Sexual health co-ordinator shares new strategy
Making a space for sexuality inquiry
Anyone who has been on the U of R campus recently has probably noticed URSU’s unrelenting (in a good way) campaign for its new sexual health coordinator. The playful visuals informing students of the new services available to them are a perfect introduction to the lady in the middle of all this fanfare: Robin Hilton. Hilton is a cheerful native of Alberta with the kind of quirky, ready-to-go energy that is more reminiscent of a leading Disney channel character than a sex, love, and relationship coach.
In many ways, she is the real-life version of the hit Netflix show, Sex Education’s Dr Jean F. Milburn (but less British). Before sitting through more than 500 hours with Layla Martin at the Tantric Institute of Integrated Sexuality for specialized training and becoming an official sex coach, Hilton had garnered a Bachelor of Arts in Women and Gender Studies from the University of Calgary.
While she has spent most of her time working with women, Hilton is excited to share knowledge from her extensive sexual health background with trans and cisgender women, men, and non-binary people. Commenting on the photoshoot seen around the campus, Hilton credits it to URSU’s in-house marketing team.
“They did a very great job with not a whole lot of direction other than some words I had written around what I thought my role to be. They took that and created this magical promotional campaign that feels fun and engaging,” she said.
For Hilton, it’s important for students to be able to talk and learn about sexuality in a way that is playful. Hilton is the first person to occupy the role of sexual health outreach coordinator at URSU as the position did not exist prior to now. So, what brought about the need for this new role and why now? URSU president, Victor Adeolu Oriola, says that it was a matter of finding new ways to improve the lives of the students.
“Expanding service offerings was one of my priorities as URSU President and providing culturally competent sexual health programming – making URSU the first student union in the country, as far as we know, to do so – that supplements the already available resources on campus is an accomplishment that everybody involved is very proud of,” he said.
As well as this all reads on paper, it is still unclear to many what exactly a sexual health outreach coordinator does or does not do. It is one of those broad titles that is encompassing all things but seemingly specific to none.
According to URSU’s website, “The mission of the Sexual Health Outreach Coordinator (SHOC) is to lead, support, and promote the optimal health and well-being of all University of Regina students and the campus community.” Hilton, however, has a more direct understanding and vision for what her new job description entails.
“My focus right now is listening to what students need and what they want to learn and developing programming. I am not sure how that programming is going to look but I imagine it will be fun events involving the community and then engaging workshops,” she said.
How exactly does she plan on taking such an arduous task efficiently? One word: partnerships.
“Whether that’s with the Women’s Centre or UR Pride or with the International Student’s Centre. I could even have conversations with the students in residences as long as it means I am creating those relationships and through them learning about what the needs of students are.”
Hilton also intends on using new ways to reach out to students that do not involve emails or dropping by her office. “I have an Instagram profile so we will be sharing on social media as well. There will be a social media education campaign because it is really important to me to meet students where they are,” she added.
She foresees the toughest part of her new role to be making a space where students are comfortable enough to approach her about certain issues. “For me, it is about reducing stigma and making sure that we all can celebrate our sexuality. One thing I do really well is create a safe space to have conversations about sexuality. I can create a comfort level with the topic that makes it easier to have a conversation about it … communication is so important when it comes to sexuality and having a healthy sex life,” she said.
Although it is too early to say what impact Hilton’s presence has in the students’ sphere, the promotional campaign has definitely piqued the interest of many students on the campus. For third-year Business Administration student, Talha Babar, it makes him happy to know that the university has a program like this which proves that the union really cares about the holistic health of its membership.
“It truly shows that not only does the union care for students’ financial, academic and medical well-being, but also their mental and sexual health,” he said.
Fourth-year Industrial Engineering Student, Iveren Tersoo-Gwaza, is also pleased about the new program but would like to see an anonymous system for questions facilitated by the outreach coordinator.
“It’s been a long time coming. I believe it’s really important that students have someone to talk to about their sexual health, I think however the issue now is encouraging students that they have a safe space to talk about and ask questions concerning their sexual health. I believe a start will be creating a system where students can ask these questions anonymously and get their questions answered,” she said. “Not only does a system need to be created but also, they need to ensure that students are aware of it. This way we can reach a point where students feel more comfortable and confident about drop-ins.”
As suggestions like Gwaza’s continue to roll in, Hilton will definitely have a handful of feedback to work with as she begins this new adventure, not just for herself, but for the entire student body.