BCCDC's sex guidelines provide sexual health safety for everyone: advocate

Jul 22 2020, 1:47 pm

“Glory holes” have been a trending topic in Canada for the last 24 hours, after British Columbian health officials recommended they be used as one of many safety precautions for having sex during the pandemic.

While many expressed amusement at the recommendation on social media, a Vancouver-based professional fetishist and activist for sex worker rights says that sexual health and safety guidelines that stem from sex workers are meant for everyone.

“Sex workers are actually in the forefront of paving the way for safer sex practices [and] health guidelines,” said Velvet Steele, professional fetishist and activist for sex worker rights, in an interview with Daily Hive.

“It’s good to see some creative options out there for people engaged in their sex practices because it’s a basic human need.”

Steele said that guidelines like these enable sex workers to continue to safely do their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, a time where they were left particularly vulnerable.

“We were left out of the equation for the CERB aspect of things, because these are individuals who have taken sex work to be their life career, their jobs. So how do you go and apply to the government for that and then get turned down? It’s pretty saddening and disheartening,” she added.

Steele said that any conversation around sex makes people uncomfortable, but guidelines like these are paramount to creating safe sex practices amid the pandemic and keeping the spread of COVID-19 to a minimum.

“Nobody wants to talk about how many cases are coming out of restaurants, but everybody wants to jump on the whole sex worker bandwagon as to how it is inherently bad and it saddens us that it still gets this kind of negativity,” she said.

“Anything to do with sex makes people uncomfortable. The bottom line is people have different sexual practices, so why not try to evolve or adapt some of those practices that could actually be beneficial with regards to keeping people safe?” said Steele.

The BCCDC says that steps were taken to ensure their guidelines for sex during the pandemic were also queer-positive and inclusive.

“The BCCDC Clinical Prevention Services team is experienced in offering sexual health services to LGBTQ/2S community,” said a BCCDC spokesperson in a statement to Daily Hive.

“When developing content for STI services, the work is based on three foundational principles which are: cultural safety that is trauma- and violence-informed, knowledge and understanding of the burden of disease as it relates to the social determinants of health (SDOH) and syndemics, and creative and flexible service provision.”

Information for the BCCDC’s tips were adapted from NYC Health Department: Sex and Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19).

“A scan was completed of other queer organizations in Canada and the US to see what kind of content was being produced/language used. In the knowledge translation process, it was also reviewed from a gender and sexuality equity dimension,” said the BCCDC spokesperson.

Steele says that guidelines like the ones outlined by the BCCDC are intended to be inclusive, and we need to be mindful of keeping everyone safe.

“We need to look at creating precautions that could benefit everybody affected and taking it seriously.”

Health officials say that it is not entirely clear yet if the virus can be transmitted through sex, but “having few or regular sex partners is key to mitigating risk and reducing the spread of the virus.”

Those looking for more information can visit the BCCDC website.

Editor’s note: The headline of this article has been changed to reflect the context and focus this story. 

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