Angel Sumka is the President of the Alberta Sex Positive Centre. Here we talk about sex culture in Alberta.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: What is the current sex culture in Alberta?
Angel Sumka: Sex culture in Alberta is a mix of positive and negative. Alberta has a very diverse and rich population when it comes to gender, gender expression, and sexuality, yet we are still the province with the highest increase in cases of syphilis and gonorrhea, which may indicate some sex-negative values related to stigma and sexual risk profiles. That said, Alberta has many sex-positive organizations that provide services, countless groups that meet to discuss sex positive topics or enjoy sex positive entertainment/gatherings, and our universities appear to be working towards supporting consent culture. It is not perfect, but it is exciting to be part of the growth of sex-positive culture in our province!
Jacobsen: What was the sex culture in Alberta?
Sumka: That is a very complex question that depends on what we count as sex culture. On the surface, it may seem as is Alberta was a very repressed culture. Our sex education was (and still is to a large extent) lacking in providing accurate and shame-free information to youth, our government was slow to recognize same-sex marriages, and attitudes about sex, sexuality, and gender often seemed to indicate a reticence to acknowledge that sex is about pleasure, that gender is a social construct used to oppress individuals and society in general, and that risk reduction measures are worthy of support. Under that fairly grim surface, however, there is and always has been an active sexual underbelly. Steamworks, for example, has been around for a long time, as have other clubs and organizations that create opportunities for people to explore their sexuality.
Jacobsen: What are some ongoing initiatives of the organization regarding positive sex culture?
Sumka: ASPECC has, and continues to, offer workshops, written literature, presentations and gatherings for individuals and groups to learn about sex, sexuality, gender, and alternative lifestyles. We host workshops on bondage, consent, ethical communication for sex, transgender topics, sex-positive parenting -you name it. We are always working on developing our content and facilitating other presenters on topics that are within their expertise/experience. We also host the consensual play space at the Edmonton Taboo show, where attendees can come watch BDSM related demonstrations and learn about the local communities and how consent works within these lifestyles.
Jacobsen: What seems like the positive trends for positive sex culture in Alberta?
Sumka: There does seem to be an increase in consent culture, which is very exciting! We are also seeing many changes to our educational system, such as the mandates regarding Gay-Straight Alliances and changes to the sex education curriculum; and increase in organizations that are focusing on supporting persons who face challenges due to sexuality and/or gender, with many addressing the intersectionality of sexual oppression.
Jacobsen: Would have been some of the bigger successes in the progression of this trend?
Sumka: Some of the successes, as mentioned above are the implementation of GSA’s, the protection for children who are gender variant and/or queer, and the development of programs that target homeless youth who are queer. The inclusion of consent and the increased scrutiny that universities are facing is also things to celebrate, although we have a long way to go still.
Jacobsen: Would have been some honest failures in this movement as well?
Sumka: A huge failure would be the way in which our legal system addresses sexual assault and sexual harassment. Until drastic changes are made to how such cases are handled we are not likely to see a decrease in gender-based intimate violence.
Jacobsen: How can people become involved in terms of donations? How can they volunteer their time and skills?
Sumka: Donations and sponsorship are welcome. If you are interested in sponsoring the community center we are working towards the opening, you can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Donations can be made through our webstore (see www.aspecc.ca). Volunteers are also greatly valued! We are always looking for people to help with a wide variety of projects and tasks. We have a volunteer application on our website or you can email to have one sent to you.
Jacobsen: Any final thoughts or feelings?
Sumka: Sex positive culture is not about encouraging promiscuity, but about removing the shame from sex, gender, and sexuality. We believe that consensual sexual activity is healthy and that every individual has the right to know about their body and to learn not just about diseases and risks but to learn about pleasure and how to talk about sex in a way that is consensual.