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Sexual Diversity in the City

New University of Toronto course reveals Toronto's sexier side.

Photo by {a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/swilton/2630976086/"}swilton{/a} from the {a href="http://www.flickr.com/groups/torontoist"}Torontoist Flickr Pool{/a}.

Despite its puritanical roots and reputation, Toronto’s sexier side will be revealed in a new course at the University of Toronto called Sex in the City.

The course is part of a new program at University College. Called UC One: Engaging Toronto, it aims to help first-year students get up close and personal with Toronto’s multiculturalism and diverse communities.

The course will feature guest lectures by such notables as Jane Farrow (the founder of Jane’s Walk) and politician Glen Murray. Students will also go out to visit such sexualized spaces as the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and Pink Triangle Press, and have the chance to design their own Jane’s Walk.

While these locations might not strike even the most innocent as racy (first-year students likely won’t qualify to enter Goodhandy’s), course instructor Scott Rayter is much more interested in how these spaces relate to the larger community, and in the (mis)conceptions surrounding them.

The course will also examine Toronto’s unique integration of its sexual spaces—as opposed to the seedy or sequestered nature of sexualized spaces in other cities.

Rayter is also intrigued as to whether students relate to these spaces at all. The Toronto gay village is often lambasted as being a relic of a more punitive era, as sexualized spaces can now be found across the city. And with the invention of the internet, sometime that sexualized space is purely virtual.

This shifting sexual landscape means that the students will be integral to the discussion. “A lot of the students aren’t from Toronto, and are from a different generation. Their perspectives will be really valuable,” said Rayter. “The focus is not just on Toronto, we will use Toronto to examine larger issues [...] The students will bring in their own experiences and knowledge from the city they’re from, or where their families are from.”

And while the course will delve into Toronto’s sexual history, such as the bathhouse raids of 1981, it will also take a penetrating look at the hot and heavy sexual politics of today.

The proposed decriminalization of prostitution will be addressed vis-à-vis such instances as the Homewood Maitland Safety Association’s efforts to eject sex workers out of their neighbourhood, as well as the abundance of strip clubs in the suburbs versus downtown. Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti’s infamous proposal to establish a red light district on Toronto Island will also find itself a topic of discussion.

Of the course title’s close proximity to Sex and the City, Rayter commented, “One interrogates the other in interesting ways [...] it’s a catchy title, it’s provocative.”

Carlyle Jansen, founder of sex shop Good for Her, agreed that a snappy name was necessary to seduce students, and that the show was about discovering sex in a very particular milieu (New York City). She cautions that “if people knew the show, I would hope that people wouldn’t get instantly turned off that it wouldn’t speak to queer issues [...] but the course is more than the title.”

All in all, students might just discover a sexier side of Toronto, though Rayter’s attraction is incomplete: “If someone from Toronto walked around saying that we’re the sexiest city around, I think Montreal would laugh its ass off.”

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