Using community to learn about love, sex and health in a pandemic

The first Silhouette issue I remember picking up was the 2018 Sex and the Steel City issue. It started off so normal, but by the time I flipped to the sex toy guide, I recall being rather alarmed, maybe a tad embarrassed. I put the paper back on the stand.

A year later, I was contributing to Sex and the Steel City as the Arts and Culture Reporter. I started to understand how this issue provides an important space for our community to talk about the taboo, the messy and the private. But I didn’t feel I had anything to add to the conversation.

Now it’s two years after that. When I first took on the job that involves planning this issue, I still didn’t feel like I had much to add to this conversation. I wasn’t sure how to plan an issue on topics I am still exploring and learning about.

So I decided to do what I do whenever I write for the Sil: I listened. I have been a student of the dozens of thoughtful interviewees that have taught me about everything from magic to gentrification. So I turned to this community to teach me about love, sex and health.

So I decided to do what I do whenever I write for the Sil: I listened. I have been a student of the dozens of thoughtful interviewees that have taught me about everything from magic to gentrification. So I turned to this community to teach me about love, sex and health.

Over the past few weeks, the most personal stories and intimate art landed in my inbox. Strangers gave me permission to probe their pasts and tinker with their life texts.

So I want to thank every single person who reached out to me about this issue, to everyone who filmed and created and wrote this anthology on the taboo, the messy and the private. I am honoured that my part of the Sil’s legacy is all of your lessons on love.

I never realized how much of a community-based project Sex and the Steel City is until this year. Writing for a newspaper can be very isolating and doing so in a pandemic even more so, but this issue has reminded me of the community that the Sil has formed.

I think COVID-19 has made this issue all the more urgent. This pandemic has upended relationships, cancelled sex lives and wreaked havoc on our collective health. But it has also highlighted the importance of these things. We crave connection perhaps more than we ever have.

So in this year’s Sex and the Steel City, we have sought to tell stories of connection. Not just stories of romantic relationships, but also stories of the relationships with our family members, our friends and ourselves. I hope you know that you’re part of a community that loves and looks forward to this issue, be it your first Sex and the Steel City or your millionth.

Through this community, I have sought to expand my worldview. I’ll be the first to admit that there are representations lacking in this issue, that there are stories left to tell that I hope I’ll read in future issues of Sex and the Steel City.

But my goal was to make sure that you, dear reader, identified with just one word or just one image in this issue, so that you know that this is a conversation that you are a part of, a conversation that I welcome you to add to. More than anything, I hope you learn something.

Table of Contents:

The impact of COVID-19 on Hamilton sex workers by Rya Buckley

University-level dating during the pandemic by Adrian Salopek


Relationship wars: who needs a boyfriend when you have a sister? by Nina Sartor

Humans of McMaster: Morghen Jael by Esther Liu

What does it mean to be a man? by Sarah Lopes Sadafi

Sil Time Capsule: Students on the importance of sex education by Nisha Gill

Coming out as nonbinary by Fran O'Donnell

Self-acceptance takes time by Samantha McBride

The stories close to our hearts by Nisha Gill

Eight queer, sex-positive accounts to follow on Instagram by Subin Park

Art featured from various artists

Food Flavoured Love, a poem by Serena Habib

Eight cozy virtual date ideas by Tracy Huynh

Thoughts from an Indian emigrant on arranged marriages by Sharang Sharma

Lessons from my sister: kaleidoscope of love by Niko Haloulos

Humanity Switch? I wish. by Serena Habib

Sil Sit Down with Dr. Iman Benerji by Urszula Sitarz

Finding Comfort in the Little Things by Nisha Gill

Define your own beauty by Krishihan Sivapragasam

Photos C/O USC Hugh M. Hefner Moving Image Archive

If you’re an avid reader of the Silhouette, then you’d know our annual rendition of Sex and the Steel City, much like the paper itself, has evolved quite a bit over the past couple of years.

Putting together this year’s sex-positive publication meant embracing the diverse ideas around sexuality, love and health. It’s about creating a non-judgemental space where experiences can be shared, identities are expressed and art can be enjoyed.

Through Sex and the Steel City we were also able to explore Hamilton’s history, challenge the issues our communities’ face and open eyes to future possibilities with passion and dedication.  

Every word and visual in this issue is also a reflection of the privileged position we, as a publication, are in to unapologetically express ourselves. A position that has been continuously denied to people historically and as of late.

For this reason our cover includes re-creations of stills from the recently discovered film Something Good - Negro Kiss. Directed by William Selig in 1898, the film depicts the earliest on-screen kiss between two Black stage entertainers and challenges the racist caricature prevalent in popular culture. In the 29-second silent film, Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown convey undeniable expression of love, pleasure and happiness.

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id="218" gal_title="Something Good - Nego Kiss"]

Stills from Something Good - Negro Kiss, a silent short film directed by William Selig in 1898 and starring Saint Suttle and Gertie Brown. The film was discovered and restored by University of Southern California archivist Dino Everett and identified by University of Chicago scholar Allyson Field.


We hope to continue the conversation around barriers that continue to marginalize identities today while also celebrating everything good they have to share.

Sex and the Steel City is a hopeful expression that love will prevail.


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By: Sohana Farhin

Different from the common cold, the flu is a common term for the influenza virus, a highly contagious airborne virus that spreads rapidly in cold weather. Catching the flu can cause symptoms such as a high fever, fatigue and muscle aches, which commonly last up to two weeks. In severe cases, it can cause hospitalization and death, particularly for more vulnerable populations, including the elderly. The Public Health Agency of Canada reports that there were 591 deaths due to the flu last year. Despite this, many wonder if it is worth it to get the vaccination.

In simple terms, the flu vaccination is an injection of inactive virus particles into your body, which generates a specific, but mild immune response. This primes your body to respond more effectively when you contact the real virus. But, there is a catch (or two) to it.

Although the flu shot is highly effective against the influenza virus, it does not guarantee protection. The influenza virus is a quickly mutating and evolving virus with many strains. It would be impossible to vaccinate against all strains and as such, the flu shot is a trivalent vaccine, designed to protect from the three major strains of the virus for the current season. As well, your body requires approximately two weeks to effectively generate antibodies to combat the virus. This means that the flu shot won’t be in full effect until two weeks after vaccination.

There has been growing concern and misconception that a preservative called thimerosal, which can often be found in vaccines, is linked to autism. However, studies have conclusively shown that there is no such link between the two, and the initial conclusion was based on scientifically invalid evidence.

Another misconception is that you can get the flu from getting the flu shot. Though some people may feel some mild flu-like symptoms as a result of the antibody response being generated. As a result, it is advised that you are healthy before receiving the flu shot. However, there is no possible chance of acquiring the flu from the vaccination because the virus is inactive.

If you are allergic to eggs, there is a slight chance of having an allergic reaction since the vaccine is cultured in a low amount of egg protein. However, it is possible to request an “egg-free” flu shot. There is also a nasal-spray vaccine for those with a fear of needles!

The National Advisory Committee on Immunization recommends the flu shot to everybody who is over six months old. From a public health perspective, protecting yourself from the flu, protects more vulnerable people around you, including those who cannot receive the vaccine. Flu shots are available for free in Ontario and McMaster students can get it by booking an appointment with the Student Wellness Centre.

The Student Health Education Centre is here to provide you with information and resources that you need to make a decision about the flu-shot. If you have any more questions, visit us at MUSC 201 and we will be there to provide resources, referrals and support.

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