Make a V with your fingers. There’s a Friday party to celebrate Revolution 69.
That’s the year Canada decriminalized birth control and homosexuality, and the Calgary Sexual Health Centre is marking 40 years of sexual liberation.
Peek into the Crescent Heights community centre to see flared pants, crocheted vests and hear ‘60s music.
So, sexually speaking, where are we at now? Teen pregnancy rates are down. Birth control is available. The flip side? Sexually-transmitted diseases are persistent. Syphilis, for instance, has made a jaunty resurgence in Alberta. When public health experts tried to trace it, many afflicted couldn’t even name their partners.
They were that drunk and high. The reason for this, says Calgary Sexual Health Centre’s Pam Krause, is an easy way into sex.
“It’s a bit of a trap. You don’t feel comfortable having a conversation about sex so you have a few drinks, some drugs.” One answer is sex ed. The non-squirming kind. The Centre’s “Head Heart and Genitals” program gets teens to ask:
Have we discussed and agreed to sex?
Does this feel right?
Are we protected from pregnancy and STDs?
Do I like what’s happening?
The session is anchored with the idea that either partner can change their mind.
The Calgary Sexual Health Centre is a United Way agency that also receives financing through the City of Calgary. It has a budget of $1 million and 11 staff. It is known for pregnancy counselling, but is also reaching out to male youth.
Financed by an anonymous donor, the centre joined with U of C to study male teens. They found they aren’t about to sit around a circle and talk about “feelings.” Nor are they going to stroll by and pick up some brochures. Consider, too, male youths often get their sex information from pornography and don’t want to use condoms if they’ll look awkward. So the centre has a hired a male counsellor beginning in January to reach this group.
For the single 20s and 30 crowd, there are podcasts on the way with sex information.
Some of your tax money goes to all of this. Maybe it means one less unintended pregnancy, one gay teen who can “come out” without crisis, one more person who remembers the name of the person they had sex with.
The state, despite what Pierre Trudeau once famously disputed, might have a small place in our bedroom, after all.
Janice Paskey teaches journalism at Mount Royal College, serves on her community association board and is a proud mom to two boys; firstname.lastname@example.org.