Thinking about sex education for many Ontario students brings back memories of latex condoms on bananas or ancient overheads showing anatomical diagrams in uncomfortable middle school classrooms. Sex education for many university students was characterized by giggles, awkward silence, confused teachers, and misinformation. Ontario’s repealed and then mostly reinstated 2015 curriculum gives the students of today a better chance of understanding their bodies than those of us subjected to the 1998 curriculum. Still, the biggest difference between our adolescence and the current generation’s is technology. While we only had MSN chat rooms and Yahoo answers, those growing up in the media saturated world of today have more access to information about their bodies and sexualities than ever. Reliable, inclusive and accessible information isn’t so hard to find thanks folks like Eva Bloom.
Bloom, a McMaster alumnus, has an ever growing online presence under the moniker @WhatsMyBodyDoing, where she uses her schooling as a sex researcher to create engaging and informed content about sex and sexuality. Whether it be tips for exploring feminist sex toy stores or navigating disclosures with partners, Bloom is breaking down complex topics into byte-sized posts and colourful memes.
How did Bloom get started in the sex education field? Combine an interdisciplinary undergraduate program, sex nerd status, and volunteering at the campus health centre: that’s the recipe for a burgeoning sex educator. Still, Bloom admits: “part of the reason I was inspired to do sex education was because I had a lot of really bad sex.”
Encouraged to follow her interests, Bloom started to make YouTube videos about sex ed topics that she wanted her peers to know about. Online sex ed made sense: she could tell each friend about an important health topic individually, or she could make a video about it and hopefully reach thousands. Especially with sex and sexuality, technology helps bypass the barriers or discomfort that may prevent some from engaging with important health information.
“Technology can be a tool to reach more people with sex ed and start conversations online when they’re scary to have in person or not possible to have in person.”
Beyond sex education, technology can also help broach uncomfortable conversations between partners. Bloom’s Masters research into sexting explores how intimate conversations through technology might improve sexual experiences, especially for women and non-binary folks.
“I think that my kind of perspective on sexting and technology is that it can be this huge tool to kind of open the door for talking about sexuality because it can still be really scary to even talk to partners about what you like and what you don’t like.”
Talking to partners about sexual health can be a daunting task, especially in casual relationships. Bloom recognized the importance of rethinking communication in hook-up culture and created a workshop to that seeks to centre compassion.
“How to F*ck like a Hufflepuff” is a casual sex workshop that borrows its name from the nicest Hogwarts House within the Harry Potter world but with less quidditch and more condoms. Bloom describes the workshop as a place to educate people about respect in all kinds of relationship structures.
“You can be treated with kindness, you can be treated with care in whatever kind of relationship structure at your end, including casual sex.”
The workshop has evolved over time alongside Bloom’s identity. Now, “How to F*ck like a Hufflepuff” incorporates more ideas from the LGBTQ2SIA+ community and tenets of non-monogamy. Queer relationships flip the scripts on what hookups are supposed to look like, inviting more compassion and communication.
“Can men and women really be friends? . . . Like there’s the very strict binary of you’re friends or you’re fucking. But with queer sexuality in relationships . . . you can have crushes on your friends and you can fuck your friends and there’s more of a fluidity.”
So how can you create compassionate casual relationships? Bloom says to make it clear what you want out of each encounter or new person. Explain clearly that you’re looking for casual sex with people who are going to be kind.
“I’m a big fan of the filtering coffee date,” says Bloom. “Get coffee with them, see kind of what their vibe is . . . you don’t need to tell each other your life story, but I feel like that’s a really good way to filter people out and also kind of like set the tone that you’re looking for something maybe more consistent.”
Still, conversations about sex can be scary, especially in a culture where they aren’t commonplace. Bloom suggests texting instead. In the heat of the moment it can be easy to forget to mention STI status or preferred contraceptives, whereas texting is takes away some of the pressure of serious conversations and keeps sex interruption-free.
Bloom suggests a few important questions you might want to cover with a potential sexual partner:
“How often do you want to be in communication? . . . How often do you text them or talk to them? How often do you want to see them? How much you want to talk about stuff that isn’t sex?”
Establishing boundaries is also important. Conversational boundaries are often unexplored, but can prevent some uncomfortable situations. Discussing what conversations are on or off the table with a friends-with-benefits, or as Bloom calls them, acquaintance-with-benefits, helps keep expectations and limits clear.
“Mental health stuff, I feel like that’s a good boundary to have. Are you gonna tell them when you’re having a bad day and do you just want them to send you pictures of puppies? Or are they actually someone that you want to talk stuff through with? Or maybe it’s better to rely on your friends for that.”
Bloom reminds these are all conversations that can happen before a hookup via text or even sooner if you put your boundaries and what you’re looking for in your bio. Being clear about your desires while swiping can help weed out partners who aren’t going to bring compassion to the bedroom.
Whether it’s your next Tinder date or friends-with-benefits-fling, keep in mind communication and compassion.
As adults, reclaiming the sex education we weren’t taught in school can improve our sex lives and make us better, more compassionate partners. Alternative educational spaces, like online content or Potter-verse-inspired workshops, offer information we might have missed out on or needs updating for a tech-savvy dating world.
Looking forward, Bloom is planning an online version of her “How to F*ck like a Hufflepuff” workshop in the coming year. For her fellow sex-nerds, check out Bloom’s newsletter where she shares sex research papers and other sex-research-related things she is excited about.
This article is part of our Sex and the Steel City, our annual sex-positive issue. Click here to read more content from the special issue.