Students of Montreal, I am hugging you

Congratulations on your decision to take your studies and personal debt to epic heights. University is a thrilling, heady time. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to meet new people and discover new things about your intimate selves.

Dear Students of Montreal,

Congratulations on your decision to take your studies and personal debt to epic heights. University is a thrilling, heady time. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to meet new people and discover new things about your intimate selves.

I have very fond memories of my time as a student in this city. I met so many brilliant people who remain friends (shout out to my BFF, Abs!), and I experimented in ways that have informed my sexual persona to this day. May I offer some insights 20 years on, from my well-worn perch?

 This is an amazing time for you as sexual beings. Many of you will find your pants tingling with new wonder at the various parties, meetings and social justice events ever present in the formal and informal university curriculum.

 Political activism abounds at university, and it is very sexy. You will meet a lot of sexy people who are passionate about social justice. People who care about stuff have a potent erotic effect, don’t they? Still, this doesn’t mean they will show the same performative consideration towards you. Just because someone is titillatingly eloquent when it comes to the prison industrial complex doesn’t mean that, when faced with intimate injustices, they will be as compelling and caring. Should you get sexually involved with people you meet in university activist circles, be aware that things can, and do, end. Often poorly. Often spectacularly poorly, in fact. Know that you will have to see your former lover courting other budding activists. You will not be the first to stand at a demo, tears lashing down your face, wilting under a sign exhorting our government to make changes to some imperialist agenda or other as you watch your ex snuggling with another carefully ill-groomed urchin. Please know that I am hugging you as this happens.

Another excellent way to meet interesting people in university is by getting involved in activities that put you in touch with people whose interests interest you. For example, consider working at your campus radio station or newspaper. Approaching people to feature them on your show or in an article is a great way of opening up the Flattering Channel (and also getting free tickets to events where other nifty people will be). Some people’s entire sex lives are predicated on their involvement in student radio and journalism. When I went to Concordia, I had a column in The Concordian called The Unexamined Life. It didn’t get me laid, but it could have. I was just too snarly and unapproachable — really, I was made of bumblebees and jackknives in my early twenties. I have, however, slept with people who had me on their college radio show as a result of work I did post-university. Perhaps the false aura of professional interest made it seem less distasteful. It was no less disastrous, mind you, but I wouldn’t give the experience up for the world. I’m the type that needs hard lessons to get to the next level. That level isn’t necessarily one that is higher. Just different.

You’ll notice that people talk a lot about safe space these days. It seems you can’t go to an event without someone getting on stage to make sure nobody’s being provoked, or apologizing about any material you will see that may offend or upset you.

I don’t know what to say about this other than don’t worry — at some point, this trend will end. Every generation has to suffer through a bunch of people taking over certain social environments and being really fucking cosetting. It’s their way of trying to care. Take it from me — don’t get up in their grill about it. If you do, though, just know that open letters on Facebook about your insensitive behaviour will pass. Just know that they are doing their best. Remember: They’re trying to get laid, too.

You will get an STI. And if you don’t, you will have a friend who gets an STI. I am not being dramatic — STIs are a normal part of having sex with people, whether you practice safer sex or not (and I am encouraging you to do so and apprise yourself of the risks). And though they can be deflating (literally), I would love you all to be able to approach this possibility with as little shame and as many resources as possible. Please know that I am hugging you as you sit in the waiting room at one of Montreal’s many free clinics trying not to squeeze the seam at the crotch of your pants. I have been there.

In my day, we did not have the Internet to work us into a frenzy over symptoms, but please know that you won’t be the first to sit in your bed with a hand mirror in one hand and a laptop in the other. You will not know results until you see a doctor. If you can’t contain your panic, try this mantra, which I have found very effective: “I just have an STI. I don’t live in northern Uganda.”

You will be getting a lot of information on how to avoid sexual assault. I have one thing and one thing only to say about that: Don’t rape anybody.

Masturbation helps ease the burden of long nights of study and is also an incredible way of getting to know the wonder of your body. Pleasure is a birthright. It’s yours to discover. Enjoy yourselves, young friends. And if you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

Sasha is a longtime sex column writer whose wise words are featured weekly on You can email her your burning questions at

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