What did it take to make this year's issue of Sex and the Steel City? Watch the trailer to find out:


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Arts and Culture Reporter Lauren O'Donnell sits down with Carrie Russell, owner of With Love Lingerie, an indie lingerie brand located in The Cotton Factory (270 Sherman Ave. N.) to chat about the craft of making lingerie.

Read the accompanying article here.


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Cover art by Matty Flader / Photo Reporter and Andrew Mrozowski / Arts and Culture Editor

When I was hired as the Arts & Culture Editor in August 2019, my mind immediately flooded with ideas and concepts of how to approach this year’s Sex and the Steel City issue. For months I stressed myself out as I pondered over ways  through which I can  ensure that this section was something I would be proud of, but I did not know what approach I wanted to take. 

In the past, SATSC  has explored themes of diversity, sex and safety, just to name a few; however, I didn’t want this year’s issue to simply  be a repeat. I looked at my own life for inspiration and thought of identity.

Each piece in this issue explores the theme of identity in some essence, whether it be sexual orientation, community identity, or more broadly the identity of love itself. Each piece has a unique message that can apply to anyone.

It was important to me to make this year’s SATSC cover memorable. The candy theming was not only  a play on Valentine’s Day; each item represents a different theme discussed in  this issue. The rainbow bands on the cover represent queerness; the fuzzy peach rings represents body positivity; the hot lips represent romance; and the gummy bears represent sex.

Accompanying this issue is our SATSC trailer, a take on the season 2 trailer of the Netflix original “Sex Education”. It was important to me to incorporate  this because I believe that “Sex Education” is really shaping the way we engage in conversation around a subject that has been taboo for such a long time—a goal that SATSC has been striving to achieve since its inception.

 To everyone who contributed to the section through written or art submission, to the staff who supported me in the last few months, to those who took part in our video content, to the diligent teams who worked so hard to bring this special issue to fruition, thank you. I would also like to thank my former Arts and Culture Editor (now Online Editor), Razan Samara. Without you pushing me each week to do my absolute best, from being a contributor to now. I could not have done this without your guidance. This is my ode, my ballad, my contribution to the legacy of the Silhouette.

With love,

Andrew Mrozowski

The Silhouette

A&C Editor




Queer politics in Hamilton: a year in review by Trisha Gregorio, News Editor

Compassionate casual sex is blooming by Adrianna Michell, Features Reporter

Mythbusters: Bisexual edition by Lauren O'Donnell, Arts & Culture Reporter

From hosting RuPaul’s Drag Race to advocating for an inclusive city by Andrew Mrozowski, Arts and Culture Editor

Learning love from literature by Nisha Gill, Contributor

When you need to “prove it” by Julia Healy, Contributor

Pressures in love by Rachel Lieske, Contributor

The craft of making lingerie by Lauren O'Donnell, Arts & Culture Reporter

Embodied empowerment through boudoir photography by Lauren O'Donnell, Arts & Culture Reporter

Loud and proud by A. A., Contributor

Queer eye for fashion by Anonymous, Contributor

A day in the life of hook-up culture by Nina Joon, Contributor

Allure Fitness: Sliding down and shaping up by Kyle West, Sports Reporter



Lights Get Bright Tonight by Katie Van Kampen

Untitled 1 & 2 by Kyle West

Pluto’s Heartbreak by Claire Kim

I Am Beauty by Claire Kim


Photo by Jaden Lall / Video Editor

Midnight blue velvet covered in snowflakes, or red roses and lace entwined on sheer mesh fabric. These are a few of the pieces you can find within the collections at With Love Lingerie, an indie lingerie brand located in The Cotton Factory (270 Sherman Ave. N.). Carrie Russell, the owner and creator of With Love, says that the brand name was inspired by her process of making every piece with love.

With Love’s Instagram feed and promotional images emphasize body diversity. Before opening her own lingerie business, Russell worked in the mainstream lingerie industry, an industry with a history of leaving plus-size women out of their lines. Russell admits that when she first started With Love, she made pieces only in smalls, mediums or larges, with little wiggle-room for people who didn’t fit into those constraining categories. Even though she is an advocate for body positivity and acceptance, Russell didn’t initially notice the lack of inclusion. Her perspective changed when she realized she wasn’t included in her own line.

“[T]he minute I realized I wasn’t included in my own passion and my love for my business, it made me realize well who else I’m not including, like, what other people are not even able to enjoy the things that I feel really passionate about. And it wasn’t really out of, for me, not loving other people’s bodies. Because I just love people’s bodies. I love talking about self-love and body positivity … But it was not reflected in my line. That was a really big thing for me, and I’m continuing to work with that,” said Russell.

Pieces of lingerie hanging in Carrie Russell's space at the Cotton Factory. Photo by Jaden Hall / Video Editor

Social media—Instagram in particular—can have a negative impact on how people perceive their appearance. The app motivates users to focus on gaining likes and followers, and much of that is rooted in appearance and showcasing the “perfect body”. It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as a perfect body, and even those who are considered perfect can still have difficulty accepting themselves. With Love aims to repair the relationship we have with our bodies, encouraging us to feel comfortable in our skin. Russell emphasizes the sense of empowerment that comes with lingerie, and the impact it can have on the journey towards body acceptance. 

“[T]hings need to be made for people with love and to actually do that, you have to include and, and really embrace all different sorts of body types and also embrace and make people comfortable wherever they are in the journey of their body self image or their body positivity . . . I really do think it’s really exciting when I’m able to have someone try something on that they would never have really thought about wearing,” she said.

The majority of Russell’s designs are not very structured, meaning that most don’t have any underwires or corsetry, and she works predominantly in sheer mesh material. The lingerie is designed to move with the natural shape of the body, rather than seeking to restrict the person wearing it. With the ever-increasing popularity of waist cinchers, corsets and Spanx, it can be difficult to celebrate your body without feeling like it should be restrained. The sheer mesh designs aim to uncover and empower the body, emphasizing what’s already there.

“It’s almost better to highlight the things that you see as the assets to let them outshine the things that you may still not be totally in love with yet. And that’s exciting when that light bulb goes off in someone’s mind,” said Russell.


While many people assume that lingerie is exclusively for younger women, Russell says that most of her clientele is actually more mature women, with an age range averaging between 30 and 60.

“I’m getting women in their 60s wearing sheer bodysuits and just living in them, which is great. And I think that truly is body positivity,” said Russell. 

With Love also caters to demographics beyond older-aged women. Russell says that she recently started working with trans women, gender-fluid and nonbinary folks. She sees a lot of potential for With Love to help people become more comfortable expressing themselves and exploring their gender.

“[I]t’s been really rewarding working with people who felt really timid about expressing who they are. And they feel comfortable coming to me and coming to my showroom, having one on ones with me, and I’m able to see their journey [with] discovering themselves and expressing themselves as well with their creativity and accepting sort of what they see and adorning it with With Love. And I think that’s a really big honor and it’s something that has been . . . a really rewarding learning curve for me,” said Russell.

While much of the response that Russell has received has been positive, there is still a lot of stigma surrounding lingerie and creating lingerie. In Russell’s experience, particularly in North America, lingerie is kept a secret because it is viewed as something inherently sexual or inappropriate. She says that people are very shy, and “Puritan” about it. With Love Lingerie strives to change that stereotype. While lingerie can be sexual, it can also be an empowering form of self-expression.

Russell has also recently launched her second brand, Spill the Tea Consulting, providing social media support and help for other small businesses trying to reach clients. In doing so, she hopes to help grow the community of local artists in Hamilton, and to help them reach their audience and thrive. 

Ultimately, Russell hopes that With Love Lingerie can foster a sense of empowerment in the people that wear her designs, allowing them to be at home and comfortable in their own bodies. She hopes that everyone can experience the same joy she feels when making lingerie, and that they can see that everything she does is made, of course, with love.


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.


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Graphic by Elisabetta Paiano / Production Editor

By Julia Healy, Contributor

CW: Mentions sexual violence

Sex and I have a fraught relationship with one another. As a girl growing up as a lesbian in a fairly conservative religious environment, my parents, teachers and peers frequently insinuated that queer attraction, particularly attraction between women, was attention-seeking and a phase. This stereotype made me constantly doubt my feelings and kept me securely in the closet during my high school years. But, once I left home and entered the secular world of university,  I was determined to come out. 

In first year, I began to feel like I had missed out on a lot of romantic experiences by remaining closeted for so long. While I hadn’t even tried flirting with a girl, my 2SLGBTQ+ friends would tell stories about their past high school flings and recent hook-ups at parties. One story that that I would hear and unfortunately internalize starred straight girls who had supposedly just wanted to “experiment,” and had left my queer friends feeling heartbroken and used. 

Being told that my sexuality was “just a phase” by people back home and by society at large was enough to make me doubt myself. Having this sentiment seemingly confirmed by the experiences of fellow members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community was terrifying. I internalized the idea that I could be misunderstanding my feelings, and that I was just constructing these attractions to seek attention, or approval from my 2SLGBTQ+ peers. I became fixated on the need to validate my identity and thought that having sex with a woman was the only way to settle the nagging fears inside my head.

I became fixated on the need to validate my identity and thought that having sex with a woman was the only way to settle the nagging fears inside my head.

Unfortunately, as an awkward first year who had never even kissed anyone, this plan was easier said than done. I worried that I would somehow mess up and embarrass myself, or, even worse, that I would realize I was straight all along. This idea made me so anxious, I didn’t even try to date. First and second year went by without a single a kiss to show for it. 

In the summer of second year, my sexual life completely shifted. After just one lacklustre date with very little chemistry, I went back to a girl’s apartment and stayed the night. She didn’t know that I had experienced my first kiss and had lost my virginity  within minutes of each other that night, and she didn’t seem to care about my nervousness. Although, in hindsight, I recognize that this encounter was not very healthy, I felt immense relief at the time that my attraction to women was not a figment of my imagination.

Despite this experience, I still hadn’t fully dispelled the negative stereotype about seeking attention, or the fear of falling behind on sexual experiences, from my brain. I started to seek out sexual encounters to validate not just my identity, but also my desirability and my self worth. The fears that I held onto have led me into some unsafe situations. I’ve rushed into sex with people before I was ready, to prove that I am, in fact, a lesbian. I’ve had sex with people before talking about STI status because I didn’t want them to feel like I was stalling out of disinterest, or for them to lose interest in me. I’ve never been able to properly communicate not being in the mood for sex, wanting to slow down or wanting to stop, even with partners who I knew would have  respected my boundaries. I’ve had people hurt me during sex and, perhaps most damaging of all, I have frequently verbally consented to situations while my brain screamed at me to run away. 

My lack of sexual experience once seemed like nothing but an obstacle between myself and the formation of a healthy queer relationship with a loving partner. However, after ignoring my own boundaries for so long, I feel like I’m farther from forming whatever a “healthy relationship” is than ever before. 

My lack of sexual experience once seemed like nothing but an obstacle between myself and the formation of a healthy queer relationship with a loving partner. However, after ignoring my own boundaries for so long, I feel like I’m farther from forming whatever a “healthy relationship” is than ever before.

The unhealthy attitudes that I have developed towards sex started with the desire to not only  validate my lesbian identity for myself, but to have that identity recognized by other queer women. My conservative upbringing started my self-doubt, but it was ultimately the emphasis placed upon sexual experience and the suspicion surrounding virginity within my own community that pushed me to seek validation through sex. I am only beginning to unlearn my unhealthy attitudes towards sex and to reconcile with my identity on my own terms.

At the intersection of sexism and homophobia, queer women face a lot of pressure from society to perform our sexuality in specific ways, often for the gratification of others. Rather than reproducing these pressures within our spaces, we as queer women should uplift one another, no matter where on our sexual journeys we happen to be.  


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.


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Photo C/O Becca Serena

Traditional boudoir photography feeds a culture of consumption, generally associated with pin-up models and Playboy spreads, designed for a mostly male audience. For photographer Becca Serena and stylist Taylor Rasmussen, boudoir photography is an intimate and empowering experience that can be an avenue for individual self-exploration and body acceptance.

“We saw a lot of young women and femme identifying folks really having an interest in repairing their relationships with their bodies through body positive photography. And during my studies, I saw that people having control over their own image and representation was a big part of what gives people the confidence they need in their everyday life to go after their goals and their dreams, and to also heal from some pretty tough trauma,” said Serena.

In some cases, boudoir photography is used to heal different kinds of trauma. It helps to change the way that the individual views their own body, opening up avenues to self-love that may have been closed off or destroyed. It is a deeply personal and vulnerable experience that serves as a step on the road to recovery for those who, for whatever reason, have a rocky relationship with their body.

Industry standards for boudoir photography blur the lines between personal and professional, meaning that it can be uncomfortable for some individuals to explore their identity in a safe environment. More often than not, young models will shoot at a photographer’s home and in their bed, or the photographer will need to travel to a client’s home, which can be unsafe for the photographer. A neutral workspace at Millworks Creative District has allowed Serena and Rasmussen to ensure that everyone involved in the shoot feels comfortable and safe.

Before each session even begins, Serena and Rasmussen privately consult each of their clients to make sure that everyone is on the same page. Something that sets this duo apart is their commitment to openness, sharing their own experiences and vulnerabilities. This helps to foster a sense of trust with clients, allowing them to be more confident and at ease during the session. 


“[W]e both really like to talk to people about what their intentions are with the photoshoot and the photos and what would make them feel best . . . What kind of styles are they more comfortable wearing? Are they more into modest clothing? Is there anything special that she has to think about, for example, like somebody has an insulin pump, or somebody walks with a cane,” said Serena.

By focusing on what the client wants to get out of the session, Serena and Rasmussen put the power in their hands. They are fully in control of their own image and representation. Boudoir photography provides them with the opportunity to be their authentic selves, allowing them to be the person that they want to be, rather than the one society expects them to be.

“[W]hen a person comes to the shoot we’ll have a curated wardrobe for them, like I have racks all set up with various local designers, and then it’s a process working with them [and finding] what they’re comfortable with and what they hope to see for themselves at the end of the photoshoot,” said Rasmussen. One of the local brands they work with is With Love Lingerie. You can learn more about them on page 20.

Rasmussen and Serena also make sure to check in with their clients throughout the shoot to make sure that they are still comfortable, both physically and emotionally. Boudoir photography has the potential to help clients heal from trauma, but in doing so they can be very vulnerable. By checking in and working with their clients, Rasmussen and Serena are able to create a safe environment for self-expression and growth.

Going forward, Serena and Rasmussen are looking to challenge the idea that boudoir photography and positive self-image are only for younger people. During their collaboration on POP! Tart—a magazine examining eating culture and people’s relationships to food and their bodies—they noticed that people 30 and over were not as open to having those conversations.

“I think right now our main goal is really getting this conversation going and encouraging people who haven’t given themselves permission to really think about or love their bodies or themselves,” said Serena.

In order to start this conversation about self-love, this past month Serena and Rasmussen offered a few smaller, more affordable sessions in time for Valentine’s Day, challenging the idea that Valentine’s Day is just for external relationships.

“We’re trying to take this Valentine’s Day [idea of] focusing on your relationship with others, and we’re trying to really flip that inward and look at radical self love and self acceptance instead through these sessions,” said Serena.

Serena and Rasmussen are changing the way that we perceive our bodies, one photograph at a time. Through their work, they are destigmatizing both body acceptance and sexuality and changing the public perception of boudoir photography from something that objectifies people’s bodies, to something that frees them. 


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.


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Claire Kim | @ck_digital_arts

I Am Beauty

Ink Illustration and Digital Art

This artwork illustrates the beauty of sexuality and the immersive experience behind self-empowerment. A mixture of space, nature, and modern identity, the self represents the beauty of openness and freedom to express oneself. It also represents the complexity and ambiguity behind a person’s desire to find meaning in a world that demands homogeneity. 

Pluto’s Heartbreak

Ink Illustration and Digital Art

This artwork illustrates heartbreak within broken relationships in a postmodernist society. Living in a technological and ever-changing era has rewired the way humans process relationships. Little details such as the melting snow, rewind and fastforward button on the television heads describe the different stages of ‘time’ and overall healing process people experience.


Kyle West | @k.west.art

Untitled 1


Untitled 2


In my work “Untitled 1 & 2” I looked to explore representation and identity. These two works happen to be representative of two strong women from my life. Because of this I decided to paint both figures with strong and decisive postures, looking into the viewer and contesting the gaze cast upon them. Another way in which I wanted to challenge the use of representation within painting is my use of a tricolor system of black, white and red. By removing any sense of skin color or in turn reality of identity I was looking to challenge how representation within art history was commonly used in the renaissance and baroque period. By not providing any visual cues to background of the subjects in any way, the vagueness and multiplicity of identity becomes more clear. The inclusion of many expressive formal elements, such as uses of the brush and colour is meant to represent emotion throughout the fragility that is the human experience and inner strength. Overall, I was more interested in creating portraits of strength and challenge the representational nature of identity throughout the classical art history canon. 



Katie van Kampen | @kvk_thethird

Lights Get Bright Tonight

[pjc_slideshow slide_type="katie-van-kampen-satsc-2020"]




One day, my friends and I wandered into the Penticton Art Gallery to the main exhibit to be struck with a neon light of reds, purples, blues and pinks. I pulled out my camera to take some shots, gesturing wilding at my friends to pose near the light, trying to capture what I saw at that moment. All my three friends are some form of LGBT with two of them identifying as bisexual women. I raised my camera to take the photos and when I looked down at the 3 inch LCD screen I saw something I thought was beautiful. The light hit their faces perfectly, the colours that make up the bisexual pride flag smearing across their faces and fading into the shadows of the room. 


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.


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Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

With the recent wave of influencers and viral fitness personalities, the world is slowly being taken over by fitness communities. With the gym-going population growing, those looking for alternatives to traditional workouts are always keeping their eyes peeled. From shake weights as seen on TV to Crossfit expanding through worldwide competitions, fitness crazes are coming and going, with some being more permanent than others. While plyometrics, calisthenics and other bodyweight exercises are not new in any way, one of the quickly growing ways to workout is through pole fitness, an acrobatic full body workout. 

Allure Fitness Inc. opened in 2009 with the mission of creating a safe space purely for women to exercise freely at any fitness level. Specifically, their pole studio offers a challenge that is unavailable in community gyms or classes. 

Mural inside the Allure Fitness space. Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

“Being a woman is challenging, because there are so many conflicting expectations put on us . . . This is a space for the exact opposite of that. We want women to do what feels best for them, and to walk out of our studio with their heads held high and feeling better than when they walked in,” said Michelle Kriedemann, owner of Allure Fitness Inc. 

Kriedemann focused on ensuring that her studio served as a safe space that was focused on health and uplifting clientele. Part of Allure’s appeal is its focus on inclusivity — taking extra effort to make sure no matter what your current life situation is, you feel like you belong.

“Allure is a space that welcomes women of all shapes, sizes, ages and fitness levels and a mission of taking the work out of your workout. We have friendly staff and instructors and small sized classes so we can provide you with personal attention and ensure that you are getting the most out of your exercises,” said Kriedemann.

The Allure Fitness space advertising courses and athletic clothing. Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

Pole dancing is a great alternative from traditional workouts and the payoff is a very rewarding form of exercise. The activity utilizes every muscle in your body, allowing you to control your movement and challenge your coordination and flexibility. The ability to use body weight and acrobatics provides a full body workout since you are mostly using muscle groups that you would have to individually focus on at a conventional gym.

Although this alternative style of exercise has many pros, the stigma surrounding pole fitness leads many people to unfairly link the activity to stripping and erotic dancing. Kriedemann hopes that this does not deter people from enrolling in classes. Once people get involved, the barriers around pole dancing often break down.

“The simplest thing that I can say about it is that the negative connotation and stigma that surrounds all things pole comes from fear and a lack of knowledge,” said Kriedemann.

Allure Fitness has expanded and evolved into a well rounded fitness studio in Hamilton. Part of Allure’s rise in popularity is due to the variety of different classes they offer, which are not confined to pole-focused fitness. For example, they offer seven levels of “Aerial Hoop”, where each class includes a full body workout and a chance to work on hoop skills. They also offer various classes that target specific muscle groups, such as “Extreme Abs”, for those who want to pursue classes similar to what they may see at gyms, but in a safe and women’s only space.

Participants at an Allure Fitness class doing exercises. Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor

“Pole is a big part of Allure, it is about 30 percent of what we offer. As I mentioned, we specialize in all of the fun kinds of fitness we can get our hands on at Allure because if you’re enjoying your workouts, you’re going to be inspired to stay on track,” Kriedemann mentioned. 

Allure is extremely beginner friendly. Drop-in classes are a great and low commitment way to get started on- work around a flexible schedule. Some of Allure’s highlighted drop-in classes are TNT Ballet & Pilates, Twerk Out, Circus Tease and Glow Yoga. Once you find what speaks to you, you can sign up for their six week commitment courses. Prices range anywhere $20 to $399 depending on the type of classes you take and the length of the program; however, students receive a 10 percent discount with a valid student ID. 

One of the common issues with commercial gyms can be the overwhelming environment, from seeing multiple unfamiliar contraptions to the intimidation that comes with large group classes. Smaller studios like Allure Fitness Inc., help to eliminate these difficulties and allow for more one-on-one time with instructors. 

Athletic clothing hanging in the Allure Fitness space. Photo by Cindy Cui / Photo Editor.

What do you need to bring for the classes? Comfortable workout clothing, a bottle of water to keep you hydrated and a yoga mat — if you don’t have one, you can rent it from the studio for $2. If you are taking the zumba classes, it’s recommended that you wear clean indoor running shoes; as well as kneepads for twerk out and poleflow. If you’re taking their aerial and suspension classes, leggings or long pants are recommended for comfort.

Allure Fitness Inc., hasn’t lost momentum since it opened 11 years ago, and doesn’t look like it will stop anytime soon. With the wide variety of alternative workout classes catered specifically for women, Allure can provide the alternative for those who hate to go to that big public gym down the street, or for those who are looking to switch up how they work out.


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.


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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. 

You can check out Bloom’s Instagram, YouTube videos, or watch her co-host Sex-Ed School for more. 


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.


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Graphic by Elisabetta Paiano / Production Editor

By Nisha Gill, Contributor

Literature can be a wonderful escape from the dreariness of the winter months; there are few things better than being curled up in front of a warm fire with a good book. Perhaps counterintuitively, as much as it is an escape from our world, literature has a lot to teach us about the world we live in, especially with regard to love.

“Literature is always to some extent about our love and our knowledge of what love means,” explains Professor Noel Glover, of the McMaster University Department of English and Cultural Studies.

Literature’s capacity to inspire our imagination is one of its greatest strengths, allowing us to push the boundaries of what is and imagine what could be. It accomplishes this by using settings, characters and plots to not only mimic our experiences, but also expose us to new ones. This exposure prompts us to explore profound and personal questions, such as those pertaining to love, with little real risk. For example, we may wonder at Amira and Duncan in “The Chai Factor” or marvel at Simon and Baz in “Carry On”. We can put ourselves in these characters’ shoes to learn about forms and expressions of love that we have yet to experience, and reap no consequences. After all, it’s “just a story”. 

“We can see love and come to understand what love means [by] leaving ourselves behind, leaving what we know behind, or at least, being confronted with the question of how we know love and loving relationships from experiences that are not written from our own but that we can be called on to imagine nonetheless. This imagining is both the responsibility and the pleasure of literature,” said Glover.

The imaginative nature of literature enables us to explore our identities, beliefs, desires and dreams through worlds and characters that are both astoundingly alike our own and dramatically different. We are able to think on how our lives might follow the same paths as our favourite characters or perhaps instead the roads not taken. By living through these characters we are able to explore and understand what we want from love and how we want to love and be loved, tying these questions of love to larger questions of identity. Glover talks to the way we process romantic questions being linked to how we perceive romance within literature itself.

“Literature stages the effects of this image [of identity], both as a personal demand and a socio-cultural repertoire such that there can be room for crisis, transformation, revolt, pleasure and, especially, counter-normative expressions and representations of self in the cultural syntax of gender, race and sexuality. The questions at the heart of identity ‘what am I like,’ ‘what do I want,’ can be inflected and enjoyed in literature in contradictory and exploratory tenses: ‘what does it mean that I am like this character and like that character as well?’; ‘what is the other’s desire?’; ‘what can desire be like?’” said Glover.

While literature’s capacity to spark our imagination helps to enrich and expand our view of love by encouraging us to look beyond our own experiences and beliefs, it also has the potential to distort our view of love. This distortion results from the reinforcment of stereotypes, particularly regarding normative relationships and gender roles, that have been established by classic literature, from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” to Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” as well as more contemporary works such Nicholas Sparks’s “The Notebook”. 

“[Literature] is inventive . . . of others and relations we may know all-together too well, reinforcing stereotyped expressions of love and loving, oppressive and supremacist stereotypes of who is worthy of love,” noted Glover.

Thankfully, in the past few years, there has been an increasing diversity of voices being heard in literature on love, thanks to works such as Richard Wagamese’s “Starlight”, M.G. Vassanji’s “A Delhi Obsession”, Lydia Kwa’s “The Walking Boy”, Kagiso Lesego Molope’s “Such a Lonely, Lovely Road” and many, many more. Many of these authors grew up without seeing their identities and experiences in love represented in literature and then took it upon themselves to correct this. In doing so, they are setting the stage for new questions and further exploration of love and identity in all its forms. All it takes is for one person to see that there is someone else like them out there in the world to be inspired to embark on their own path of self-discovery.


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.


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