In preparation for AIDS Awareness Week at the University of Toronto (Oct. 15-21, 1990) the Ontario Ministry of Health placed full-page ads in the student newspapers asking, “Are you having sex in the dark?’

Ignorance is far from bliss, the message below said; enlightenment means using condoms, “Not occasionally, not usually, but always.”

“If you’re embarrassed about buying condoms,” the ad declared, “remember that after you’ve bought them once it will be much easier.  Being embarrassed is a small price to pay for your health.”

The ad made several things clear about government policy:

  • The Ontario government is not in favour of modesty.
  • The Ontario government does not consider chastity a reasonable option for students.
  • The Ontario government shows no recognition of the fact that AIDS in Canada is mainly transmitted through anal intercourse and intravenous drug use.
  • The Ontario government does not believe that the choice of whether or not to have sexual intercourse has a moral dimension; as long as the right prophylactic measures are employed, such behaviour can be considered perfectly in order for university students.

Gutter language

That many students take such messages to heart is perfectly, sadly, clear.  At the beginning of the new university year, the Varsity handbook devoted a full page describing, in gutter language, various types of sexual pleasure.  The use of condoms was strongly advocated, and there were various suggestions for alternatives to heterosexual intercourse.  The article implied that this behaviour was perfectly normal and acceptable.

It turned out that the article was written by Gregory Sewell, Editor-in-Chief of The Varsity.  In a letter to the paper, he was taken to task by the president and vice-president of the St. Michael’s Student Union, John Hayes and Rosemary Rizzo respectively.

Other students at St. Michael’s, a constituent college of the University of Toronto also expressed astonishment and disgust with the article.  An editorial in The Mike, the S.M.C. student newspaper, found the language unacceptable, the explanation of bizarre sexual acts completely unnecessary, and the message that “No matter who you and your partner have slept with, you can moan and groan pretty well worryfree,” extremely offensive.