McGill University's health promotion strives to be non-judgmental, harm-reductionist and to recognize the diversity of students' experiences.
There are often assumptions about sex and what everyone else is doing, but a 2016 survey of McGill students found that:
- National College Health Assessment, p. 24-26, 2016
Learning more about sex and sexual health can help you have safe, respectful and enjoyable experiences!
If you're covered by Studentcare, contraception, IUDs and other pNormalrescriptions may be covered! Check their website for more details.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our lives, and sex lives are no exception! It is possible to have a safe, healthy sex life while maintaining social distancing and reducing the risk of transmission.
Your safest sex partner is yourself! Take this opportunity to focus on you and figure out what you like. While the Shag Shop is currently closed, you can find toys, lube, and other accessories through a variety of online retailers.
If you are quarantined with your partner, it's perfectly safe to have sex with them, as long as they are respecting the same boundaries as you. However, you may notice that your sex drive, or your partner's sex drive, has been affected by the anxiety, stress, or boredom that comes with quarantine. Make sure to have open and honest conversations about how your desires may have changed and what your boundaries are. If you and your partner live in separate households, it's still okay to have sex, as long as both of you are comfortable with the level of social distancing the other maintains. If you're not, or if you live too far apart to see each other right now, you may want to find ways to have sex virtually, through sexting, phone sex, video calls, and/or sharing fantasies.
If your partner is pressuring you to have sex when you don't want to, or to engage in specific sex acts you're not interested in, that's not okay! We have resources that can help you assert your boundaries or get out of a situation where you feel unsafe. Your safety is more important than maintaining quarantine. You can reach out to the Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support, and Education (OSVRSE), or to the Sexual Assault Centre of the McGill Students' Society (SACOMSS) for information and support.
If you're having sex with new partners, or multiple partners, explore options with limited contact. Use dental dams and/or condoms, and avoid kissing partners. After having sex with a new partner, make sure to wash your hands and any sex toys in hot water and detergent for at least 20 seconds. Virtual sex options like sexting, phone sex, and video sex are all great, no-risk ways to enjoy your partners! Ask partners if they have traveled recently, if they have experienced symptoms like fever or shortness of breath, and try to get a sense of their habits to make sure you are comfortable with their level of social distancing.
One of the best ways to learn about your sexuality and preferences is to get more comfortable with your body.
If masturbation is a way of doing that for you, the Shag Shop sells sex toys of all types at cost, with orders available for pick-up at various locations on campus in discrete packaging.
Consent is fundamental if you’re going have sex. Consent is an enthusiastic and freely given “yes,” and consent must be given for all kinds of sexual activity that you engage in.
You need to respect your partner’s reasons for choosing to have or not have sex. Always:
- Check in with your partner.
- Recognize that you or they can stop at any time.
- Communicate so that you both feel safe and comfortable.
It’s each person’s responsibility to communicate with, ask and respect their partner so everyone has an enjoyable sexual experience. And you should never feel bad about saying “no.”
Along with communicating consent, it’s important to be clear about your boundaries and preferences in relationships, and respect your partner’s.
Make sure you’re being clear about what you expect and need from people, and what they can expect from you. And let people know if your boundaries or preferences change.
Every member of the McGill community is required to take the It Takes All Of Us sexual violence education program. In this module, you will learn more about how to identify, prevent, and support survivors of sexual violence.
Sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are infections that spread through:
- Sexual activity or contact (including oral, vaginal or anal sex)
- Skin-to-skin contact
- Shared needles or other drug paraphernalia
STIs can affect anyone who is sexually active.
If you’re planning to be sexually active, consider and discuss STI prevention methods with your partner beforehand.
You can help prevent STI transmission by getting tested. Getting tested for STIs regularly is an essential part of practicing safer sex and protecting both yourself and your partner(s).
Most STIs don’t present symptoms, so the only way to know is to get tested. Almost all STIs are treatable, and many can be cured entirely.
It is recommended that you get tested at least once a year, or more often if you have multiple sexual partners.
Please make an appointment at the Hub to receive a full STI test or get vaccinated for HPV.
Contraception help prevent pregnancy, and some help prevent STIs as well.
Types of contraception
Understanding the different types of birth control can help you make an informed decision.
Maximize the effectiveness of your birth control of choice by talking to your doctor about it, being informed about the method and combining it with another.
Please make an appointment at the Hub if you’d like more information or a prescription.
Hormonal methods (e.g., pill, patch, ring), require a prescription from a doctor, and many can be bought at a pharmacy.
Book an appointment at the clinic to receive a prescription.
Intrauterine devices (IUDs) need a prescription from and insertion by a doctor. IUDs may have additional costs.
Hormone Replacement Therapy, or HRT, does not prevent pregnancy! Even if you are on HRT, you need a birth control plan.
You can buy barrier methods (e.g., internal and external condoms, sponges) at any pharmacy,
or through online retailers.
Interested in other forms of contraception (e.g. copper IUD, fertility awareness)?
Book an appointment at the clinic to learn about all your options.
The emergency contraception (EC) pill is used to prevent pregnancy after having unprotected sex, or if the primary method of birth control failed.
Since it drastically changes hormone levels and is more expensive than many other methods, it’s not meant to be used as regular birth control.
There are multiple kinds of EC available in Canada, some of which may require a prescription. Call the Hub or speak to a pharmacist for more information.
EC can be taken within 5 days of the unprotected sex, but the sooner you take it the more effective it is.
The cost of the pill may be covered by your insurance.
If you think you might be pregnant, you may wish to use a pregnancy test.
You can buy pregnancy tests at any drug store or pharmacy in Quebec. You can also get a pregnancy test at your local CLSC. The Student Wellness Hub cannot currently provide pregnancy tests.
If you are considering terminating the pregnancy, please make an appointment at the Hub. Although abortions are not offered there, you’ll be able to discuss options with a medical professional or receive information on Montreal clinics and hospitals where they are performed. You can also see a list here.
Know of a resource that you think should be added? wellness.hub [at] mcgill.ca (subject: Virtual%20Hub%20Online%20Resources) (Let us know)!
- Podcasts and Webinars
- Shag Shop
- McGill Community Organizations
- Off-Campus Resources
For event information, advice on safer sex during COVID, and more.
For posts on healthy sexuality and social media contests.
The Office for Sexual Violence Response, Support and Education has a podcast focused on sex positivity and different aspects of sexuality that involves students in its development.
The webinars – some developed in partnership with the clinic – focus on safer sex and healthier relationships.
Shag Shop (housed off-site at Healthy McGill)
Due to COVID-19, the Shag Shop is currently closed. McGill’s online boutique for sex and sexual health, it sells contraception, lubricant, sex toys, menstrual products and more.
The ultimate Canadian website committed to providing you accurate, credible and up-to-date information and education on sexual health.
From the Society of Obstetricians and Gynecologists of Canada, the site gives detailed information on the pros and cons of all contraceptive methods available.
A nation-wide organization that provides support, education and resources on issues of sexual orientation and gender identity for gay, lesbian, transgender, and bisexual people.
The McGill Library has compiled additional sexual health resources, including health concerns and questions specific to certain genders and sexualities.
McGill Community Organizations
The Equity Subcommittee on Queer People is a subcommittee of the McGill Joint Senate-Board Committee on Equity; it addresses issues of representation, inclusion and support of 2SLGBTQIA+ students, staff and faculty at McGill.
A student service run by queer students, for queer students, organizes events and workshops designed to support McGill’s queer community. Home to the largest queer-specific library in Quebec, alongside a variety of safer-sex supplies, and gender-affirming products, all available to students either free of charge or pay what you can.
A trans-positive and anti-racist, feminist service of the Student Society of McGill University (SSMU). The UGE coordinates an alternative lending library, and a co-op stocking pay-what-you-can ecologically responsible menstrual products, safer sex supplies, and gender empowerment items.
A support service for and by queer STEM students.
MUSIC offers short-term individual psychotherapy, group psychotherapies, as well as couple and family psychotherapy to individuals with sexual orientation or gender identity issues within the McGill University Health Centre. All services are covered by RAMQ or equivalent provincial or private insurance.
A bilingual non-profit that offers Montreal’s LGBTQ+ community a common gathering place for organizations and individuals interested in improving the experience of LGBTQ+ people through education, information and research.
A bilingual resource that offers information, a discussion forum, frequently asked questions and more.
A primarily French-speaking group which hosts discussion groups and activities for LGBTQ young people between the ages of 14 and 25.
Works to promote the personal, social, sexual, mental well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, transsexual, two-spirit, intersex and questioning youth 14-25. Also offers active listening sessions, advocacy, workshops and more.
Aims to promote the health and well-being of trans people through peer support and advocacy, education and outreach, and community empowerment and mobilization..
You can talk to a trained peer who understands what you're going through and can point you to other resources.
Peer Support Centre (re-opening in the Fall)
Open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offers active listening by trained peers who will listen to any of your concerns.
Nightline/Chatline (re-opening in the Fall)
For anonymous calls/chat messages every night from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., no matter what you need to talk about.
Workshops and Groups
If you'd like professional support while hearing from peers in the same position, you can join a workshop or group.
You must consult with a McGill clinician to register for group therapy, which provides support and therapy for a variety of issues.
Meet with a Professional
This Fall, there is a specialized psychotherapy group for female-identified survivors of sexual assault
Book a consultation with a professional and receive care. If you're meeting with a counsellor, you can request that your counsellor specialize in LGBTQ+ experiences.
You can speak with a volunteer in person or call their hotline (see website for hours), or join on of their support groups.
You can access support, resource and academic coordination, and reporting information.