Talking sex with Sue

By Andrea Llewellyn

Sue Johanson is well aware that she is shocking and entertaining as an 81-year-old sex educator, but listen up — though her message may be simple, youth have a lot to learn.

Johanson sums it up succinctly: “Know what you are doing. Think ahead, plan ahead, never let sex just happen, and always practice saf-er sex. Not safe sex. There is no such thing as safe sex. The only safe sex is safe all by yourself — or no sex at all.”

The U of C’s Wellness Health Awareness Team hosted Johanson on Feb. 1 in the MacEwan Ballroom, a show that was full of laughs, blushing, hushed whispering, dropped jaws and knowing winks exchanged between audience members. At the core of Sue’s presentation, however, were notions of gender relations, communication barriers, and societal expectations related to sex. These, according to her, are proliferated by educational and religious institutions as well as the media and pornography.

One of her inflammatory statements challenged the unbalanced societal expectations surrounding the issue of masturbation.

“Give women the permission to masturbate!” exclaimed Johanson. “All guys learn about sex from themselves through masturbation, but girls get the message that ‘Nice girls don’t do that,’ or if they do, they will deny it.”

Sue’s mission was clear — Canadian secondary education is lacking in the sex-education department, and she is filling in the gaps.

“We have to get more explicit. We have to cover the controversial topics. Sex education in schools never covers homosexuality [and] very seldom talks about things like transvestites, transsexuals, transgender[ed people]. They never talk about abortion.”

While she believes Canada as a whole needs to step up its sex education in high schools, she has two new concerns: the effect of media (such as porn and TV) on youth and the inconsistent (and generally lacking) sex education in rural communities, small towns and northern Canada. When it comes to the latter, Johanson is concerned about women’s rights.

“[In the Northwest Territories] the sex education is really bad. You see that is a patriarchal, male-dominated society, and men don’t want women to know because that is power and control, and they don’t like that.”

After over 40 years in the trade of sex education, Johanson is still fighting her fight even though she has yet to see great change in her field. According to her, youth are still lacking the sexual skills and knowledge necessary for healthy sex lives.

“I want people to enjoy sex — to know what they are doing so that they are not being manipulated, or used, or abused.”

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