The Shag Shop, McGill’s sexual health boutique, closed its physical location in the Student Health Clinic last April, with plans to open an online store this semester.The move was necessitated due to a lack of space for the shop following the construction of an accessible entrance at the adjacent First Peoples’ House. This closure has raised questions on campus about the state of McGill’s sexual health outreach.
The Health Promotion Coordinator for McGill, Amanda Unruh, said that the Shag Shop’s closing would affect how the Shop communicated with students on campus.
“A lot of our effort was spent promoting people to come to the store in order to get information,” Unruh explained. “Whereas now that we don’t have a store, we have much more impetus to reach out across campus.”
Furthermore, some students are expressing anxiety about the closing, such as Lorraine*, U3 Science.
Although the Shag Shop’s website will offer the same products the store offered, Lorraine said she was worried it will not have the one-on-one interaction that some students are looking for in terms of sexual advice and education.
“I liked the people who worked there because I was always able to chat with them about various products,” Lorraine said. “Who am I going to ask [my questions to online]? There is no one to ask if you have questions.”
Some students were concerned that the lack of a physical location would be indicative of the overall atmosphere of sexual health and outreach at the university.
“I think that removing a physical location for sexual health education will greatly affect the opinion and discourse on campus,” said Phoebe Yap, U3 Science and a floor fellow at New Residence Hall. “By having [the shop] in student services, it allowed students to feel more comfortable with understanding sexual health, as it demonstrated that the school supports it. [The shop] allowed students to learn, [to] respect, and to love their bodies and their relationships. The lack of an actual store, I fear, would change this mentality.”
According to Unruh, the Shag Shop will still have some physical presence on campus.
“We’re going to be setting up 10 to 15 […] kiosks around campus—permanent kiosks that are stocked by us,” she said. “They’ll always have condoms and will most likely have lube and other healthy items as well, because sexual health is a component of a larger well-being that we want to encourage students to have. The kiosks will also be talking about general well-being.”
Even though some students are disappointed by the lack of a physical store, online numbers indicated increased website views, according to Unruh.
“I know already from my web analytics that our numbers are much higher than we would usually see in the Shag Shop,” Unruh said. “I am hopeful that [this] will be increasing the accessibility [of the Shag Shop] by moving it online.”
*Chose not to disclose full name.