C/O Kevin Patrick Robbins

Students can learn more about how sexuality is defined by social constructs in a sociology course

Sexuality is often considered an uncomfortable topic, especially in the classroom; however, there are many courses at McMaster which cover topics related to sexuality.  

SOCIOL 3UO3, for example, is a course that explores issues related to sex and sexuality from a sociological standpoint. Tina Fetner, the Chair of the sociology department at McMaster, has been teaching this course even before she began teaching at McMaster. 

There are other courses offered at McMaster which discuss sexuality from other perspectives. PSYCH 3AC3, for example, discusses sexuality from an evolutionary and social psychology perspective, according to the course outline. LIFESCI 4XO3, another course offered at McMaster, discusses sexuality from a biopsychological perspective, according to its course outline.  

Fetner explained that teaching about sexuality often leads to students feeling discomfort, even when they do not expect to.  

“[Students are] super confident that they have found their way out of any kind of sexual taboos, that unlike previous generations, they are super confident about talking about sexuality, they feel very comfortable about it,” said Fetner. 

Fetner acknowledged that members of the younger generation are likely more comfortable talking about sexuality than their grandparents but added that they are often still less comfortable than they consider themselves to be.  

“As we actually start talking about it, we all start to giggle we all start to express our discomfort in socially appropriate ways,” explained Fetner. 

Fetner explained the importance of teaching about sexuality in an academic context, despite social taboos.  

“In order for us to understand ourselves and our social world, sexuality has to be one of the things that we're willing to talk about and treat not as some kind of special weird taboo subject, but as a regular topic of sociological analysis, where we can collect evidence, analyze it, and understand the social patterns, because otherwise we're missing an important part of the social world,” explained Fetner.  

According to Fetner, is important that we understand and discuss sexuality because it plays a major role in influencing our interactions with one another and with the world.  

“It is possible to see sexuality itself as a social force and [to see] the way that sexuality has been harnessed by even larger social historical forces, like colonialism, and like racism, and obviously sexism and gender inequality, and how either surveillance of or restrictions upon (or even criminal penalties for) certain kinds of sexuality have been used to create social divisions between groups,” explained Fetner. 

How pelvic floor physiotherapy can help with sexual dysfunction

The Silhouette sat down with McMaster University graduate and currently licensed physical therapist Dr. Iman Banerji to discuss pelvic floor physiotherapy and how it can help folks experiencing pain or discomfort with sex.

Banerji graduated from McMaster in 2017 with a bachelor of science and is now a pelvic and orthopedic physical therapist working in North Carolina after graduating from Duke University in 2020. Banerji always knew that she wanted to be in healthcare.

“I was always told as a child of immigrants that I need to become a doctor, but I never really thought about what that meant until I was actually in the thick of undergrad thinking about grad school,” said Banerji. “I started looking into other different realms of healthcare, other ways that I could be part of the healthcare team and combine my love for human connection and science with being a health care provider and upon looking into it a little bit more I realized that physiotherapy was actually more so the path that I wanted to take.”

“I started looking into other different realms of healthcare, other ways that I could be part of the healthcare team and combine my love for human connection and science with being a health care provider and upon looking into it a little bit more I realized that physiotherapy was actually more so the path that I wanted to take.”

When asked about how she became interested in pelvic floor therapy, Banerji said a friend brought her to a student-run pelvic health meeting where she learned about the different conditions and about the patient population.

She felt that through PFT, she could challenge the historical and present issue of women in healthcare not always being believed or taken seriously. She also wanted to be a healthcare provider for all genders.

“With pelvic floor physiotherapy there's a great chance to work with the trans population, who also has a very difficult time navigating the healthcare system, unfortunately. Again, I wanted to be a part of that and I wanted to be a healthcare provider that was inclusive to all genders,” explained Banerji.

The pelvic muscles are an important part of urinary and digestive health as they support the bladder and bowels. They also play an important role in sexual dysfunction.

“So if you are having pelvic pain or pain with sex, sometimes these muscles can be the root of the cause. [If] you notice that insertion or penetration or ejaculation or arousal or anything of the kind feels a little bit painful, the culprit could actually be your pelvic floor muscles,” explained Banerji. 

PFT can help reduce pain and increase pleasure in sex through both emotional components and physical exercises. Banerji stressed that consent is essential in all physiotherapy and with consent, a physiotherapist may conduct a pelvic floor assessment to understand and intervene with the pain.

“We can see if your pain is reproduced and if it is, can we do some type of manual intervention to the pelvic floor to see if it can calm down and relax a little bit more, if we can relieve some of that pain . . . we find ways to exercise the pelvic floor in such a way that it can relax and lengthen and not feel so painful on its own. So, there [are] many different strategies and many different techniques that we can use to help reduce pain,” said Banerji.

PFT relieves pain through a multi-modal approach. Banerji emphasized that physiotherapy is holistic and often includes an acknowledgement of the different factors that contribute to pain, including past experiences and trauma. 

“I like to take an approach of: I’m your physical therapist and your guide, so I’m not here to fix you or change you or anything like that,” said Banerji. 

“I like to take an approach of: I’m your physical therapist and your guide, so I’m not here to fix you or change you or anything like that,” said Banerji. 

Part of this approach includes working to help her patients feel that they have a bit more control in their lives. She does a lot of education with patients to both help them understand their bodies and to empower them. 

Stigma, shame and systemic factors around sexuality and sexual dysfunction can contribute to patients feeling disempowered or prevent them from seeking care.

People with vaginas are often socialized to believe that pain with sex is inevitable, prioritizing a heteronormative and patriarchal notion that sex is only about men’s pleasure.

“I also think a lot of people don't entirely know who to tell, which is why I love conversations like this. The more people can learn that you don't have to deal with painful sex, this is not a forever thing, you can actually go to someone who can help you, I think can be really empowering and really exciting for a lot of people. I'm going to be very blunt but sex should not be painful, it shouldn't. Really, it should be consensual and it should be fun and it should be pleasing and all these things, but it should not be painful,” said Banerji.

When asked what she would say to folks experiencing shame with their pain or sexual dysfunction, Banerji promised that no providers will judge or make you feel embarrassed.  

“For anyone who is thinking about going down this route, it's okay if you're not ready. Not everyone is ready to be part of the journey of being in pelvic PT. It is very personal and it's very intimate for a lot of people and not everybody is ready for that and that's okay. But, if some of the things that I talked about could potentially resonate with you, just know that there are pelvic-specific physios out there who would be more than happy to help you, with your symptoms whenever you are ready,” said Banerji.

Banerji explained that while PFT can be an important pain management tool for many, it may not be the only treatment. She also explained that though it may take some time to find a physiotherapist that you feel comfortable with, it’s worth it.

“This is not just you. There's nothing wrong with you. This is just something that you're experiencing, but it is not a defining factor of who you are and there are things that we can do about it together,” said Banerji.

Physiotherapy is direct access in Canada and the United States, meaning you do not need a referral from a physician and can reach out to a pelvic health physiotherapist directly.

Artist: Edwin Thomas, @edwinthomas__

Title: his last valentine

Medium: single-line digital drawing with watercolour

Description: A first glance, the drawing appears to portray a man giving his girlfriend flowers. However, the details show both individuals with tears leaving their eyes, trying to keep themselves composed in front of each other. It depicts a failed attempt at saving a relationship by making an effort for Valentine's Day. While the flowers appear to be a nice gesture, both individuals know that their relationship is not going to last for much longer. In a way, the flowers are an apology to his girlfriend for his lack of effort in the relationship.

Artist: Jenna Iacobucci, @jennaiacobucci

Title: Pose me (1-5)

Medium: Ink illustration

Description: As with many, growing up with a conservative mindset brings a lot to overcome. But why should we be so scared to appease others? Each person offers a different experience, different backstory, different perspective, different strengths and different struggles — and it's wonderful. If only everyone could appreciate the beautiful composition of shapes they are.

Artist: Jenna Iacobucci, @jennaiacobucci

Title: Comfort (1-2)

Medium: Photography

Description: Do what you need to do to make yourself feel confident. From personal experience — turtle necks, baggy sweaters, long pants and censorship has only brought me delayed anxiety and stress in relations. I truly push for everyone to understand themselves. Don't hide.

Artist: Steffi Arkilander, @peachlily.png

Title: love is domesticity

Medium: Digital

Description: 2SLGBTQIA+ love is often fetishized and over-sexualized. However, 2SLGBTQIA+ love is so much more than how it’s stereotyped — it can be soft, gentle, kind. In this piece, I wanted to highlight the importance of soft, domestic 2SLGBTQIA+ love. I took inspiration from watching and reading about 2SLGTBQIA+ in media and also from my own life experiences to come up with this piece. “love is domesticity” highlights a queer couple watching television together and cuddling during a night in.

Artist: Emelia Da Silva, @emeliainbloom

Medium: Photography


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Photos C/O Lauren Goodman

From side tables to sex toys, Hamilton-based artist Lauren Goodman’s work is all about blending functionality, feel and form.

Formally trained in fine woodworking at Williams & Cleal Furniture School in England, Goodman has a business designing and creating handmade furniture.

She also collaborates with other artists at Hamilton Audio Visual Node (HAVN), a multimedia arts collective. Additionally, she co-founded Sister Moon Collective, which focuses on fostering community and safer spaces through art.

In 2013, she helped create sex-positive submission-based zine Milkweed, where she was introduced to the erotic art scene. However, it was only recently that she began making erotic art of her own. She began creating hand carved wooden sex toys as a way to experiment with erotica.

“A friend of mine and I were talking about how wood is not a medium that people make sex toys out of,” said Goodman. “So just kind of sort of playing around using these offcuts to make different shapes and forms and sort of coming to forms that I like.”

Sex toys are a personal project for Goodman. Whereas her furniture is commission-based, her sex toys are more about personal exploration.

“This is me exploring my sexuality and what I want, and breaking down stigma that I have myself,” she said.

Through her erotic art, Goodman aims to normalize discussions about sexuality. By making beautiful, artistic sexual objects, she hopes to help break down taboos around sexuality and encourage people to explore sex openly.

“The idea is to break down this stigma of sexual objects, that they have to be in a little box under your bed,” Goodman said. “Why can't we put our ‘dirty’ thing on a plinth in our living room, and then when we want to have sex we grab it off the plinth and go have sex?”

Goodman finds that the sex-positive movement is slowly becoming more widely accepted.  In some ways, Instagram is helping to encourage this shift.

Instagram facilitates connections between like-minded artists from around the world, and in doing so builds an online community for an art form such as erotica that may have otherwise been considered niche.

Additionally, sites like Instagram provide opportunities for people to explore sexuality while maintaining some level of anonymity. Goodman notes that people who are reserved about sexuality in real life can find a sense of liberation and openness through social media.

However, the advent of digital media presents a unique set of challenges for Goodman. As a woodworker, the visual element of her work is only one part of the picture. The tactile component of her art is also vital.

“Even with the tables that I make, or lamps, or anything like that — I want you to touch them and feel like it's silky.,” she noted. “I want it to be tactile pleasing as well as aesthetically pleasing, as well as functionally working. And all of these things intersecting to make a beautiful piece of art.”

As online markets replace brick and mortar stores, consumers lose the ability to physically interact with work and provide real time feedback.

Goodman noted that many queer-centric, sex-positive shops are shutting their doors. This means that people lose tactile access to sex objects, as well as the ability to talk to people about sex.

Goodman points to the need for an independent, sex-positive sex shop in Hamilton.

“I would love a Girl On The Wing that just sold sex toys — you know, like the local stuff, really curated with nice colours — that would be amazing, that would be a great store,” she added.

The absence of sex-positive shops in Hamilton speaks to a larger observation about the city’s approach to sexuality.

While Hamilton is known for being an artistic city, it does not have an erotic art scene. She observes a history of sexual repression that pervades into the present day, noting that Hamilton only legalized burlesque last year.

“I think that those deep-seated ‘ickies’ towards sex is really fervent here. And that's maybe why it's a little stifled on the erotic side,” she said.

Goodman also points out that the absence of an erotic arts scene in Hamilton is in part to due with the city’s proximity to Toronto. Hamilton-based artists can take their work to Toronto if they are interested in pursuing erotic art in an already established scene.

Despite the lack of an erotic art scene in Hamilton, Goodman finds that artists often explore themes of sexuality in their work. She finds the artist community in Hamilton to be open, progressive and welcoming.

For Goodman, this openness is key. By exploring sexuality openly and honestly in her work, Goodman hopes to work away at her own internalized shame, and encourage others to do the same.


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Photos C/O Mia Sandhu

By: Rya Buckley  

Mia Sandhu’s paper cut outs depict images of women partially or entirely nude, amidst backgrounds of leaves or behind curtains. She began working on these figures four years ago as a way of working through her own ideas about women’s sexuality.

Sandhu is a multidisciplinary artist currently based in Toronto. Her work has been exhibited in Toronto, Kingston, Halifax and Hamilton. She is a member of The Assembly gallery here in Hamilton, has done an artist residency at the Cotton Factory and also exhibited her work at Hamilton Artists Inc.

Last November, Sandhu exhibited her collection Soft Kaur at The Assembly, which featured playful figures who are comfortable with their sexuality. The name of the exhibition, which alludes to both to the softness and fierceness of women, incorporates the half Punjabi artist’s cultural background into her work.

It's the idea [of] a female warrior spirit and the idea of equality that exists… Singh and Kaur are these given names and it was designed to eliminate status and… [create] men and women as equal. And I liked the play on this idea of soft female spirit slash warrior spirit [and] also the sexual undertone,” Sandhu explained.

There are other motifs in Sandhu’s work that suggest a dialogue between Sandhu’s culture and her evolving ideas on sexuality. A lover of Indian fabrics, silks and tapestries, Sandhu includes these aesthetic features in her work through the exotic plants in the environment her figures reside in. With the evolution of her work, she now references more domesticated plants that humans have formed a relationship with.

The silhouettes that are seen in Soft Kaur are also the result of Sandhu’s art’s progression. Her earlier work featured brown-bodied figures because Sandhu felt it more appropriate to use brown bodies in a work related to her upbringing and culture. Over time Sandhu employed more silhouettes in order to represent any woman, regardless of race.

The silhouettes do not broadcast as a uniform but as a canvas onto which women can project their own sexuality and ideas about sexuality. Sandhu is a believer in the fact that no one should decide for a woman how she should be represented sexually in society.

“I want women to be safe and I want them to feel safe and feel free and strong and empowered… [W]e're autonomous [and] each of us should choose for ourselves how we want to be represented sexually or in any other way because we're individuals. Hopefully we're not represented with any sort of attachment to shame. We should just be proud of who we are,” Sandhu said.

Facilitating space for women to speak about their ideas on sexuality was one of Sandhu’s aims behind this body of work. She finds it interesting to observe how her audiences connect with and interpret her art. By enabling dialogue, she finds that women can begin to realize the experiences that they share.

Exhibiting at The Assembly also gave Sandhu a location to speak with others about her work and to receive feedback. One thing that she appreciates about the Hamilton art scene is the sincerity of the participants who she feels are open to talking about important issues and are creating art that is driven by content.

While there is no linear narrative to Sandhu’s work, the content is obviously evolving as Sandhu’s own views develop. One of the motifs whose symbolism has changed over the years is the cloak that Sandhu’s figures have covering and revealing their bodies.

“[The cloak] represents shame, it represents personal space and it represents a number of other things as well… But it's like they're choosing how much of themselves that they're revealing and then as the work evolves, it's like the… cloak… stops being on them directly and starts being like in their space around them and they're allowing you in, or not letting you in,” explained Sandhu.

Through her work, Sandhu is also choosing to what extent she decides to let her audiences in. She is working on a new set of drawings and will continue to explore women’s sexuality and empowerment in the future. Her artwork is her diary, the paper cut outs and pencils replacing the thousands of elusive words that would be required to speak on the complicated ideas that she depicts.


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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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Content warning: graphic discussion of sexuality and discussion of sexual dysfunction disorder

2015 was an exciting year: we found liquid water on Mars, I started at McMaster, we had a federal election, and Ontario unveiled its new sexual education and health curriculum. 

The new Ontario government is reverting to the previous version which debuted in 1998. I was living my best life back then, but little did I know that I would suffer greatly at the hands of the 1998 sex ed curriculum.

Not to spoil my story but to give some context, I have to actively tell myself that I am worthy of love.

Words like consent, clitoris, sexual dysfunction and gay never came up in my sex ed classes. Instead, I was told to be afraid, to fear and be ashamed of my body and the consequences that my actions can have on it. The only way to truly love yourself is to be modest, chaste or to be fearful and in awe of the power of God.

The 1998 sex ed curriculum was bad but together, with traditional Catholic views and easily impressionable youth, you’ve got quite the unholy trinity.

It took me too long to acknowledge how harmful and false my formal sex education was. In elementary school, I was told over and over that sex and sexuality are only for straight, married couples. In grade 4, I asked my teacher how babies are made. My class yelled at me, “oh my god why would you ask that?”, or “you just want attention!” My teacher sent us away to collect her thoughts. 

After recess she sat us down, took a deep breath, and said that babies are made “through sexual intercourse”. We giggled, while relief washed over her face. In hindsight, I am certain that she consulted other teachers on how to handle such an inappropriate and controversial question.

The rest of elementary school was filled with poorly labelled drawings and insistence of fear. It worked. If you fear God and follow His teachings, you won’t hurt yourself or others. This seemed reasonable; I do try to avoid pain where I can. 

One such instance of this is my refusal to wear tampons. When I finally found my vagina, with the assistance of my mom at the ripe age of 13, I found it too painful to insert the tampon. Skipping 5 weekly practices once a month really sets you back as an athlete. 

Another question my classmates and I had was that if sex before marriage is so bad, then why isn’t it one of the Ten Commandments? How foolish we were to think adultery was only possible in current relationships. By having sex before marriage, you are robbing your future spouse of the chance to share that with you and only you. 

In high school, we watched a video of a woman repenting for her premarital sex. She was so ashamed and so sorry, but her darling fiancé forgave her. He was still excited to share their marriage, but he is so glad that he doesn’t feel the shame she feels. An ashamed woman and her righteous man, I bet you’ve heard that before.

Masturbation is a sin, birth control causes cancer and you can get pregnant if you’re fooling around in your underwear. I was educated enough to know how false the birth control claim was but the same can’t be said for the pregnancy claim. 

I was 13 when I heard that and about two years later, those were the thoughts on my mind as the cute boy in his underwear laid beside me. My first and only condom demonstration would come years later, courtesy of my neighbour in my first year of university.

Now, back to my discussion of pain. 

I am so sorry that you received such poor health education. We deserve so much better. I am healing but it will take time. The years of fear mongering from my schooling left me with a sexual dysfunction disorder that currently prevents me from penetrative sex. 

A male-identifying friend I made at McMaster once told me that sex was such a vital part of a relationship and that he likely wouldn’t stay in a relationship if, after three weeks, they weren’t having sex. I have hidden from romance and relationships for so long because these experiences, from elementary school to now, have made me feel as though I don’t deserve romantic love. 

I’m lucky to have so much love in my life, from family and friends and from myself, but my inability to relate to the media I consume and the “normal experiences” of young women is unsurprisingly difficult.

I have always been grateful for teachers, I still am, but they need the necessary tools to allow us to succeed. We need an updated curriciulum. I needed it 15 years ago and we all need it today.

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Last week, I went to see one of the Honours Performance Series plays, Unoriginal Sin. In the director’s notes, they write, “While we know that this will be something that may cause you discomfort, our overall goal is to make you really consider your everyday views on sex.” I take this to be the thesis of their play, but I don’t think the play successfully achieved their goal. They also stated that they wanted to “tackle the subject of sex in our times as honestly and directly as possible,” and open a discussion about the “complexities” that sex brings to our lives. Unfortunately, the characters were shallow — almost all were essentially the same characters with only two notable outliers — and the “complexities” of sex were watered down to scenes of people making out and dancing together.

I can’t express enough how boring and unoriginal this play was. Not even the masturbation or kissing scenes piqued my interest — both of which were just meant to be shock factors rather than much of a plot point. The humour was very uninspired. When one of the characters (Dylan) is seen flipping through Tinder, he makes a lot of jokes about the app. His gripes are the usual: he doesn’t like when people use group photos as their display photo. Of course the audience laughed — the experience is relatable, and Dylan simply named off everyone’s problems with their Tinder experiences.

Then, there’s a strange, borderline problematic, line. In one scene, Amy and Kyle are on a date — Amy, begrudgingly; Kyle, excitedly — and Kyle spends the whole time trying to convince her to have a good time, and Amy is just bratty about it. Then, Kyle defends his intentions by saying, “when you meet a great girl you have to go after her,” and then calls Amy beautiful. So, how is she a great girl, again? All he knows about her is that she’s attractive. Now, I assume that this was meant to be a subversive part, but I think that that assumption grants the play too much credit.

What I found odd, most of all, was that being gay was either a punch line or a crowd pleaser. In one part of the play, two characters — named Kyle and Dylan — were talking about their plans for the evening, and Kyle made a joke about Dylan being on Tinder, Bumble … and then Grindr, which he and the audience chuckled about. What is the joke here? Is the joke that Dylan is gay? That he uses an app specifically for men who are gay? I don’t know why there was a pause to make it a joke, and I don’t know why the audience found it humorous.

The gay men were a strange piece of comic relief. Even at the end, when taking bows, they came out together with one hand on the other’s back. Why? For what? To continue to get the positive reaction they got when they had kissed on stage and everyone cheered?

Finally, I was confused about the costume design at the end of the play. Everyone was dressed in white. The associations with white are usually “purity,” and “virginity,” yet, at the end of the play, the virgin (Brooke) was no longer a virgin. When I asked one of the cast members what the directors’ intention was with this final costume, they were told that that was just the way it was, although the symbolism of the “pure” white clothing did not fit the tone of the play’s ending.

What I found odd, most of all, was that being gay was either a punch line or a crowd pleaser.

The best parts of the play were those without dialogue. So much more was said in these parts, and the plot moved quicker during the tableau-esque moments.

This play didn’t make me uncomfortable for the reasons they may think — it made me uncomfortable that I had to watch rehashed jokes on stage and listen to an audience laugh and laud about gay men just doing normal things that even heterosexual couples do.

As a final note: I would love to lend my copy of The History of Sexuality by Foucault to the directors.

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WARNING: This article contains graphic descriptions of rape and mention of suicide.

I was a Welcome Week representative in 2012, and I met John Doe*, a fellow rep, through some friends. We didn’t work directly together, but he hung out with us often. I thought he was funny, we had the same taste in music, but I never thought of him as anything more. My friends were close to him, and I liked my friends, so it all seemed great. It was after our fourth encounter with each other that he raped me.

It was the day of the Yates Cup. I had gone to a friend’s before the match for some drinks. I was happily drunk but felt the cold November wind hitting my cheeks as the game crept closer to half time. My friends texted me that they were at TwelvEighty and there was an extra seat for me.

As I entered TwelvEighty, I saw John and my friends. I had run out of money and waved my debit card around, asking for a drink. The bartender said that if I had no cash, I had to buy a pitcher in order to use my card. I did so and ended up drinking most of it.

John got up and stretched, and announced that he was going to go for a walk. I was beginning to feel nauseous and figured that joining him would be a good way to sober up. We walked until we found a stairwell. He sat on the stairwell while I fell on them. I remember his face getting closer to mine slowly. He kissed me and I could hear footsteps approaching. People passed by, the match was still going on. I felt exposed and uncomfortable.

I suggested to him that we should go into a private room. I wanted to talk and I wanted for us to be alone. I wasn’t thinking about kissing him more. To be honest, I genuinely wasn’t thinking about anything in particular, I was just drunk. I know I didn’t encourage him, but I clearly didn’t express myself as properly as I wished.

We went into a room in the arts quad basement. He turned off the light and I sat on the ground as standing had become too tricky.

He pulled his pants down and tried to shove himself into my mouth. I was frozen. Somewhere in the back of my mind the phrase “freeze, fight or flight” popped up, and I cursed myself for having the worst reaction.

“Get on that bench.” he said. At that point in time I was so dumbfounded that any short instruction seemed sensible. He pulled off my jeans. I realized what his intentions were, and mustered up the strength to cover myself with both of my hands and said loudly, “No. Stop. I don’t want to. No. Stop.”

I remember him pulling my hands away. He pressed his lips against mine, hard. I remember hearing him grunt, and the occasional loud cheer from TwelvEighty came through the walls. My insides were screaming for my body to get up, to punch, to do anything, but I was incapable of moving. I was scared of his strength. Not physical, as he was short and smaller than me, but his mental strength – the fact that he ignored my pleas frightened me.

Something began to buzz in the room: my friends whom I left outside at the game were attempting to find me. They kept calling. Eventually, he stopped. I had sobered up enough by then to hop off the piano bench, pull up my pants, pick up my phone. We left the room and he headed back to TwelvEighty while I made a beeline for MUSC. As I left he called out, “See you around, eh?”

Somewhere in the back of my mind the phrase “freeze, fight or flight” popped up, and I cursed myself for having the worst reaction. 

I went to the Student Centre and ran into my friends. The shock settled in minutes after and I told my friends what had happened. They took me to Shoppers to buy a Plan B.

The next few days blurred together. I showered for 45 minutes washing every inch of my skin, hoping that the harder I scrubbed, the less dirty I’d feel. I couldn’t sleep. School didn’t matter. I lived off-campus and I would leave the house earlier because I didn’t want to face my parents.

I told my friends later on that day. It was confusing to them because they knew him for years. They said they believed me, but within that week they also told me that he made a mistake and they would remain friends with him.

John Doe called me the very next day and told me he knew I told our mutual friends, and that I was wrong. He declared he did have consent because I took him to the private room. A few days after this, I was with a friend, who was also a good friend of John Doe, but was supporting me during this time. John Doe called me, and I put it on speaker so she could hear what he was saying. He warned me again not to tell anyone, and claimed I was being ridiculous. “Am I always supposed to ask a girl if she wants to have sex with me?” he said in a sarcastic tone. I was stunned. His friend looked at me with an unfathomable expression. I hung up.

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My close friends were trying to convince me to report him, but even I was confused as to whether this was rape or not.

I even went to my old high school and confronted two of my closest teachers about what had happened. It hurt me to tell my friends and teachers. I’d see their faces register shock, worry, sadness, frustration, but I didn’t know what else to do. It felt as though I had such a big weight on my shoulders, and it had become too much for me to carry it by myself. I had to tell people who knew who I really was, who knew me before this happened, so I could cling onto my sense of self.

However, I also told people I regret telling. I shared what had happened with friends I wasn’t really close with. At the time, I thought that telling people would help bring some sense into this situation. However, the thoughts some shared with me confused me even more:

“Well, you did tell him to go into that room with you…”

“You were really drunk…”

“You are a super friendly person, so he just mistook that as flirting…”

“I’m not sure if this is considered rape because you probably enjoyed yourself once you started having sex, right?”

Another friend approached me at university one day and handed me a brochure explaining rape and that was when it finally clicked for me. I was raped. Some of my other close friends encouraged me to attend counselling, but it wasn’t until I saw the brochure that I did.

When telling the police, I had to replay every single thing in my mind. It felt like picking at the scabs of a wound that was trying to heal. We had to figure out how long John Doe and I were in the private room, and calculated that I was raped for 45 minutes. 

Two weeks after the incident, I went to see a counsellor in the Student Wellness Centre. My counsellor was nice enough but I felt rushed having to explain what had happened within my 30-minute time slot. It took me 10 minutes to stop crying. She referred me to the hospital and I headed there after my appointment.

Because I didn’t go there straightaway and had showered after being raped, they could not get his semen off my body. Instead, I underwent a physical exam and a mini counselling session. They took my urine sample and I had to take a pregnancy test. Afterwards, they gave me a handful of crushed up pills and water, telling me that these would wipe out any sort of STDs I could have contracted from him.

Within a month after it happened, I attempted suicide. To summarize it all into one sentence: I felt like a failure, like a used up rag that needed to be disposed. I am grateful that it was a botched attempt, and that I had friends around me who let me talk to them openly about it and made me realize it was not the way out.

One month after being raped, I contacted the city’s Sexual Assault unit and talked to a police officer on the phone. We arranged for them to meet me at a friend’s house, where they would interview me and fill out a report. At the time, that was the hardest thing I had to go through. When I told my friends or teachers what had happened, I was able to skip some parts. I was able to provide a summary. When telling the police, I had to replay every single thing in my mind. It felt like picking at the scabs of a wound that was trying to heal. We had to figure out how long John Doe and I were in the private room, and calculated that I was raped for 45 minutes.

I ended up going to the police station about a week afterwards and had an interview with the police. He said he met with John Doe and spoke with him. He asked if I wanted to take this to court, and added that it would take one year. I turned it down. I didn’t want this to drag on. Because I said no, it only says on John Doe’s profile that he was questioned for rape, but that’s it. The police officer patted me on the shoulder as I was leaving and said, “Take care of yourself. Next time, try not to get yourself into this sort of situation, like the drinking...”

The following summer, I found out that John Doe was going to be a Welcome Week rep again. I contacted friends involved with Welcome Week and was referred to the Office of Student Conduct. I went to their office and told them everything. They informed me that had I approached them right after it had happened, they could have done more. John Doe could have faced more serious consequences. I had no idea that I could have approached the Student Conduct Office. I wish I had known, and hope that more information is given to first years about it now.

The office asked me if I could provide a witness. I immediately thought of his close friend that overheard our phone call after it happened. I messaged her and explained the situation. She sent back a lengthy response, acknowledging that she heard what John Doe said, but that she wouldn’t be able to be a witness for me. She added that I seemed to be holding a grudge and keeping in some pent-up anger. She then closed the message saying that her and other friends were also upset about what happened, but they found ways to move on. Her closing sentence was wishing me all the best. I was disgusted, and still am as I type this.

I showed the office the message, and since she acknowledged what John Doe had said, that was all he needed. He told me that he would meet with John Doe and that he would be monitored at all times during Welcome Week. He also said that John Doe wasn’t allowed to approach me on campus, and that I could call security if he did. While that was comforting, that wasn’t the point of my actions. I didn’t want him to harm anyone ever again, especially first year students.

The conduct officer advised me to go to the Human Rights and Equity office, which I did. I met with someone who was extremely nice and warm. It was comforting to open up to such a wonderful person. She informed me of an upcoming event SACHA, the Sexual Assault Center for the Hamilton Area, was hosting at Mac, which was aimed towards friends of sexual assault victims. I attended the session with one of my great friends.

After being raped by someone who I thought was my friend, the most difficult part was letting go of my friends who still supported him. It genuinely crushed me to have my friends tell me they still considered John Doe a friend. One friend messaged me an apology this spring, saying that she finally sees how horrible John Doe is, and that she will always regret not supporting me. Her message was what I had wanted for so long, but when she finally sent it to me, it had lost its value. I had to go through the rest of my undergrad avoiding my Welcome Week friends and certain parts of MUSC where they hung out.

I would think about it at least once every single day for the first year. I would find myself taking the car and driving to a random parking lot to break down and cry without any interruptions. I’d cringe every time I heard a rape joke, pretend I wasn’t affected while inwardly accepting the fact that the joke would stay in my mind for the rest of the day. I began to join numerous clubs and kept busy. I picked up more shifts at work to avoid being home.

Some days, I would have such a good time with friends that it wouldn’t be until I went to bed that I finally realized I hadn’t thought about it all day. I learned to congratulate myself with every little step towards improvement. I dread November a little less now. I didn’t have sex again until a year and a half later. When I did, and I realized it is still pleasurable, I was elated. John Doe may have become the focus of my life and taken things away from me, but this was not one of them.

Sometimes there are setbacks, though. I recently went home with someone and was triggered by the sexual position he wanted us to be in. I ended up crying in his arms. I was lucky because he was kind and understanding. I am now seeking counselling.

Less than two weeks ago, a good friend of mine approached me and told me she had been raped. She brought a guy home who asked her if she wanted to have sex. When she said no, he proceeded regardless. As she was telling me what had happened, I was trying to control my emotions, to be her rock. But how could this have happened? How could someone assault such a kind-hearted human being? What had she done to deserve this? I felt heartbroken all over again.

While I will never be able to fully understand what she’s going through, it’s safe to say that I have a general idea. The pain from being in the position of a victim’s friend was different, but still prominent.

These situations made me realize how often people question what rape really is. I now know that, put simply, it is any form of sexual activity with another person without their consent is sexual assault.

The statistics are disgusting: one in four women in North America will be raped. While the media normally reports rapists as being strangers in parking lots (which does happen often, unfortunately), that is not true for the majority of rapists. 80 percent of the time, your rapist is someone you know. It’s a close friend, or acquaintance, or family member.

I hope people can learn from the experience I’ve had dealing with this crime on campus. There are resources on campus to approach and consult if you have had a similar experience, but it still isn’t enough. If you have been in a similar situation, please contact the Human Rights and Equity Services department at the university.

*Name has been changed.

The author of this article has asked to remain anonymous. If you have any questions, email thesil@thesil.ca.


If you or someone you know is in need of a support service, below is a listing of local centres that are able to provide a variety of services and couselling.

On campus
Human Rights and Equity Services
Provides confidential complaint resolution according to the University’s Sexual Harassment Policies.
(905) 525-9140 x. 27581

Meaghan Ross, Sexual Violence Response Coordinator
(905) 525-9140 x. 20909

Student Wellness Centre
Provides a wide range of counselling options and medical services and testing.
(905) 525-9140 x. 27700

Provides confidential support for all victims of sexual assault.
(905) 525-9140 x. 20265

Provides confidential peer support, referrals on and off campus, anonymous and confidential pregnancy testing.
(905) 525-9140 x. 22041

Off campus
Provides a 24-hour support line, counselling services and public education.
(905) 525-4573
(905) 525-4162 (24-hour Support Line)

Hamilton General Hospital, Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Care Centre
Provides a 24-hour support line, counselling services and public education.
(905) 521-2100 x. 73557

Hamilton Police Services
Takes crime reports from city constituents.
(905) 546-4925

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