Commentary, Opinion

McGill should have a sexual health clinic on campus

I realized how important it was for McGill to have a sexual health clinic after hearing about how difficult it is for some students to get intrauterine devices (IUDs)—a small, T-shaped birth control device that is inserted into the uterus and only has to be replaced every three to 12 years. The IUD is becoming an increasingly popular contraceptive, yet the Student Wellness Hub is ill-equipped to help students who request one or other contraceptive alternatives to condoms. Students’ sexual health is just as important as other physical and mental health concerns, although the lack of physical infrastructure for sexual health on McGill’s campus seems to suggest otherwise. McGill should have a sexual health clinic to fill the gaps in health care resources left by the Student Wellness Hub and to promote sex positivity and reduce stigma on campus.

The difficulty of getting an IUD is only one symptom of the much larger issue of inadequate sexual health infrastructure at McGill. Without specific sexual health resources such as gynecologists, the process of getting an IUD could potentially end up stretching on for months. For example, physicians can have trouble inserting IUDs and have to refer patients to gynecologists. Currently, there are no gynecologists or sex professionals at the Wellness Hub, only doctors, nurses, dietitians, counsellors, and psychiatrists. Even if a dedicated sexual health clinic is an infeasible project right now, if the Wellness Hub hired a gynecologist or sexual health expert, they would be a much more robust resource for students than what is currently in place.

Birth control is a feminist issue: When people engage in sexual intercourse involving a penis, the onus is often put on the individual with the uterus to protect themselves from unwanted pregnancy. While condoms are free and widely available across campus, people without penises should also be able to protect themselves with equal ease. This sort of protection could certainly be provided by a sexual health-specific clinic.

“Birth control is a feminist issue: When people engage in sexual intercourse involving a penis, the onus is often put on the individual with the uterus to protect themself from unwanted pregnancy.”

In the absence of accessible sexual health resources, students might choose to travel off-campus to seek care. While it is resourceful of students to seek help elsewhere in the city, a clinic on campus would be much more accessible for students who may not be familiar or comfortable with navigating sexual health care in Montreal.

Importantly, the presence of a sexual health clinic would help the McGill campus become more sex-positive and would reduce overall stigma surrounding sexual health. Stigma is harmful in itself: When people’s embarrassment prevents them from seeking help, many harmful problems can go unaddressed, such as dealing with STIs or genital infections. Further, having a frequently used sexual health clinic on campus could make sex less of a taboo topic, and could also help destigmatize sex workers and the sex industry: An open dialogue around sexual health would help students who are sex workers, such as sugar babies or online work, feel less marginalized.

The shift toward comprehensive sex education and harm reduction—that is, promoting safety, pleasure and wellness instead of guilt, fear, and shame—is an effective way to keep sexually active individuals comfortable and happy. Understanding that the stigma around sexual health stifles conversation and makes people feel alone in their struggles, it is crucial that campuses be leaders in promoting sex-positive environments. By reducing stigma and making sure that students get the help they need, a sexual health clinic at McGill would help students feel supported, healthier, and happier.

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