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Sex education class used to mean having to sit uncomfortably through a lecture given by the school nurse. Today, sex education has a whole new classroom and a brand new vibe. McGill's Student Health Services just opened a new sleek and chic sex and health boutique to teach students about the birds and the bees. The Shagalicious Shop is designed to look like a 21st-century shag pad and is a safe place for students to learn and talk about safe sex. Oh behave!
"We want to make safe sex cool again," says Marius Wolfe, health promotion officer at McGill's Student Health Services. Wolfe's goal is to encourage students to feel comfortable to ask questions and to address concerns they may have about sexually transmitted infections (STIs), sexuality and pregnancy. He has helped train peer "sex-perts" to offer information about safe sex practices to students. They can answer questions ranging from how the pill and birth control patch work to how to use a dental dam to reduce the risk of transmitting STIs. Students are encouraged to come hang out and discuss confidential issues over a cup of coffee.
Antoine Beauchemin, 20, is one of these "sex-perts" and has been busy fielding all sorts of questions from students, from "How do you put lube on?" to "Do you recommend a male or female condom?" "Students are amazed that this service is offered on the McGill campus," says Beauchemin. "Three years ago, students had to ask the receptionist for a condom and now the Shagalicious Shop is a lot more student-friendly (and offers more choice)."
"At the end of the day we are a student service centre. There is a strong educational component to encourage behavioural change," says Pierre-Paul Tellier, the medical director of McGill's Students Health Services. "There's a resurgence in HIV and other STIs, and we felt it was important to debunk the myths and misconceptions for students who are not informed."
There was a surge of safe sex education in the '80s and '90s, but recently it's fallen by the wayside. Infectious diseases of all kinds are on the upswing. Last year, for the first time in 13 years, Tellier saw a few cases of gonorrhea and even one of syphilis.
Part of the Student Health Services education campaign involved 5,000 safe sex packages that were included in this year's frosh kit. And it doesn't end there. Wolfe and his team are designing a CD-ROM that demonstrates how to use various forms of contraception and how the female reproductive system works.
Students can pick up a box of a dozen condoms for $2.99, tax included - this is the Shag Shop special. Sexual health also includes basic health care so students can pick up thermometers, first aid kits and toothbrushes.
For students who are too shy to come to the shop, an online shopping service is available to order safe sex supplies. Students can pick up their Shaggie Baggy of items the next day. Brown-bagging it just got hip!