The Shag Shop, McGill’s sexual health wellness boutique, has reopened their location in the Healthy Living Annex on the third floor of the Brown Building after going digital in 2014. The return to a physical location seeks to increase awareness of the store among the student body and give people an opportunity to get more accurate representations of the products they are buying.
“It’s really hard to reach students [online], so having a physical space is a great way to have people interact and get people to come,” Leigh Hoffman, Coordinator of the Shag Shop, said. “When you’re shopping, you want to be able to touch the things, you want to be able to ask questions [… and] looking at measurements on a computer screen is not exactly the same as being able to see [a product].”
The Shag Shop hopes to make sexual health products more accessible to students. An important mandate since a survey by the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada found that 72 per cent of university and college students were reported to be sexually active .
“Our mission is to promote sexual wellness and health on campus,” Hoffman said. “We do that through the boutique [by] providing financially accessible sexual wellness products. That ranges from menstrual products, both reusable and disposable, to sex toys, lubes, and condoms.”
The shop also wants to educate students on what chemicals are in their sexual health products such as lubes, condoms, and tampons, as well as provide alternatives to products they may have an allergic reaction to.
“The goal of health services is to promote health and wellness, and part of that is paying attention to what we put in or on our bodies,” Hoffman said. “[…] A lot of lubes are made with chemicals that can be toxic or irritating.”
The boutique emphasizes their commitment to health by offering a range of organic and natural products at accessible prices, a good choice for students either on a budget or who don’t want bleached products, such as pads and tampons. Most of the time, unbleached menstrual products and organic plant-based lubricants can be hard to find and are expensive at pharmacies; Shag Shop aims to make these products cheaper and more available to those who need them.
“It is a priority for us to offer options, […] because sometimes people don’t know about those things, and sometimes they can be inaccessible as in harder to find and much more expensive,” Hoffman said.
In addition to quality assurance, the boutique also vows to show their values of inclusivity through their diverse range of products which aim to serve all sexual and gender orientations.
“It’s been a priority of mine to have our stock reflect the diversity of experiences in terms of sexuality and gender,” Hoffman said.
While walking into a physical space to buy or even discuss sex products can be an intimidating experience, the staff at the Shag Shop are completely prepared to handle such situations in an open and welcoming manner.
“In terms of the staff, all the ambassadors are trained to be able to talk about sex in ways that are sensitive to the multitudes of realities that people live in,” Hoffman said.
For those who feel overwhelmed at the thought of going to the Shag Shop, however, the boutique will still maintain its online site.