Media Releases

U of T launches course on Sex in the City

September 12, 2011

TORONTO, ON – A new course devoted to Sex in the City will immerse first-year students in Toronto’s rich sexual history as well as the current state of sexual politics, sexualized spaces and more.

In addition to lectures by guest speakers, students will tour key Toronto locations to learn more about historic moments such as the bathhouse raids of 1981 and the establishment of Pink Triangle Press, visit Buddies in Bad Times theatre for a working rehearsal and create their own Jane’s Walks.

“We’re going to be getting students to think about how spaces get sexualized, how cities get divided up into sexual spaces and why certain places are coded as sexual,” said Scott Rayter, who teaches the course. Topics of discussion will include current legal issues including the battle to decriminalize sex work, the history of sexualized spaces in Toronto, current safe and perceived dangerous spaces and the relationship between sexual communities and schools.

Rayter plans to leave room for students to help steer the course in a direction they’d like. “They’re going to have ideas, wants and desires too, so why not draw on their interests and experiences?”

Students will be evaluated though critical reflection papers on weekly readings and lectures, participation and a final research paper.

Sex in the City is part of a new program this fall at University College called UC One: Engaging Toronto.  The program features a set of four “streams” for first-year students that draw on the interdisciplinary programs hosted by the college and take advantage of the unique learning opportunities of the city.

Some sexualized spaces in Toronto:

•    Bathhouse Raids – 286 men were arrested in 1981 during raids on four Toronto bathhouses. It sparked thousands to come together in the city’s gay community to protest. “It was part of a deliberate and organized campaign by government and police to push gay baths and bars out of business, to silence the gay press and to remove gay voices from public discourse,” wrote Xtra! in February, looking back 30 years later.

•    Pink Triangle Press – Home to local gay and lesbian media such as Xtra!, fab and more. Rayter is hoping to have president and executive director Ken Popert speak to students about how queer press went from obscenity charges to more mainstream acceptance.

•    Canadian Lesbian and Gay Archives – Founded in 1973, the CLGA has grown to be the second-largest Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender (LGBT) archive collection in the world. They now operate out of a house on Isabella Street that was built in 1858 and has been extensively remodelled.

•    Buddies in Bad Times theatre – In its 30 years, this theatre has developed into the largest facility-based queer theatre in the world, located in the heart of Toronto’s gay village.

•    Yonge Street – The world’s longest street is also notorious for its sexual legal history, whether it’s for zoning of clubs such as Zanzibar and Remington’s or the ongoing debate over sex work.

•    Jane’s Walks – While not based on sexual principals, these walks that celebrate urbanist and writer Jane Jacobs to get people out into their neighbourhoods, meeting their neighbours and feeling safe on the streets. They were started in Toronto in 2007 and now exist in 68 cities across 9 countries.



For more information, please contact:

Scott Rayter
Associate Director
Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity
University College
University of Toronto

Jessica Lewis
Faculty of Arts and Science
University of Toronto