasizing can also help by focusing the mind on something else and by aiding with arousal. There are various ways to get there, but if you still can’t, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with you.

Student Life

Love and sex can be more than just a game for two

Sex is pretty great, let’s be honest. Getting older and exploring our sexuality with different partners helps us delve into all the different means we have of pleasing and being pleased in bed.

Yet, there’s a long-standing tradition of raising judgmental brows at those who choose to have more than one sexual partner at a time. From slut-shaming to blatant fear-mongering, those who choose to be involved with more than one person at once often suffer the cruel fate of their peers’ ire. Is this right? Not in the slightest, so hopefully this helps clear up some of the public misconceptions about those of us who subscribe to the “more the merrier” mantra.

Serial monogamy is fine as a choice, with relatively short commitments to partners and the liberty to come and go as one pleases. It’s generally a lot less about feelings, and a lot more about fun. Nobody should get in trouble for getting their rocks off if it isn’t raining on anyone else’s parade. It’s also a great way to discover new and exciting kinks.

Polyamory though, tends to be shrouded in hearsay and misinformation, often generalized as being “a sex thing,” or just about getting it on with more folks than one can count. But the reality of the situation is quite different. Polyamory isn’t just about the sex — although that certainly is a part of it — but about multiple committed relationships between consenting individuals. No secrets, no jealousy.

The distinction between serial monogamy and polyamory is fairly important to know, and even more important to apply to real-life situations.

In every type of relationship, from serial monogamous to polyamorous ones, emotions need to be considered. While there’s nothing ethically wrong with either choice, getting involved sexually can form fairly cohesive bonds between those involved. Should this mean that no barrier should exist in communication? Well, not so much, but what every partner deserves to know is whether or not you’re seeing other people as well. Honesty goes a long way, and misleading a potential future partner can easily cause some fairly disastrous fallout down the road. Nobody likes a disingenuous person, and even fewer folks enjoy being lied to.

At the end of the day, there’s nothing wrong with having consensual partners, whether there are one, two or twenty. So long as safety is practiced and everyone’s satisfied with what they’re getting, without any cloak-and-dagger misdirection, then there’s no place for anyone to complain.

So like I wrote in the first paragraph: sex is pretty great, but you know what? It doesn’t need to stop with one partner just because of some arbitrary idea of what a relationship should be. Love is a free thing, so why do we feel obliged to bring prejudice into the picture?

Student Life

Let’s talk about sex

It’s time we gave bisexuality some recognition.

As our sex column has been rather heteronormative as of late, why not discuss the tendency both in the media and in everyday life to treat bisexuality as less than?

Coming out as bisexual can elicit two negative reactions: if you are female, it is often seen as attention seeking or as being “just a phase,” and if you are male it is met with hushed whispers of “he’s probably just gay.” Even worse, the words “you’re just confused” are some of the most favoured to throw around. Being bisexual is seen as a halfway point, a crutch and not quite as serious as being either straight or gay.

It seems to affect bisexual men and women equally.

With the move towards more LGBT+ centric TV shows, the B still remains invisible for the most part. Orange is the New Black, one of the most popular shows around, also skirts around using the word bisexual. Piper Chapman, the main character, has had sexual and intimate relations with both a man, her fiance Larry, and a woman, her ex and sometimes current lover Alex. To an outside observer it seems like the perfect opportunity to feature a bisexual lead on a hit show. Yet Piper is seen as an “ex-lesbian,” when referring to her long term relationship with Alex. Piper can identify as whatever she chooses, but when the lesbian and trans communities are so openly and warmly represented on the show it feels like a missed opportunity.

By not uttering the word “bisexual” it makes an entire community feel all the more invisible and contributes to the bi-erasure that trickles down into everyday life. The lack of representation of bisexuals in the media contributes to misinformation being spread.

Recently, actress Anna Paquin was questioned by Larry King on whether or not she could consider herself bisexual now that she was married to a man. Invasive questions are often asked of those who identify as bisexual in an attempt to pigeonhole them.

However, this is not limited to the media, it happens in daily interactions as well. Probing questions about how many men and women said person has been with are asked in order to gage “how bisexual they really are,” as if these were not extremely offensive and invasive questions that would never be asked of someone who identifies as heterosexual.

The bottom line is that bisexual people exist and should be treated with the respect that would be given to anyone else.

Student Life

Happiness is having more sex than your friends

Article by Concordia Prof explores the sex-happiness link, and why we’re so competitive

Having more sex leads to greater happiness — sounds fairly obvious, right? Yet, according a Psychology Today article published by Concordia marketing professor Gad Saad, simply the satisfaction of having lots of sex is not enough if you’re not also getting more action than your peers.

These findings were established in studies by David G. Blanchflower and Andrew J. Oswald in 2004, and a paper published by Tim Wadsworth this year. Basic point: envy and competition are huge driving factors in people’s happiness, even (and perhaps especially) in an area as private as the bedroom.

In his article, Professor Saad links these findings with his own research, which showed that when given the option of you and your co-worker getting a $500 raise, or you getting a $600 raise and your co-worker getting a $800 raise, the majority of people polled opted for the former. Despite the fact that in the second option you also receive more money, Saad explains that overwhelmingly, people, and more often women, preferred the scales to be balanced.

This is because humans are inherently competitive — the whole “survival of the fittest” concept is ingrained within our evolutionary make-up. It is not enough to have something, you have to be the only one who has it, or have the most of it.

For men, power and social status are determinants of success and prowess, which goes back to the primitive need for men to be strong hunters and providers. The strongest men were also historically the most eligible mates.

“Men and women are equally competitive, albeit different triggers will engender a rise in their competitive juices,” said Saad.  “When it comes to resources, women are likely more communal and hence prefer the equitable/fair option.”

The results may have been different if the question asked had been related to physical attractiveness — then, the women would likely have been more ruthless than the men.

This is not meant to be anti-feminist, but rather reflects the results of Saad’s findings which back up the fact that after centuries of societal reinforcement, women are considered more desirable mates if they are physically attractive. In hunting and gathering societies, this meant that a more womanly shape — full breasts, curves etc., suggested that she would be more fertile and therefore a better mate. Our societal ideals of beauty have changed, but the concept remains the same.

Now, bringing these results back to the bedroom, it is not surprising that having not only lots of sex, but more sex than your peers, would fulfill these primal concerns for both men and women.

What Wadsworth’s study did not specify however, was whether having more sex with one partner, or more sex with many partners, had any effect on the sex-happiness link.

“Both men and women have evolved a desire for sexual variety, albeit the penchant is more pronounced in men,” said Saad.

As such, more sex with more partners would be the preferable option for men, whereas the opposite would be true for women.

“This is simply because the stakes of possible mating are much higher for women than for men,” said Saad. “It’s why a woman can go into a bar and have the option of having sex with any man in the room, but is selective with her choice, whereas men are less exacting when choosing a short-term mating partner.”

For a man, having lots of sex, especially with many partners, would be significant of his social desirability and powerful rank.

For a woman, having lots of sex, whether it be with one or many partners, would reinforce that she is an attractive and desirable mate.

In either case, the simple act of getting it on brings us happiness, not necessarily because of the innately pleasurable quality of the act itself, but rather because it reinforces our desirability, and by extension, our worth.

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