February 6, 2024 — Sex Ed.

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Editor’s note

My junior high teachers would pass around slips of paper during sex ed classes so we could write down any questions we had. They’d make us all write — something, anything — at the same time to not single anybody out. Classmates, friends and enemies would scribble on the slip of paper, looking side-to-side to make sure no one could see if they were drawing a picture of a dog or asking questions about wet dreams, hymens or STIs. What seemed like millions of paper slips would funnel their way into a hat that the teacher would pick and read questions from. Still, in “adulthood,” those questions about sex, relationships and love persist. What’s a situationship, and am I in one? What will my first time be like? What’s the role of sex in this book I’m reading for English class? Why didn’t they teach me about this in sex-ed? How do long-distance relationships work? Where can I find Queer academic resources at UBC? How much should I talk during sex? Would she still love me if I were a (gummy) worm? I can’t say we’ve got the answers to all of these questions — many of them don’t have a straightforward answer. But in this issue, we explore student accounts of their relationships, how TV shapes perceptions of sex and love, 2SLGBTQIA+ media in UBC’s Queer Collections Project and the science behind bioplastic vibrators. So come in curious. Hopefully, you’ll leave learning something new.



Annaliese Gumboc, Anushka Bellani, Bea Lehmann, Bernice Wong, Bessie Guo, Caleb Peterson, Cynthia Wang, Elita Menezes, Emilija Vītols Harrison, Fiona Sjaus, Gabby Ranu, Gloria Klein, Himanaya Bajaj, Isabella Ma, Jerry Wong, Julian Forst, Kyla Flynn, Mahin E Alam, Manya Malhotra, Marie Erikson, Maya Rochon, Nathan Bawaan, Sam Low, Siyah Basi, Stella Griffin, Vicky Nguyen, Zobia Alam, Zoe Wagner

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You’re using the term situationship wrong TOVA GASTER

Everyone is using the term situationship wrong. It’s not a situationship unless you’re in a situation. That sounds stupid. Let me clarify. What is a situationship? First, what isn’t a situationship? It’s not what you’d call a relationship to your friends or parents. You’re just... situated in proximity. You didn’t choose this devastatingly casual sneaky link — cosmic forces have landed you in the situation of being in some guy (gender-neutral)’s room at 2 a.m. talking about everything but the depth and nature of your feelings for each other. Those feelings can definitely be intense — we have seen the greatest minds of our generation destroyed by the emotional fallout of situation-

ships — but something about it must be temporary, dramatic and kind of ridiculous. Situationships, above all, make good stories. But lately, I’ve heard people use “situationship” to describe what are pretty normal college hookups. There’s already a word for that: casual hookups (whether you actually want it to be casual is a separate issue). What about that on-againoff-again thing that you refuse to define because you’re out of touch with your feelings? Mark Zuckerberg didn’t make ‘it’s complicated’ a Facebook status for nothing. Same deal with your friend that you have feelings for and you make out with sometimes: that’s your friend with benefits, or as one English major and former Ubyssey editor once called it, an “intimate and nuanced friendship.”

These may be hot, heartbreaking or emotionally treacherous, but they aren’t situations. Misusing the term “situationship” waters it down and takes away its true power from those whose weird relationship lore dynamics really can’t be described in any other way. Some examples of situations: • One of you is about to move away so neither of you want to acknowledge that you two might just have something real, rare and irreplaceable (fight or flight situation) • You’re co-workers. Yikes. (HR situation) • You’re working on a progressive political campaign and she’s an ethereal coquette public relations intern for Big Vape (conflict of interest situation) • They’re your roommate who

you have intense sexual tension with, especially when they make you wrestle other men at their secret organizations’ underground meetings, but maybe they’re actually an insomnia-induced figment of your imagination? ([REDACTED] situation — we’re not supposed to talk about it) • They’re poly and dating multiple people but you’re only allowed to date them (monopoly situation) • You’re from rival houses, both alike in dignity (medieval situation) • You’re closeted gay lawyers during the McCarthy hearings (Fellow Travelers situation) If you can’t relate to any of these examples (yet), don’t worry — the possibilities for situations

are as infinite as they are unique. But, if your “situation” is simply a case of miscommunication or mismatched expectations, find your own damn label. Situationship is a great shorthand term, and part of the fun of a fling is the ambiguity. But categorizing relationships — because they are relationships, just like friendships are — as situations, rather than a dynamic that you’re responsible for creating with another person, can hold you back from acting with clarity and kindness. So tell people with your chest how you feel, and save the label “situationship” for when you’re in a genuine, absurd, four-hours-and-sevenciders-of-context situation.


Long-distance learning JULIAN FORST

“Did you bring condoms?” We lay across two twin mattresses shoved together on the floor of her co-op dorm. Two fourhour flights and a San Francisco layover had chewed me up and spat out the gristle on the Austin-Bergstrom Airport curb. She’d come to pick me up, stepping out of her car smiling in the early-morning heat. Back in her room, unfurnished except for a desk and a strip of coloured LEDs stuck to the wall by the room’s last student, we started making up for lost time. It wasn’t too long since we’d last seen each other. Only six weeks ago, we’d met online while she was in Vancouver, bored and looking for an excuse to ditch a family trip. I cut class half an hour early and we went to watch the cruise ships come in at Canada Place. Within a week, sparks fanned by looming separation and credulous wonder had us whispering love and half-joking about elopement. In the weeks after I dropped her off at the Four Seasons in Richmond, where the Eagles mocked us with “Take It Easy” over intercom speakers, we talked on Zoom calls almost every night. We soon realized this was new ground for both of us. I’d never had a long-term sexual relationship, and she’d never tried to make one work long-distance. Neither of us knew much about remote flirting, phone sex or any of the other awkward little gestures that give love airplane wings. Clumsily, we made it work. A few long weeks (and one embarrassing photo involving a strategically placed can of yerba mate) later we were

finally together. And no — I did not bring condoms. She laughed and asked me why the hell not. The days before my flight were a blur of stuffed backpacks and panicked searches through crowded drawers in pursuit of travel documents. I shrugged and said I forgot. I assumed she’d have some. “Well,” she sighed, pushing herself up off the mattress. “Guess we’re going to Target.” The thought of subjecting my bloodshot eyes to the desert sun was not appealing after the soothing cool darkness of her dorm. I groaned and sat upright. “Hold on. When was the last time you…” she trailed off. I stared up at her. I figured I’d gotten a decent sexual education in high school. A doctor had come in, explained things and answered all our questions, and I’d since taken learning into my own hands a few times. This was the 21st century, not a ‘90s teen comedy where the bio teacher saran-wraps a cucumber and calls it a day. But it’s possible there were some oversights. “Y’know…” she said to my confused silence. “Jerked off.” She went on to explain a few of the finer points of my own biology to me. “So if you haven’t masturbated in a while we could do… some stuff without one.” I hesitated. Two months earlier — June 2022 — the US Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade, and Texas’s Republican lawmakers jumped at the opportunity to make the lives of their constituents signifi-

cantly worse. Abortion was made illegal in all cases except to save the mother. I didn’t even know if emergency contraceptives like Plan B were still legal in Texas. “No, I guess we should go get condoms.” “Yeah.” “In a minute.” “Yeah.” She fell back onto the bed with me. The wall’s LEDs turned purple, then blue and red, and the sun slanted through the blinds as we pulled each other close and slowly made each other forget about our half-hearted supply run. The next two weeks taught me more than just a few strategies for avoiding parenthood on a budget. I got to know Texas and the Austin student co-op scene. I met her friends and we drove two hours through the desert to the next town because she knew a diner that served the best pancakes. Soon we were wiping away tears in the drop-off lane, and I thought I had learned enough. I was smitten. By her, and by her life here in Texas, by everything my madly darting eyes could take from the dwindling landscape outside the airplane window. Long-distance was hard — I knew that better now than ever. But I was all in. We would make it work. That fall was my first term at UBC. New friendships were everywhere, from Wreck Beach to Buchanan. But I didn’t care — the only person I wanted to talk to was far away over the Rockies. I don’t have an addictive personality when it comes to drugs or drinking, but I never considered moderation

with her. I met some amazing people and made a few friends that I appreciate more deeply today, but that year they were all background noise to me. Eventually, my unrealistic expectations and stupid decisions spurred by self-isolation started to gnaw at the long strings between us. We kept trying, we visited each other a few more times. Each we said would be the last — we’d spend a precious handful more days together and then call it quits when our time was up. And each time we changed our minds on the way to the airport, or in bed the night before. As it turned out, being together did not make it easier to say goodbye. By the time I reached my limit, we’d decided we weren’t dating anymore but still texted almost every day. The dissonance built to a clamour. I was learning not to shut myself off to the world in Vancouver, but I couldn’t open the doors while she was still inside. I called her up. Then I clicked ‘end call.’ In the year that followed, I would learn to branch out, to find love in all the people around me instead of just one. But education is slow, and I’m still a student. Sometimes, on summer nights when the air is dry and my window is open, I sleep restlessly and dream about Texas.


Glee made me gay ELENA MASSING I had no idea what the word “gay” meant until I saw the third episode of Glee, the 2009 Fox series about show choir and teen drama, which has since become the source of some of the most heinous jokes, storylines and covers in television history. In this episode, Kurt, a flamboyant, fashion-obsessed high school student, shoots down his friend Mercedes’s confession that she has feelings for him. He tells her he likes another girl, so, naturally, she throws a rock through the windshield of his car while singing Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust Your Windows.” They have a falling out, but he later admits that this was a lie to cover for the fact that he’s gay, and the two make up. Most already knew the real reason Kurt wasn’t into Mercedes since anyone who understood the stereotypes associated with being gay would instantly clock Kurt’s lie. But I didn’t. Kurt and I shared this monumental moment — it was the first time the character had ever shared this part of himself with another person, and it was also the first time I learned that being gay existed. No one had ever explained Queerness to me, so I fumbled through teaching myself what it meant as the show went on. It hadn’t occurred to me yet why I cared — Kurt was a man, he acted nothing like me, and, frankly, I thought he was annoying. But something about the way he described what it felt like to be an outsider struck me. Even though I was just about to start middle school and had absolutely no idea who I wanted to be, I already knew that something about me was off. How come I couldn’t place what was wrong? How come I felt like I was offending everyone around me without even saying a word? One thing was certain — show tunes never let me down. I’d switch on an episode of Glee, and for 40 minutes, I’d live in blissful ignorance of the uncertainty eating away at me. But when my favourite character, Santana — the snarky, miniskirt-wearing, hyper-feminine cheerleader whom I adored, despite her sometimes misguided opinions — came out as a lesbian, everything shifted into place. It took me longer than it should’ve to connect the dots and realize I was Queer, but I needed to see a reflection of

my thoughts in front of me to finally understand. The forced crushes, the constant uncomfortable tension in some of my friendships — it was all starting to make sense. Sure, this confusion was quickly replaced by shame over who I had turned out to be, but at least I could sit in that feeling with the knowledge that I was something. Santana loved someone who wasn’t a man and did so without having to reject her own femininity. But her story was a flawed model of what relationships should look like — communicating your feelings through song instead of just talking to each other doesn’t usually go over well in the real world. Still, it was the closest I had ever gotten to an accurate representation of my experiences. Watching the show was a nightly ritual in my family. Over dinner, we’d plow through almost entire seasons, and I’ve probably rewatched the series enough times to recite the script by heart. Looking back, I may have been exposed to it earlier than I should have been. It was a questionable decision on my parents’ part, but I like to think it gave me a great sense of humour compared to other kids my age. As I pieced together the reality of my own Queerness, I realized I could use Glee to my advantage. I quietly observed how my family reacted to certain topics and storylines and then, based on that information, decided whether my own feelings were best kept to myself. It was a space where I could see how they responded to Queerness without taking any risks by bringing it up (and at the same time, see whether they might be supportive of me pursuing a performing arts degree — an arguably worse fate than kissing girls). I’ve since come out as a theatre kid. I broke the news that I wanted to pursue music, and, much to my surprise, no one had a problem with it. We don’t talk about me being Queer though. Mostly because I’ve done everything in my power to skirt around the topic — I’ve never mustered up the courage to say it to their faces, instead, I keep hoping they read my writing or notice the way I dress or pick up on some other sign. But one day, I hope we can rewatch Glee together and see if anything new comes to the surface.


Communication is the key to good sex BRYNNA COOGAN Silent, except for the rush of fabric on fabric, two bodies clash together. They fold and fall, almost choreographed in their descent onto the bed. Tangled up, their clothes come off, falling like puzzle pieces onto the floor, all the while silence holds the tension at a perfect simmer. I remember fantasizing about this perfect scene. Built on a foundation of films that never quite showed the heat of the moment, but rather just sexy build-up with a well-placed cut to the morning after. So I thought my first time would feel natural. I thought everything would be smooth and painless and perfect. Never have I ever been so wrong. My first time came as a rude awakening, and I discovered the chasmic silence of awkward first-time sex. Always the optimist, I thought this was perhaps just a characteristic of the inaugural event. The next time would be better, I told myself. That wasn’t exactly how things panned out, and now I can say that I have had a lot of really terrible sex. But I’ve also had some pretty good sex, too. Through trial and error, I believe I know what has been the key to my best sexual experiences and what could help to improve yours. With Mr. Silent But Deadly, mousy and shy, I thought I was in for something gentle, maybe even boring. I walked away thinking he might genuinely have broken my pelvis, and at no time during the experience realized that I should tell him I didn’t particularly enjoy

the 8.0 magnitude earthquake he caused. Or, take Mr. Fake It ‘Til You Make It, who talked like we’d been cast in a particularly vocal adult film, and for whom I felt the need to feign a quick orgasm because the awkward truth was that I literally couldn’t feel anything the guy was doing. School sex ed always told me the most important part of intercourse was consent, followed by a condom. This is true, but what they managed to leave out was any indication of how much sex could hurt, how to tell someone (with the utmost respect and love) that vagina DJing doesn’t feel good or how to figure out what actually works for you. I soon learned it wasn’t any physical quality of my partner that needed to change for sex to be everything I had dreamed of, but the way we interacted with each other. My best sex came from being asked what I liked and what I didn’t like. Communication — which I thought would just be awkward and a bit clinical — was actually the key to some of the best sex of my life. It’s time to abandon feeling shame for asking for what you want, and quit being scared to ask your partner what they want. Don’t be scared to be wrong, don’t be something you think you should be or pretend to like something you think you should like — just talk about what feels best for you and your partner.


A cinephile’s sex education RHEA MANN

It’s family movie night — a couple of laughs fill the air, emotional moments come and go but nothing you can’t handle. That is until the two main characters kiss. And then suddenly, out of nowhere, you are bombarded by A Sex Scene. You don’t know what to do. You can’t look away — then they’ll know you know what sex is — and Dad is frantically reaching for the remote to skip the scene while Mom tells you and your siblings to close your eyes. But you just can’t look away… I grew up in a household where all sex talk was avoided, which is pretty ironic considering South Asia’s pride and joy — Bollywood, Tollywood, Kollywood and the many other regional cinemas have a history of heavily sexualizing women. For most 2000s kids, “Shelia Ki Jawani” was the item girl song. Just like its predecessors, this sequence includes the female protagonist singing a song with suggestive lyrics, to a crowd of ogling men. Our heroine seduces the crowd of men with the subtle, and sometimes not-so-subtle, sway of her hips. As a young girl, I was mesmerized by these movie sequences. I never really picked up on the sexual nature, to me these were just really pretty girls in even prettier outfits. In the case of “Sheila Ki Jawani,” I was made acutely aware of the song’s sexual nature, with the lyric “I’m too sexy for you” in the chorus (which I only ever whispered under my breath or altogether avoided). Sex wasn’t talked about

outside of home either. At my elementary school of just under 200, I never received a full, indepth and comprehensive sexed class. Instead, we were just separated by assumed gender and told what happens to each body (periods and boobs or body hair and erections). So for me, and so many others, sex scenes in movies acted as our sex education. Although the average PG movie (or even one rated-R) isn’t as explicit as porn, sex scenes — whether filmmakers are aware or not — build a base-level understanding of sex for the viewer. Gender roles of sex and intimacy are constructed from the get-go, through the Disney movies we watch as children to the TV shows we grow to love as adults. In children’s and teen media, sex and relationships are expressed as a resolution and be-all-end-all. In Sleeping Beauty, Aurora is saved from her death-like sleep by a non-consensual kiss (and of course, they live happily ever after); in John Hughes’s Sixteen Candles, Samantha’s family forgets her birthday and the saving grace is the attention of Jake Ryan and his red 944 Porsche. The film includes normalized sexual harassment. Yet, Samantha and Jake end up together. Despite these relationships with bizarre power dynamics and the woman never getting what she deserves. In Dirty Dancing, Baby and Johnny have sex in a moment of vulnerability. Sex becomes a

declaration of love without explicitly saying “I love you.” Having sex was a resolution to the built-up tension and high emotions — they literally dance their way into bed. Johnny tells Baby about how sex with her is different, it’s real. Nowadays, sex is spoken about more explicitly in media. Take Netflix’s Sex Education as an example. It unabashedly talks about sex, sexuality and gender identity. It explores Queerness, asexuality, masturbation and even has a full episode about vaginismus. The show’s first season came out when I was in grade 10 — I was beginning to have questions about sex that I didn’t even know how to ask. Funnily enough, my mom watched the show with me. I slowly became comfortable enough to ask her things like “Would that actually happen?” (cut to Adam taking three Viagras in the first episode). It’s with shows like Sex Education that I think film and TV can become a safe space of sex-ed and send home messages around sex and intimacy that will improve our understanding. There are already small improvements in media, in Bollywood — like Rocky Aur Rani Kii Prem Kahaani which has not a trace of an item girl sequence and didn’t shy away from topics of feminism, sexual assault and gender identity. Although I don’t need explicit sex scenes featured during family movie nights, I hope sex can be portrayed as a nuanced part of life.


Reading between the lines

Queerness and print culture in Vancouver AISHA CHAUDHRY & ISA S. YOU

Nestled in the archives of the UBC Library is a copy of the Vancouver newspaper Kinesis, which was run by the Vancouver Status of Women from 1974–2001. The May 1, 1999, Mother’s Day special issue included news updates, arts and culture, resources for women and personal stories about what it is like to be a mother — including some narratives from Queer women. “I remember thinking, when I knew I was a lesbian, ‘I want to have more kids,’ and trying to figure out how that would work,” wrote Lisa Geller, a mother of three and middle management worker. She described her life raising her children with her partner. Despite being a lesbian at a time when it was less socially accepted, she never internalized any hostility. “I don’t feel particularly judged from outside. The things they would judge me about — like being

a lesbian — I’m very secure about.” The paper also included advertisements for a Lesbian and Gay bookstore on Davie Street (Vancouver’s historically gay neighbourhood), a New Yorkbased Gay Muslim Conference and classified ads from people looking for roommates. A quick search through UBC Archives turns up a plethora of materials about the 2SLGBTQIA+ community — Pride-themed Ubyssey newspapers, posters for the Fourth Annual Gay Conference and vintage erotica, to name a few. There is a record of ways 2SLGBTQIA+ people found and interacted with their community through print — books, flyers or newspapers and more — before the internet could connect them to each other. “In terms of just the

spread of information, print culture has always been essential for sexual minority communities,” said Dr. Gregory Mackie, a UBC English professor, in an interview with The Ubyssey. Mackie is also a curator for UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections and part of the Queer Collections Project, which acquires archival materials from 1869 to around 1969. UBC’s Queer Collections Project strives to make a diverse array of Queer primary sources — like rare historical printed books, ephemera, letters, artwork, diaries and other historical documents — available to students. Mackie said the Queer Collections Project recently received a grant from the VP Students Office to aid in its curation. “The materials we hope to acquire naturally go far beyond the gay male experience,” read the Queer Collections Project website. “Our goal is to ensure


that the project’s acquisitions address wide arrays of experience, including early engagements with intersex and trans* histories.”

Community through print media Mackie said print allowed 2SLGBTQIA+ people to communicate efficiently and anonymously, sometimes hiding in plain sight when it would have been dangerous — or illegal — to be out. Activist groups also used magazines and pamphlets to organize against homophobic laws. One example is the ASK newsletter published by the Vancouver-based Association for Social Change (ASK), BC’s first gay rights group. “People who weren’t necessarily in the know could sometimes look at this material and not really understand [the name],” said Mackie. That way, it could fly under the radar. The newsletter called for decriminalization of homosexuality, but later began publishing poetry and notices for community events. Still, pieces were often anonymous. The Ubyssey’s 1991 “Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual” newspaper issue included pieces about local lesbian filmmakers making erotica, the role of disco in gay sub-

culture and frustration around the Canadian government’s lack of action to include sexual orientation in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This issue also featured anonymous stories from 2SLGBTQIA+ students. One titled “Why do people tell me they are lesbian/gay?” explored a student’s experience with straight friends questioning the act of coming out. They responded that they come out “because I want you to see that your stereotypes are wrong; because I want to be open with you; because I want you to ask me about being gay.” “Oh yeah, I almost forgot... because I would like to sign this but I know that if I do it will hurt my career … and I hope that someday, with your help, I won’t have to worry anymore.” Pushed into the upper corner of one of the last pages in the issue is a personal essay titled “Overcoming fear, becoming whole” written by an unnamed student. “I never hid in closets as a child, and somehow I do not think I am prepared to do so as an adult,” read the article. “So I finally come to acknowledge that I am attracted to women, and I accept it. It’s okay, in fact it is great.” Another local record obtained by the Queer Collections Project is a 1972 booklet titled A Guide for the Naive Homosexual. “It’s a chunky pamphlet that was self-published by this guy, and he would sell it by mail

order to people moving into Vancouver,” said Mackie. Mackie said the pamphlet described what it was like to live a gay life in Vancouver, including information about coming out, where to meet people and the levels of harassment faced by 2SLGBTQIA+ people from police and others in the city. “It was really, really essential for a lot of people,” said Mackie. Surveying the collection, which contains materials spanning a century, Mackie said one of the trends seen over the years is a “greater degree of openness, a greater degree of risk-taking.” “[We’ve seen] Queer people getting a lot more pushy, which is really amazing to see the amount of bravery and the amount of chutzpah that it took for this material to be produced and to be circulated. People were taking a lot of risks, often.” For Mackie, the Queer Collections Project aims to make these histories accessible to students. “We have students who think this is something new, and that their [Queer] experience isn’t connected to a lot … They’re sort of aware, but less so, right?” said Mackie. “Their experiences [are] actually connected to a much longer history.”


Companionship at ease MARIE ERIKSON “Be single,” my friend told me. “Statistically, you’ll be happier.” I had just shared with him how I decided dating wasn’t for me. Casual dating was always an “absolutely not,” but I thought that part of growing into an adult would be wanting a long-term relationship. For a little while that rang true. Perhaps I had taken all the effort I would have put into relationships and put it into my studies and extracurriculars. But the desire stuck around, patiently waiting its turn to hold hands and another in its arms. The hopeless romantic in the backseat of my mind had plenty of time to meet and observe the people who entered my life. There were people in relationships, people who found themselves in situationships and a lot who hated dating apps. My backseat romantic trusted me (the driver) to follow the self-imposed speed limit as to not rush into relationships, while watching her acquiantences subjected to bad

Dating today is disappointing but I fall for it anyways

dating behavior. Disrespect, entitlement, poor communication, indecisiveness and lack of emotional intelligence — all common grievances, especially from women in the straight dating arena. There were exceptions, of course, but how could I expect my experience to deviate from the norm when dating seems to go wrong for so many? Why would I try for a future that would make me unhappy? A couple of cats are still in my future. So is companionship through relationships of all kinds. But that backseat romantic still expects her happy ending — I’m on the way home on a sunny Sunday afternoon, leaning my head against the person next to me as she leans hers against mine. She’s another one of my close friends. We got coffee and cute doughnuts together. We talked about our lives — the good and the bad — then wandered around the neighbourhood before heading home. We’ll probably do the same thing next Sunday. I am at ease. I am happy.

KAASVI BHATIA Dating in university is definitely not the romanticized image I had in my mind — the closest I’ve come to a loving relationship here is a grand two-week “situationship.” It was only my second date while in university. A friend of mine had set me up with her friend and, okay, maybe my expectations were unrealistic. Sure, we weren’t going to fall in love immediately, but I was determined to have fun and enjoy myself. We had planned to meet at Uncle Fatih’s, the ideal date spot. It was December and too cold to sit outside, but too crowded to sit inside the restaurant. After awkwardly walking around holding our slices, we decided to go inside the Nest. We started with the typical first-year icebreakers — majors, hometowns, you know the rest. Despite a rocky start, the convo flowed smoothly, and I was

genuinely enjoying talking to him. Then came the inevitable topic of dating, and he dropped the classic: “What are you looking for?” “A relationship?” I said, without any hesitation. I don’t know what he expected, but why else would people go on dates if they didn’t eventually want that? Turns out, I was very very wrong. There was a whole area of romantic relationships I hadn’t explored. “Oh,” he stammered, clearly not expecting my straightforward answer. “I’m not sure if I’m ready for anything that serious.” “Then why are we even on this date?” I asked him, puzzled. He laughed, “I’m cool with just hanging out and seeing where it goes.” Now I was even more baffled. This man had just told me he didn’t want anything serious, so what did he mean by “see where it goes” when it clearly wasn’t going anywhere?

He clarified, “We’ll be friends... with benefits. Plus, we can hang out. I just don’t want to label it.” Not understanding him, I told him I was exhausted and wanted to go home and would think about all this later. Once in my room, I called for an emergency meeting with my friends. They told me what it was: a situationship. A non-exclusive, non-official relationship where you enjoy all the relationship perks but never officially become a couple. Forever stuck in the gray area, hoping it’ll magically evolve into something real. Now, I can hear you thinking, “There is no way she actually entered into a situationship with a guy waving red flags the size of banners.” I live to disappoint. But at least I learned what mistakes to not make again so I’ll never get into something like this again... Right?


Green or greenwashing? Breaking down biodegradable vibrators TOVA GASTER

The vibrators, condoms and cock rings at your local sex toy store are here for a good time and a long time. But that’s not as fun as it sounds — microplastic particles and silicon shreds from our sex toys will likely still be in landfills in hundreds of years. The UBC Wellness Centre Sexual Health Shop (which did not respond to The Ubyssey ’s interview request by publication time) offers what seems to be another way. The student-staffed sexual supply stand in the Life Building sells a petite green vibrator branded as biodegradable, recyclable and eco-conscious. According to its label, the Gaia Blush Eco Bullet is made of a hard plant-based plastic synthesized from cornstarch. I had some questions. As anyone who’s cooked with cornstarch knows, it dissolves in liquid. If your vibrator did that, not only would it be gross, it wouldn’t be body-safe. So, how can a sex toy be biodegradable, durable and hygienic? To learn more, The Ubyssey looked into how “plant-based plastic” really works — and what that means for the safety of our sex toys.

What are sex toys made of? Body safety is a critical design feature of sex toys. They shouldn’t leak contaminants, or cause chemical burns or irritation and their designs should avoid porous materials that absorb body fluids (hard to clean!). Unfortunately, many sex toys don’t reach that goal. Canada and the US don’t regulate sex toy safety, let alone their environmental impact. That leaves it up to the consumer with limited information and options to choose their toys. Medical-grade silicone is widely regarded as the safest sex toy material. It’s made by superheating quartz sand to produce a flexible rubber. Pure silicone is body-safe since it’s nonreactive to heat and most other chemicals. But it can take centuries to break down in landfills. Plastics like PVC are another popular choice since they’re often cheaper than silicone. But they’re petroleum-based, meaning they’re made with fossil fuels (not sexy).

PVC plastic toys are also often softened for flexibility and comfort with phthalates — a class of chemicals banned in most children’s toys but for some reason allowed in sex toys. Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that can harm hormonal and reproductive health and leak into waterways to accumulate in ecosystems. Bioplastics on the other hand are synthesized from starch, cellulose and other compounds extracted from plant matter. They derive flexibility from plasticizers like glycerol. Bioplastics like those used for a sex toy can break down eventually under the right conditions. But, this specific type of bioplastic is hard and durable enough that its cornstarch component shouldn’t dissolve while you’re using it. Of course, the most biodegradable sex toy is using none at all and going at it with your hand — but a future without vibrators or dildos, even if it’s an eco-friendly one, isn’t a world many of us want to live in.

Making the grade Dr. Love-Ese Chile is a circular economy specialist who did her PhD in chemistry at UBC in biodegradable polymers. In an email to The Ubyssey, she said it’s a good sign that bioplastics are on the sex toy industry radar. “These days it is hard to figure out the correct pathway to lower the impact of products and I commend any company taking steps to improve the overall sustainability of their products,” she wrote. “However there are complexities and challenges with using any new material which need to be considered before marketing new products.” According to Chile, most commercial composting facilities can only handle food and garden waste, not bioplastics. The microbes that break down bioplastics need specific conditions to thrive. Otherwise, the materials might not break down fully, instead releasing methane and contaminants. “Although many compostable bioplastics are derived from plant sources, this particular product is not accepted into compost operations,” wrote Chile. “You can probably imagine what someone working at the compost facility

might think seeing a vibrator in the incoming stream…” Since sex toys have usually been up close and personal with bodily fluids, they’re technically a biohazard — so many recycling facilities in North America won’t accept them. More likely, most bioplastic vibrators like the Eco Bullet end up in the same place as their counterparts: the landfill. But without comprehensive life cycle analysis we can’t say for sure, and Gaia, the company that produces the Eco Bullet, did not respond to a request for comment.

What goes around comes around According to a 2022 Vancouver is Awesome article, the only way to recycle sex toys in Vancouver is to ship them to Toronto, where the Come As You Are Co-operative has an in-house recycling program (which is currently on hiatus). Even though it takes more than putting a Gaia Blush vibrator in the green bin to get it to biodegrade, it’s not their fault the infrastructure to compost sex toys doesn’t exist yet. Beyond greening individual products and letting consumers vote with their dollars, what could a sustainable and circular sex toy economy look like? It might look like scaling up local bioplastics composting facilities, as well as e-waste recycling. Seriously regulating sex toy producers to protect both user health and end-oflife environmental safety is also long overdue. In the meantime, when shopping for a sustainable vibrator, experts recommend prioritizing high-quality products that’ll last — which usually means pure silicone. But, if you’re interested in giving bioplastics a whirl, the Gaia Eco Blush is a relatively affordable option, priced at $17 for the Eco Bullet and $34 for the larger Eco Caress at the Wellness Centre. The choice is in your hands. Hopefully one day, in a world that prioritizes sustainability, safety and pleasure, the options can be better.


The Ubyssey’s purity test STELLA GRIFFIN & OLIVIA VOS Move over Rice Purity Test. It’s UBC’s time to shine. Check off all the activities (wink, wink) that apply to you. 1.

Lost your virginity at UBC


Made out with someone on the Pit dance floor


Hooked up with someone you met at the Pit


Successfully flirted for free drinks


Unsuccessfully flirted for free drinks


Hooked up with a person in a frat


Hooked up with a person in a sorority


Hooked up with an entire frat lineage


Been banned from a frat for hooking up with an entire frat lineage

10. Grinded on someone while “Low” by Flo Rida played at the venue of your choice 11. Smashed in the frat attic (iykyk) 12. Kissed more than five people at one frat party 13. Kicked your roommate out to get freaky 14. Got kicked out by your roommate so they could get freaky 15. Had a full make-out sesh with your crush while your roommate was across the room 16. Photobombed your friends’ Instagram photos with a make-out sesh 17. Smashed your roommate (historians will say they

were roommates) 18. Received a noise complaint for having sex too loud 19. Given a noise complaint to others for having sex too loud 20. Ghosted someone because you’re scared of commitment 21. Been ghosted (spooky!) 22. Played a game involving stripping in the dorms 23. Made out with one of your closest friends as a “bit” 24. Had a slow-burn love story with your “friend” from first year 25. Brought a stranger back to your dorm 26. Gone to Wreck Beach clothed but ended up naked 27. Gave head on a log at Wreck Beach 28. Skinny dipped with your crush at Wreck Beach 29. Got freaky on the Wreck Beach stairs 30. Had a late-night rendezvous in the Magic Forest 31. Met a stranger on the bus and ended up in their bed by the end of the night 32. Had a first date on campus 33. Had your first kiss in the Rose Garden 34. Had a “hopeless romantic” tell you they love you


during the first week of university 35. Had someone “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Birthday” or “Have a Great Summer” back into your life 36. Downloaded a dating app 37. Deleted that dating app 38. Redownloaded a dating app 39. Had an on-campus dating app hookup 40. Realized dating apps are great because you can get someone else to pay for your dinner during the cost of living crisis 41. Had the big three on your phone at once (Hinge, Bumble, Tinder) 42. Found your significant other on a dating app 43. Matched with the same people on multiple dating apps 44. Didn’t message them anyway 45. Got woken up by 32 missed calls from your booty call at 2 a.m. 46. Had a situationship 47. Cried because you caught feelings even though they didn’t like you like that 48. Realized it’s not that deep 49. Hooked up with your first-year dorm floor rep 50. Fucked in the Life Building’s gender-neutral bathroom room 51. Given head while they were sitting on a toilet (any toilet, you freaks) 52. Gotten all dressed up to impress someone in your class 53. Called AMS SafeWalk so you can experience being dropped home safe after a night out because chivalry is dead 54. Been in a serious relationship with a UBC student 55. Been in a serious relationship with an SFU student (treason) 56. Have been in a relationship with the same person since first year 57. Gotten engaged before you graduated 58. Gotten married to a UBC student 59. Had a dorm baby 60. Had a threesome on a twin XL 61. Given/received a hickey so bad that green concealer wouldn’t cover it 62. Woken up in a stranger’s bed not knowing how you got there 63. Hooked up with a TA to elevate your learning experience in the class 64. Not made it to your own bed after a night out 65. Did a walk-of-shame to an 8 a.m. class from your hookup’s room 66. Received a UBC club-branded condom during Clubs Fair 67. Went to a house party uninvited to “accidentally” bump into your campus crush 68. Gotten mono from a hookup 69.







1. Devilish RuPaul’s Drag Race

1. Wash oneself in a tub

season 14 finalist

2. Unique, with ‘a million’

6. Playwright Chekhov

3. One night ___

7. Salty, sad droplets

4. Queen Elizabeth II’s preferred

8. Dating app where profiles

dog breed

might include voice messages

5. The start

9. What you might tell your friend to do about their toxic relationship UBYSSEY CRUCIVERBALIST BOARD



1. Horny literature genre

1. How you might send a U UP?

5. Sulk

2. Spooky or sensual sounds, de-

6. Occupied, as a desk

pending on the situation

8. ___ Hunt, Ubyssey food column

3. High five command

9. With ‘savers,’ eyeglasses brand

4. Tantalize 7. Weed chemical compound



Nominations Open JAN 8 - FEB 9

Make your mark on campus.



c h i n a b e fo r e co m m u n i s m

What Theatergoer audiences are saying: “It’s so beautifully choreographed, and the dancers perform with so much spirit. You really feel a genuine commitment to the work. ... It seems very clear to me that there’s a great deal of love and thought that has gone into this material and into this production.” —Tony Mark, Oscar Award-Winning Film Producer

“Shen Yun is majestic. I was moved. It represents the core culture of both the East and West. It focuses on details but is very grand. It is grace mixed with bravery. It’s really fantastic.” —Maruyama Hiroaki, Councilor of Zushi City, Japan

“It was a phenomenon of great excellence, of great technique, of great mastery. It is a masterful work related to the celestial, with the ideas that they bring from the millenary history of their people. And that of course penetrates deeply into the soul.” —Lucildo Gómez, Deputy Director of Information and Press of the Presidency of Dominican Republic

“It really touched my heart. To see what the Chinese people have gone through in this communism is very hurtful. ... Let’s not give up those cultures. Let’s continue to teach our children about the cultures of the past.” —Anna Roberts, Member of Parliament of Canada

“The production transpires like a fairy tale, and the choreography is beautiful but more than that, it was a bridge to the divine.” —Giorgio Casciarri, Tenor

“This brings light and spirituality to the Chinese people and to the world. ... It was beautiful, and it says so much about what a beautiful culture the Chinese culture is going back 5,000 years. It was a great privilege to be able to see the show.” —Tom Tiffanyi, Member of U.S. Congress


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