What do women think about Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP”?

We looked at what some women on Twitter are saying about the controversial “WAP” song that’s taken the world by storm.

“WAP” (Wet Ass Pussy) is a song by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion that has been gaining popularity, and it hasn’t stopped since its release date Aug. 7. Both the lyrics and music video have caused many discussions on social media. “WAP” discusses women’s genitalia and sexuality, in a way that many see as controversial. What are women saying about this song and the impact it has on women in society?

In response to the song, former Republican congressional candidate for California DeAnna Lorraine Tweeted the following: “Cardi B & Megan Thee Stallion just set the entire female gender back by 100 years with their disgusting & vile “WAP” song.” This Tweet highlights a view that suggests this song is not about female empowerment.

There was a lot of interaction with this Tweet, and most of the women were countering what Lorraine said. A Twitter user by the name of highendtheori said “white women have us in the stone ages love, what’s another century?” 

The mention of race relating to Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion is an important thing to call attention to because often, women of colour — especially black women — are held to a different standard than white women. Would this song have the same reception if it were done by white women? The basic answer to this question is no. It seems that white women get more free passes than women of colour, even if their work is explicit. Take a song like “Bon Appetit” by Katy Perry, which is about her essentially being a buffet for any man who wants a bite. There was not nearly as much backlash on that song as there is with “WAP.”

A different Twitter user agreed with Lorraine. MaeDay811 tweeted “Women trying to be promiscuous like men, are not proud females, they are self hating females that want to be men. How is it empowering to women to chase what men do? That’s like a lioness always thinking it needs to swim in order to be strong as a shark.”

I interviewed two women, Michelle Malnasi and Desirae Dawn, and asked how they felt about the tweet and other elements pertaining to the lyrics and video of “WAP.” 

Desirae, when asked about the tweet, said “Sex and sexuality [are] nothing to be ashamed of … what is liberating for one may not be for another. Megan and Cardi are often talking about sexuality and wearing more revealing clothing … Women are allowed to express their sexuality and body as they please with greater freedom than before, they didn’t set anything back, they are just a blip in the evolution.”

The lyrics and the music video are both quite sexually explicit. The video has both women in various outfits that show off a lot of cleavage and other parts of their bodies. There are also statues of women’s busts that have water squirting out of their nipples.

The female body is the focal point of the music video. Michelle was asked how she felt this song and video either helped or hindered the way we see the female body. She said “I’m conflicted about it. While I do see how our cultural climate is constantly objectifying women, she should have the right to talk about her body in any matter that she wants.”

During the interviews, each of the women were asked, on a scale of one to five, with one being not empowering, and five being the most empowering, how empowering they thought the lyrics were. Both women said 4/5. When asked about how empowering they found the music video to be, they both said 3/5. 

Desirae and Michelle were asked if they thought this song was a feminist anthem. Michelle said that she thinks it is a feminist anthem “Because it empowers women and normalizes that we have sexual needs too and that we should be able to sing/talk about it like men do. Yet at the same time if someone else doesn’t see it as feminist I’m not here to say what’s right or wrong.”

Desirae, on the other hand, does not think it is a feminist anthem. She said, “Music is subjective. What may be a feminist anthem for some may not empower or feel relatable to another, however, I do understand how some music [can] become powerful anthems… and [can be] accepted widely by one community.”

Having watched the video a few times, I was able to come to my conclusions about the lyrics and visuals. One of the things that irked me was that the line “There’s some whores in this house” was stated by a man. During Desirae’s interview, when asked about this line she said that she didn’t mind it all that much. Personally, it would have been better if a woman said that instead. I have no issues with the word “whore,” but when repeated by a man, it bothered me. Typically when a man uses the word “whore” it is derogatory and feeds into a negative narrative about women and their bodies. Also, it seems so out of place given how the rest of the song plays out and how female focused the music video is.

Going back to Lorraine’s Tweet, which suggested that “WAP” is actually setting women back one hundred years… overall, I think her message was not well articulated. I believe that she is trying to state that she is uncomfortable with the video, and doesn’t see its empowering nature. In many ways, I can see why a woman might feel that way. However, in using hyperbole, it loses the actual impact it may have had. For me, the video was an embracement of the female body, in a way that I do not see as empowering. I prefer modesty as a means of female empowerment. However, I can see why and understand how women do see this as liberating, and that is great.

Initially, I was able to watch the explicit version of the video on YouTube, but recently I went to try and find it and I was told there was a regional block. However, there was no regional block on the “clean” version. The major difference between the two versions is not using the word pussy, the “clean” version of the song switched “pussy” to “wet and gushy” instead. In a lot of ways, “wet and gushy” sounds much worse to the ear than “wet-ass pussy.” Yet, the explicit images in the video are the same. This bothered me because it seems that the only issue is the reference to female genitalia, and I wonder if we will get to a place where we can talk more openly about the female body.


Graphic by @the.beta.lab


The rise and rise of pay-per-view nudes

“On that Demon Time, she might start an OnlyFans”

The moment I realized that OnlyFans had officially become a widespread mainstream topic was when I first heard these lyrics sung by Beyoncé on Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage Remix” while mindlessly scrolling through TikTok. Before then, I knew it as a somewhat niche platform used mostly by the people I follow on Twitter. Like, “one of my friends’ friends has one!”, “this girl I follow on Instagram has been promoting her,” and so on.

“Should I start an OnlyFans?” has become our generation’s “screw this, I’ll just become a stripper.” With the same connotation of sex work being young women’s kind of shameful ace-in-the-hole, this slogan also mirthlessly shows how the sex industry has followed young people’s increasingly web-connected lives, as well as their heavily exploited desire for personalized experiences. In an online world where personalized ads, emojis, Google search suggestions, and YouTube recommendations have thrived, personalized sexual content was sure to follow.

Coupled with the gradual integration of feminism in the porn industry, we can see how despite seeing increases in traffic, oligopolist brands like PornHub and RedTube haven’t been able to compete with the practice of subscription-based services, which offer even more specific content options and, of course, the possibility of communicating directly with the actors themselves. These companies have also been under fire recently for profiting off videos of assault, abuse, and even child pornography, and for the discrepancy between actors’ pay and the sites’ revenues. The announcement that famous ex-adult film star Mia Khalifa’s total reported earnings were of $12,000 during the three months she worked with PornHub over five years ago became viral, as Internet users acknowledged the much larger amount that the site has made with her videos over the years. With Premium memberships unable to compete with some of OnlyFans’ prices—the lowest monthly fee being $4.99, versus $9.99 on PornHub and a whopping $29.99 on Brazzers — OnlyFans becomes a preferable and seemingly more democratic choice.

The coronavirus can be partially credited for gradually building up the trend of online nude content creation: when the pandemic hit and many lost their sources of income, they had to turn to the only accessible — and the most lucrative — option that every “How to Make Money from Home” article omits. It’s estimated that during quarantine, creator enrolment increased five-fold compared to last year, and the site’s audience grew by 80 per cent.

A few weeks ago, social media erupted at the consequences of popular singer and actress Bella Thorne’s joining the platform. She was accused of gentrifying it in cheating her fans of money they had paid for nude photos, taking clients away from content creators who need them to pay rent, and for causing the site to tighten its policies on how much creators could get paid and when.

Anything that enters the mainstream — whether it’s an artist, a new Netflix show, an app — will suffer in some way from all the attention and popularity, but there is usually a strong community trying to preserve its integrity. OnlyFans, on the other hand, is a platform whose creators were already facing many challenges, and who had little support from, well, anyone. Frequently leaked content was a problem well before the pandemic hit, and many creators were victims of extortion. Though we are experiencing a more liberated sexual culture than in previous generations, the stigma around sex work remains heavy in our society.

Even with a larger client base, only a minority of creators manage to make the exorbitant amounts shown off in viral social media posts. Because the internet doesn’t sleep, those who commit to making money online from sex-related content also take on longer work weeks: some have reported working anywhere from 50 to 80 hours a week, compared with the average person’s 35 to 40.

“What about your future career?” is the age-old burning question for anyone who joins the sex industry. Our parents all warned us that anything uploaded to the internet stays there forever. We can’t predict the opinions of future employers on OnlyFans accounts, and I may be naive in thinking this, but I can’t help but see mainstreaming the platform as a way to tame down the negative reactions to sex work. Stigma is broken by normalizing concepts, and by the time we have to apply for the positions that hold reputation to a high regard, I have hope that the taboo surrounding sex work will be much less felt in offices and social settings. The people around us right now, whose “friend of a friend” is entering the sex industry, are ultimately the ones who will decide whether sex work should continue to be a professional setback, or if it’s time we understand it like it is: a way of making a living just like any other.


Graphic by Lily Cowper


Poli Savvy: Canadian government to finally ban conversion therapy

On Monday, the federal government introduced new legislation that would amend the Criminal Code and ban conversion therapy.

The practice is currently illegal in Nova Scotia, Manitoba and Ontario, but the Liberals are looking into a nationwide ban.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with it, conversion therapy is not your typical type of therapy; which brings important resources to people struggling with mental health issues (with an extra box of kleenex, in some cases). No, dear, this one is a bit more extreme.

Conversion therapy aims to **hold my drink while I scream into a pillow** change homosexual individuals and eventually turn them into perfect heterosexual members of society.

Yes, those exist and they have actually been associated with depression, suicidal thoughts, suicidal attempts rather than with… “success.” In Canada alone, instead of successfully turning gay people straight… one third of men who have undergone conversion therapy have attempted suicide.

Truthfully, it can be scary to not fully understand what our sexual preferences are, or what it means, or even if it’s supposed to mean anything. Figuring things out is already complicated and hard enough without having to fear being forced to undergo physical and emotional trauma that is dubbed legal because of backwards thinking.

Believe me when I say I’m emphasizing every single word: this cannot be treated as a mental health issue. There is simply no “turning back to normal” option and anyone claiming the opposite is setting a dangerous precedent.

In fact, in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association declared that homosexuality was not a mental illness or sickness. Now, almost 50 years later, the Criminal Code itself needs to be amended to make sure that this fact is respected. The federal government doesn’t have a good reputation these days, but this new legislation would be more than welcome and for once, all three opposition parties seem to be on board, according to CBC News.


Graphic by @sundaghost


Netflix’s Sex Education: a real Sex Education

Sweet applesauce, high school was a messed-up time. We were anxious, we were tired (why exactly, unsure) and most of all we were horny. Well actually, I probably didn’t even know what that word meant in my early high school years, but other, less naive kids definitely did.

Last year, when I opened Netflix in an attempt to turn off my brain, quite the opposite happened. I clicked on a show called Sex Education and was forced to reflect on a time in my life that I did not want to revisit—the dreaded adolescent years.

With witty writing and impeccably awkward characters, I found myself transported to Moordale Secondary School. With its modern Mean Girls vibe set in a gorgeous rural area in the UK, I was sucked in.

Naturally, I finished the first season by the end of the week. Season 2 just came out, and that took me even less time.

This British comedy follows main character Otis Milburn, played by Asa Butterfield, an incredibly emotionally-intelligent adolescent, navigating his horrific pubescent years. With issues like not being able to successfully masturbate and lack of experience with women, his struggles are a healthy mix of charming and awkward.

With a sex therapist as a mother who has clear boundary issues, sexual education has seeped into Otis’ brain through osmosis. With his uncanny ability to understand the complexity of sexual experiences, he found himself helping the school bully overcome issues in his sex life. When Maeve Wiley, played by Emma Mackey, witnesses Otis’ gifted advice, the two set up a sex therapy business within the school.

The show’s 40 million viewers now have the opportunity to learn about sex—beyond unrealistic romantic comedies and porn sites. It’s not pretty. It’s not sexy. It’s awkward, weird, beautiful, disastrous and most of all, relatable.

We follow different characters, with all sorts of different sexual realities, expressing a nuanced and representative version of sex—as opposed to what we usually see in the media.

It would be nice if we could all lose our virginity to Ryan Gosling after he sweeps us off our feet in a mysteriously sexy abandoned house, but unfortunately we can’t all be Rachel McAdams…not even Rachel McAdams.

Alright, enough shade on The Notebook, I love that movie. That being said, the importance of showing the uncomfortable nature of sex is crucial for the development of healthy and safe relationships. As we push forward in the #metoo era and continue to learn about sexuality as a diverse spectrum, shows like Sex Education help viewers dip their toes into many different kinds of relationships. This results in creating more realistic, accessible and healthier expectations and concepts of sex.

Whether its sexually-confused Otis, closeted Adam Groff, lonely Maeve Wily, eccentric Lily Iglehart or insecure Ruby Mathews, there are elements of these characters that are within us all.

The show has managed to demonstrate that women can be intelligent and sexual, while also alluding to the realistic competition that hyper-femininity can promote in our culture. In season 2, they show how women are stronger together, even if they don’t think they have anything in common. “Popular girls” are united with “nerds” and “weirdos” by expressing their shared experience of navigating the world as a woman. Just watch season 2 episode 7, you’ll end up in tears—trust me.

Okay enough out of me. Go! Watch it!

I promise you, you’ll learn so much more about sex than you did in high school and you might even want to move to the UK. 

Graphic by @sundaeghost


Girls just wanna have fun

Today, we live in a progressive world where sexual topics that seemed taboo a few decades ago are now part of common discourse.

Socially, we are comfortable talking about our sexual relationships, our sexual orientations and our body hair, to name a few.

However, the topic of female pleasure and masturbation still throw people off. Society has overly-normalized male pleasure specifically––their sexual drive, their masturbation, to the point where most women have been taught to repress their sexuality and their own pleasure. Men are not to blame for every wrong against women. But, does it seem fair that even though sexuality has progressed as a topic, female masturbation and pleasure still makes people uncomfortable, even as a topic between women?

It is ironic how in movies, television and media in general, we often see men masturbating, but how often do you see women doing it? Not often, and definitely not as often as we see men do it.  Sexually-liberated women are feared by a society that has sought for them to remain within the margins, which is why women are often shamed or judged.

You know what is even more tragic? Women who are sexually active are way less likely to orgasm than men. According to NBCnews, results from a study of sexually diverse group of 52,500 adults in the U.S. show that 95 per cent of heterosexual men said they always or normally come during sex. On the other hand, 65 per cent of heterosexual women claimed they usually did not orgasm. Such contrasting numbers are directly linked to the fact that women are less likely to explore their pleasure than men.

If you cannot make yourself orgasm, how can you expect someone else to do it for you? In a society where women are constantly kept from experiencing pleasure on their own to figure out what they like or not, it’s no doubt that they come less than men. Masturbating will free you from such chains. As shown by Bustle, women who masturbate and aim to explore their own pleasure are more likely to experience empowerment and become more comfortable in their own skin; not to mention the improvement in their sexual lives.

That being said, I’m completely aware of the fact that we all experience our sexuality in different ways. However, being more vocal about growing up as a woman and your own human impulses among your friends is a great way to push towards the normalization of female pleasure. As a matter of fact, more and more often I hear my friends talk about their vibrators, sexual fantasies, need to masturbate as a part of their ‘self-care routine’ and so on. Only good things can come out of talking more about our pleasure. Our words will resonate far and wide—young girls will learn to explore and accept their bodily impulses, instead of feeling ashamed, dirty and abnormal.

Even though we all explore our sexuality at different paces, expanding our knowledge of it can be extremely helpful. There are hundreds of sex-positive sources out there to get you started or to further your knowledge. Tons of articles can be found online about how to masturbate or how to improve at it. Sex Education on Netflix is a great show on the subject. Instagram is also a good resource to educate yourself on your own sexuality. Among my favourite accounts are @bellesaco, @talk.tabu, @femislay, @erikalust.

All in all, talking about female masturbation and pleasure is one step towards the normalization of this topic, as well as one towards the deconstruction of our own socialized beliefs. 


Graphic by Sasha Axenova


Humans, sex and robots: integrating technology into our sexuality

Concordia research aims at understanding individual attitudes and perceptions towards artificial erotic agents.

In the past weeks, Concordia students might have stumbled upon an unusual request glued to various bathroom stalls; research on sex robots looking for participants.

As with any subject confronting our sexuality, mixed with the feared and misunderstood rise of technology, the expected reactions are strong, ranging from laughter to repulsion.

“I think it is eerie because it is kind of disrupting the process of individuals getting to know their bodies at an intimate level whether it is with a partner or by themselves,” said Georgette Ayoub, Concordia Political Science student.

Yet, Simon Dubé, the man behind the research and Ph.D. student in Psychology, Neuroscience and Cognition of human sexuality at Concordia, says these reactions are quite natural.

“These are first impulse reactions,” said Dubé. “It’s not unique reactions with sex robots. We had the same with video games, with pornography. It used to be the same thing even with radio, people used to think it would lead to the destruction of society. It’s always blurred out of proportion.”

Indeed, there is a climate of moral panic when it comes to technology. Are robots going to replace affection, or even love? Such reasoning can be explained by the fact that only a few studies have been done so far, and most of them are done on human interaction with computers; none have dug into erotic interaction.

Therefore, the research is interested in people’s reception towards emerging artificial agents, such as virtual erotic partners, virtual chatbots and of course, the infamous sex robots. Dubé hopes to further the understanding of their impact on our society and the relationship humans can develop with E-robots.

And for everyone wondering, no, the research doesn’t actually include having sex with robots. When students register to participate in his study, Dubé, who works with the Concordia Vision Lab, uses a number of different techniques, such as questionnaires, to track people’s responses to images, videos and audio related to erotic machines.

While technology has taken over a huge part of our lives, it only makes sense that it now arises in our sexuality. Dubé argues that his research only comes at a time where there is a cluster of all technology coming together to enable these erotic machine interactions.

“The idea of having sex or an intimate relationship with non-living objects has been here for thousands of years,” said Dubé. “I think at this point, it’s a matter of the technology emerging right now related to artificial intelligence, such as sex robots, computing or augmented virtual reality. These are all achieving a level of interactivity and immersivity that is starting to become interesting for people, to use them in their relationship or intimacy.”

Arguably, the fear of including robots in our intimacy or sexuality derives from pop culture-producing fiction. Just think of the utopic, robotic cold-hearted world created in almost every episode of Black Mirror. The picture is always a classical one, where an apocalyptic world is shown as a result of what could happen if we start including these technologies in our day to day lives.

Dubé warns us of the danger of such misconceptions, arguing that this discourse is at the very root of why they have such trouble doing research on something that could be beneficial for a lot of individuals.

“People have really polarized ideas on what these technologies can do, but for some people, it can be super helpful,” said Dubé. “It can be part of their sexuality with their spouses, their partners or alone. Yes, humans develop problems with all kinds of technology, people get addicted to video games per example, but artificial erotic agents could help people with trauma, or anxiety related to sexuality or intimacy. It’s always the same music that plays over and over again, but here we just need to do the right kind of research.”

What Dubé means by the right kind of research could result in positive applications of these erotic technologies in health and medical research, and even Sex Ed. It could be used by people who’ve experienced sexual trauma to help them reintegrate sexuality into their lives, or by people having a hard time finding partners, dealing with their own orientation or simply out of curiosity.

“The key message I want to get across, is that it’s simply not gonna be an apocalypse or a robot utopia or virtual reality utopia where everything is going to be beautiful or dark,” said Dubé. “It’s going to be somewhere in the middle, for some people, it’s an amazing experience and it’s an integrated part of their sexuality and for others, they might have a problematic dynamic with these technologies. But we need to overcome this idea it will be all black or all white.”

Either way, with erotic technologies, we are now standing at the beginning of a new sexual revolution.


Graphic by @joeybruceart


An auto-ethnography to embrace new beginnings

Womanhood. Vulnerability. Healing. Value. Recognition. Seduction.

These words are at the centre of The Parlour Project: Spider, Fly and Web, the first collaborative initiative practiced by The Wolf Lab, founded by Amber Dawn Bellemare.

Bellemare, who studied communications and First Peoples studies at Concordia, is a former sex worker and is currently the program animator for the Truth, Healing and Reconciliation for the Canadian Unitarian Council (CUC). The CUC brings together followers of Unitarian Universalism who affirm the worth and dignity of every person. They value justice, equity, and compassion in human relations. They seek peace, respect, and acceptance of one another in a global community, or an “interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part”, according to their website.

The Parlour Project stems from these values. Her past documentary work focused on telling others’ stories, and this auto-ethnography will be the first time Bellemare focuses on her own, welcoming viewers into her parlour. The artist documented her health and wellbeing before and after rendez-vous’ with clients, which revealed a full range of emotions.

The Parlour Project, an auto-ethnographic performance-exhibition created by Amber Dawn Bellemare in conjunction with The Wolf Lab. Photo by Lana Nimmons.

Seeking to create an immersive experience, the happening is part normal photography exhibition and part ceremonial performance. Bellemare hopes the project will deepen relationships and connections to the present moment, expanding the view of oneself to include others.

“The project is more profound than I initially thought it would be,” revealed Bellemare. “I was sexualized young, determining my value by my sexuality, a common experience shared among women… I wanted to redefine what dinner and a movie looked like.” Her work distills important aspects of the conversation about female sexuality. She found confidence in her vision and voice to heal and connect with others.

The full name of the project is derived from a poem by Mary Howlitt,

“Will you walk into my parlour?” said the Spider to the Fly. “‘Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy; the way into my parlour is up a winding stair, and I’ve a many curious things to show when you are there.” “Oh no, no,” said the little Fly. “To ask me is in vain, for who goes up your winding stair can ne’er come down again.” (The Spider and the Fly, 1828)

Bellemare said she always thought of herself as either the spider or the fly, depending on the circumstances. The spider, when she was luring or seducing. The fly, when she was submitting to clients or creating individual experiences for them. Only later did she come to recognize that the art of tease and seduction is necessary not only to the spider’s web, but the entirety of the trio; unapologetic, warm, and welcoming, creating sincere and vulnerable experiences throughout her life—not solely in her work.

Opening on Sept 19., you can experience The Parlour Project until Sept. 28 at 4035 St-Ambroise St., studio 206. Tickets are available online and cost $20 for general admission, $15 for students, seniors and sex workers, or $25 at the door. All showings are 18+. Please consult the Eventbrite calendar for opening times. The event will be filmed on weekends for documentation purposes.


Feature photo courtesy of the artist


Religion and sexuality in the workplace

Ideally, a person’s qualification for any job would be limited to their aptitude and general attitude towards the workload. In a perfect world, the only thing an employer should consider before hiring you is your ability to do the job.

Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world and we are not perfect people. Against our better judgment, we rely on appearances, religious beliefs, sexuality, and overall social norms to determine a person’s character. As we progress, however, the best of us choose to educate ourselves and overcome social biases. The best of us grow out of superficial moulds and strive to judge by a person’s actions if they should be trusted or not. But that is not the case for most of us.

A few months ago, some would say discriminatory actions were taken in Quebec when the government passed Bill 21; a law reprimanding people for their religious garments in the workplace, under the pretext that it is respecting the province’s laicity.

As if to join hands with their Canadian neighbours, a HuffPost article reports that the Trump Administration is imploring the Supreme Court to legalize firing someone based on their sexual orientation.

“In an amicus brief filed Friday, the US Justice Department argued that a trio of cases set to appear before the Supreme Court this fall should be used to limit Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination because of sex,” the article read.

The Justice Department’s reading of Title VII recalls that “sex,” as written in the Civil Rights Act, is not intended to allude to one’s sexual orientation which, in their book, means that the law shouldn’t be used to protect LGBTQ+ workers.

“The original bill didn’t define “sex” as a term, and the Trump administration is now using that ambiguity to argue that lawmakers’ original intent focused solely on protecting women’s rights,” wrote the HuffPost.

In Quebec, the Montreal Gazette reported that teachers are struggling the most with Bill 21 and are having a hard time transitioning from a tolerant environment to a limited one. It is stated that no articles of faith – kippahs, turbans, or hijabs – are allowed during the hiring process, and those already hired are allegedly not granted higher positions.

Nadia Naqvi, a science teacher at St. Thomas High School in the West Island, recounted to the Gazette how her five-year plan to move into administration now seems like a distant dream.

“I know I have a lot of leadership qualities,” said Naqvi.“I know I have a lot to offer my school board… but I’m stuck. If that’s not the definition of a second-class citizen, I don’t know what is.”

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t remember anybody’s sexuality, let alone religion get in the way of anyone’s job. In my personal experience, I have seen practicing Muslims during Ramadan work twice as hard as usual; and one could barely feel when they would take a small break for their daily prayers. And since when does being part of the LGBTQ+ community inhibit one from doing their job correctly?

But I can see how loving the same sex, or choosing your own gender could deter you from your workload. Can you imagine how much time, effort, and patience it would take to justify your sexual preferences to other people? And let us not even get into the time-consuming act of debating Islam with people who have taken one sentence from the Quran out of context and made it their weapon of choice when arguing.

But I can totally see how loving the same sex or choosing your own gender deters you from your workload. I mean, can you imagine how much time and effort it would take to justify it to other people, because it’s their business, too? And let us not even get into the time-consuming debate on Islam, at the workplace, with people who have taken one sentence out of the Quran, out of context, and made it their choice of weapon when arguing. Yes, these are most definitely valid reasons.

The way I see it, the only time religion or sexuality disrupts working environments is when other people aren’t minding their own business.


Graphic by Victoria Blair


Testing the controversiality of sexuality through human interaction with technology

Concordia graduate, Katherina Illenseer creates art to feel at ease with sexuality

Pleasure Receptors, an interactive installation that opened at Eastern Bloc Thursday evening, contains four stations, each representing a female or male body, covered in sensors and connected through wires to the body. For the body to reach orgasm, each station has to be touched by a person. The sculpted body produces sounds and light when it is turned on, allowing the audience to become part of the performance as they interact with the work.

Featuring Anna Eyler and Concordia graduates Renée Lamothe and Katharina Illenseer, Female Futures explores people’s relationships with the body and sexuality.

Illenseer is a contemporary new media artist, and her practice involves computation, programming, video and sound. Her interactive installation, Pleasure Receptors explores femininity and intimacy between the human body and technology. Pleasure Receptors shows the way the body can reach an orgasm, while reacting to different forms of interaction.

“I took computation arts at Concordia, exploring different technologies and media,” said Illenseer. “I was interested to work with sound, sculpture, electronics and programming so the project really incorporates all of that, and it was about material practices as well.”

Pleasure Receptors by Katharina Illenseer questions the public’s level of comfort with sexuality, inviting them to grope and touch sculptures made of silicone acrylic and wood. Photo by Hannah Ewen.

The main purpose behind Illenseer’s work is to push people out of their comfort zone; to see friends interact with the body parts and even strangers use technology to give the sculpted body an orgasm. The piece is also a way for the audience to feel at ease with their sexuality and tries to normalize sex by making it less controversial.

I was thinking about how our own sexual needs and desires are so connected to technology and rely on that. So I wanted to subvert that idea and make a machine that was going to rely on human interaction in order for it to reach a climax,” said Illenseer.

Most of Illenseer’s body of work deals with sex and gender. As a shy person, she is often uncomfortable presenting the subject, but the exhibition helped her get out of her comfort zone.

“A lot of the time, people are timid to touch things and interact with them, but the more you see other people doing it, the more it gives the person security to feel comfortable about touching and interacting with the body,” said Illenseer. “I think it’s interesting to see one person awkwardly going and touching the sculpture. The interaction is very sexual, but also funny.”

Illenseer’s consent sheet. Photographed by Hannah Ewen.

Illenseer also created a consent sheet, which outlines the way the sculpted body liked to be touched. Interested in how technology, such as the internet may depend on human interaction, the artist wanted to create a project that visitors would be allowed to touch.

Illenseer is working on another project, in which she will recycle the material from the exhibition and create another artwork that will incorporate more video and sound.

“I’m really new to the scene and I’m really stepping out there,” Illenseer said. “It’s exciting to create work that’s under my own deadlines and completely free to explore instead of having set projects.”

Until March 2, Female Futures will be open at Eastern Bloc (7240 Clark St.) from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends.


A woman’s worth is beyond her hymen

Society needs to realize that a woman’s value goes beyond her virginity, her body, and her looks

In Headscarves and Hymens: Why the Middle East Needs a Sexual Revolution, author Mona Eltahawy writes: “The god of virginity is popular in the Arab world. It doesn’t matter if you’re a person of faith or an atheist, Muslim or Christian—everybody worships the god of virginity. Everything possible is done to keep the hymen—that most fragile foundation upon which the god of virginity sits—intact.”

Eltahawy’s words resonate on an international spectrum. If one were to read those words without the emphasis on “the Arab world,” it would almost be inevitable to link it to one’s own environment. Society’s obsession with a woman’s hymen can feel suffocating, and the older I get, the harder it is to run away from it.

I have come to realize that a woman’s place in society is often related to her body. As a little girl, she is immediately deemed weaker than her male counterparts because of a different physical build. As a teenager, her outbursts are linked to a “certain time of the month.” As a young adult, her hymen determines whether she is a prude or a slut. Past the age of 32, her biological clock is ticking. Will she be having more or any kids at all? Will she be able to juggle a successful career, as well as a healthy and stable marriage? Can women really have it all?

To quote The Simpsons’s favourite justice seeker, Lisa Simpson, “The whole damn system is wrong!” Unfortunately, such values are embedded in a person’s mind. Even when defending  women’s rights, people tend to take into account that a woman’s body creates life, and maintain that we must respect it.

Isn’t it ridiculous that a man’s physique is never used to enforce reverence, but a woman’s is almost a prerequisite? Granted, pregnancy is no thing to take lightly, and childbirth is not considered a miracle for nothing. However, why must it be a qualification of utmost importance? And why is it that a woman’s sexuality must determine her value in society?

A few months ago, university students at the Lebanese American University in Beirut shared their take on a woman’s virginity on Instagram, via an account called The Daily Question. Men and women gathered around to answer two simple questions: Would you marry a woman who is not a virgin? Would you respect a man who refuses to marry a non-virgin woman?

Although a number of students insisted that a woman’s sexuality is none of anyone’s business, it is the rather sexist responses of some that took me aback. Most importantly, a man comparing a woman to a can of Pepsi. His words were along the lines of, “say you go to your local dépanneur, and ask him to give you a can of Pepsi. Would you go for the one that has been opened and drunk from by various people or a new, unopened can, for your pleasure only?”

Being acquainted with years of female objectification did not lessen my shock when I heard such foul words. True, it should come as no surprise that for some, women are still, to this day, no different from objects, but this was a new low.

I bare no ill-will towards “virgin” men who expressed their need for a “virgin” bride, so they can discover their sexual lives together. What I am appalled by are the men––and women––who agree that a man should be sexually experienced, while a woman must remain pure.

This constant need to tarnish a woman for her sexual prowesses, or lack thereof, has to stop. A woman’s value goes beyond her hymen, beyond her looks, beyond her body. A woman must be measured by her words, her actions, her strength and fortitude. And most importantly, a woman’s actions are nobody’s business.

Graphic by @spooky_soda


Queerness, community and Rocky

A look at Montreal’s renditions of the cult classic and what it means to the city

Towards the end of September, I walked into The Concordian’s office, first to arrive at our Friday pitch meeting, to find a large envelope on the floor that was addressed to me. Thinking I had deeply upset someone, I anxiously opened the envelope, emptying the contents on the table. Out spilled several papers, one of them labeled “WHAT TO BRING: TOAST, WATER GUNS … NO RICE.” Another showed illustrated instructions for the Time Warp dance. This was my invitation to the The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

I am not unfamiliar with the spectacle, but since I had never seen the live performance, I was riddled with excitement. Autumn is a strange time of the year, sometimes heatwave and sometimes freezing, but one constant remains: Rocky Horror. Posters litter the streets, every lamppost and every café. This was it, this was the year I was finally going to see the live show I had heard so much about. Not long after, I found out there are not one, but two live performances. “What’s the deal?” I asked myself. “Why does Montreal love Rocky Horror so much?”

Two weeks ago, I found myself walking up a narrow staircase above Segal’s Market on St-Laurent Blvd. The Mainline Theatre wasn’t what I expected; it was homey. People of all ages bedazzled with feather boas, wigs, fishnets and a lot of glitter waited impatiently in a line filling the entire lobby.

The theatre was small. On three sides, the room was lined with rows of elevated seats facing the performance area in the centre. Out came the usheress, beginning the show with a fantastic musical number. With a run time of 120 minutes, the performance was longer than the film itself and featured amazing numbers and raunchy call backs. My favourite scene was when the newly engaged conservative couple’s strange night began.

Elyann Quessy, as Janet, and Adrian MacDonald, playing Brad, got into a car completely formed by the bodies of the phantom dancers, with Kiah Ellis-Durity at the head, planking for the duration of the scene. When Ellis-Durity first experienced Rocky Horror at the age of 16, she was empowered by Frank-N-Furter’s words: “Don’t dream it, be it.” They made her realize she could achieve more than she ever imagined. To her, Rocky Horror is the embodiment of sexual liberation and self-confidence.

First-timer Yannick Victor had never seen the film, he only knew of the production in passing from posters on the streets and the one scene in The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Victor was simply baffled by the name: Rocky. Horror. Picture. Show. Words that are recognized all over the world, but what do they mean? “I think that very confusion, that inability to put this cult event/show/ritual/performance thing into a box is what it’s about,” Victor said. “There’s a clear link for me now between Rocky Horror not fitting into a neat little category and the gender fluidity of the characters.”

Montreal’s second version of the picture show is held at the Imperial Theatre. At The Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball, a shadow cast acts alongside a screening of the original film. The audience is encouraged to dress up and interact with the cast, spraying water and throwing toilet paper, newspaper and toast at specific points during the screening.

“Honestly, sometimes I wish I actually got hit with the toast,” admitted performer Hannah Miller. “Seeing the crowd having so much fun, playing and being free like kids, is really beautiful. It is the strangest way to build community, but it really works.”

Ten years ago, Miller was introduced to the show by Heidi Rubin, who plays Frank-N-Furter in the Montreal production. Miller joined the cast as an assistant and played Eddie the following year. Miller has been playing “Montreal’s favourite asshole,” Brad Majors, ever since.

This year, Concordia student Zynor Majeed played Rocky. He has been part of the cast for six years and has played various roles. According to Majeed, the ball is much more “extravagant and campy” than any other production he has been part of, which is one of the reasons he loves doing it.

“It’s an event that is difficult to describe,” the performer admitted. ”You can never truly have expectations. It isn’t your conventional play or movie screening, and I think events that give audiences an experience they have likely never had before reasonably get them excited.” Rocky Horror, Majeed added, “has given me a space to explore my sexuality and identity.”

The Rocky Horror Picture Show is a rule-breaker, and there is antici… pation that its audience and performers will be too. It remains a curious cultural phenomenon that permits the audience to behave in ways that would be severely frowned upon at any other film screening, and brings together different generations through love and queerness.

Graphics by @spooky_soda



Student Life

Carving out inclusivity at Concordia University

Florence Gagnon is creating the LGBTQ+ community she never had

Florence Gagnon has spent the last 10 years working to ‘spread the word’ and increase visibility for lesbians within and outside of the LGBTQ+ community. Her message? “We exist, and these are our experiences.”

Gagnon is the guest speaker at the second annual Queer Homecoming, an event that carves out a unique space for the queer community amidst Concordia’s orientation activities.

This year, she is set to share her success as an entrepreneur, founder and president of a non-profit LGBTQ+ organization and co-creator of a successful web series, to name a few accomplishments. Before she began her prolific career, Gagnon was a first-year student at Concordia, surrounded by hundreds of others at her own homecoming.

It was her love for art, coupled with the search for something outside of the small, suburban world that didn’t entirely accept her sexuality, that led Gagnon to move to the big city to study photography at Concordia. She said the experience changed her life before she even stepped foot in a classroom. “I felt like I was in the right place, that people were different and I was fitting in,” she recalled. “I really didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, but I guess it was the right context because I got to try so many things. I partied a lot, and I just met so many interesting people.”

One of those people was filmmaker Chloé Robichaud, who was studying in Concordia’s film production program at the time. “We talked a lot about our coming out, and the context we lived in in Quebec,” said Gagnon. “I come from the suburbs, so my coming out wasn’t the best experience ever, so at the time I felt like I was missing role models and information about what it is to be a lesbian.”

Their conversations turned into brainstorming sessions, and in 2012, they launched Lez Spread the Word (LSTW), an online platform that describes itself as seeking to “gather, inform, and shed more light on the lesbian community in Quebec and elsewhere. As well as offering informative and entertaining content, the site is a resource for women who do not have many references with regard to the lesbian community.”

Lez Spread The Word (LSTW) magazine. Photo courtesy of LSTW.

Only two years later, Robichaud and Gagnon crossed the second item off their project list: a web series by and for lesbians. Féminin/Féminin follows a group of lesbians as their lives intertwine and their stories unfold against the familiar backdrop of Montreal.

“We wanted to create something that we didn’t have at the time [of coming out], and thought we could help people, and also just for us to meet other girls,” said Gagnon. Following its premiere in 2014, Féminin/Féminin received much acclaim, winning the Best Fiction Web Series award at the Gémeaux Awards, and was renewed for a second season.

Keeping up with the momentum of her success, Gagnon spearheaded the launch of the LSTW magazine in 2016. LSTW is now distributed in 17 cities worldwide, with a third issue launching Oct. 23.

Still, with a reach greater than she ever imagined, Gagnon says visibility remains a significant obstacle. “Even now within the LGBTQ movement, it’s difficult to have a place. People think that within this movement [that] we’re all equal, but as women, it’s more difficult than it is for men,” she said, adding that even the use of the word ‘lesbian’ is contested within the community.

“People ask us why we use that word and not queer. At first it was really personal; I was identifying as a lesbian because I didn’t know anything else at the time. But at the same time, I’m happy to honour the past fights of women in the 80s. I think the word is loaded, but for us, we are pretty proud.”

Despite some pushback, Gagnon is optimistic for the future. “Things have changed over the past years. More visibility for the community and just being ‘different’ is celebrated more than it was before.”

Whether English or French speaking, there is visibility and power in numbers. Gagnon hopes people will come out to events like Queer Homecoming and get involved with projects in the community.

“I would love for the francophone and anglophone scene to mix more,” she said. “I think it’s really important—we need more communication. We still have so much to do.”

Feature photo by Saad Al-Hakkak.

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