What about Khadr?

In the summer of 2002, 15- year-old Canadian citizen Omar Khadr was captured by U.S. soldiers in an Afghanistan firefight. He has since been held at a military detention camp in Guantanamo Bay. The grounds for his imprisonment include the murder of one U.S. soldier, first class Sergeant Christopher Speer. Yet, with the recent disclosure of new case evidence, it appears that Khadr’s involvement is not as clean-cut as U.S. officials initially thought.

The documents leaked to reporters at Khadr’s pre-trial imply that he was not, as formerly stated, the sole person left alive when U.S. soldiers arrived at the compound. Prosecutors have stated that they intended to release a “redacted” version of the document, but defence attorneys insist the document was never intended to be released.

More evidence reveals that no member of the U.S. militia saw Khadr throw the grenade that killed Sergeant Speer. His guilt was determined by his position in the compound: he was believed, until recently, to have been the only one alive.

With the lack of evidence that would implicate Khadr in these crimes, his defence lawyers should have an easy time clearing his name. Nevertheless, Khadr’s main defence attorney, Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler, maintains that there is more evidence being withheld, and that officials have neglected to put them in touch with key eyewitnesses.

Human Rights Watch has voiced several concerns about the legal processes and rights of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Specifically, the military commissions put into place by President George W. Bush “fail to guarantee that evidence obtained via torture or ill-treatment shall not be used” and “provide lower due process standards for non-citizens than for U.S. citizens.”

Considering that Omar Khadr is a Canadian citizen, where does the Canadian government stand? According to Prime Minister Stephen Harper, we should hand over Khadr, and let the U.S. deal with him. Meanwhile, Amnesty International Canada continues to express their outrage that Khadr is the “first child combatant ever to be brought before a court for alleged ‘war crimes.’” Indeed, there are United Nations resolutions in place specifically to protect child soldiers. Khadr, at 15, could not be considered any different than the child soldiers in Africa. Amnesty International is also disappointed in the Canadian government for failing to act on Khadr’s behalf. Other governments have worked to protect the rights of their citizens in Guantanamo Bay, but Canada has remained silent.

It is simply unacceptable that Mr. Harper gives Khadr to the American military without any words of opposition. Whether or not Khadr is guilty is not the issue. He should be brought back to Canada to go to trial and if found guilty, he should be imprisoned in his own country. Robert Ingersoll, an American politician and Civil War veteran once said, “Give to every human being every right that you claim yourself.” We cannot expect to retain our own rights and freedoms if we have citizens who are denied those same entitlements.

A stranger to sex

David Jay is a virgin and he doesn’t care who knows. The 25-year-old has been vocal about his disinterest in sex since his freshman year at Wesleyan University. He has become the poster child for asexuality, the lack of sexual attraction to either gender.

Asexuality is mostly ignored because it is characterized by a lack of—rather than an expression of—sexuality, according to David, who grew tired of invisibility.

“There was no language with which to understand myself, and it was really scary,” he said on the phone from San Francisco.

In 2001, David started the Asexual Visibility and Education Network at asexuality.org, a website that now has over 13,500 registered users.

Members of AVEN need not be “strictly asexual,” said John, a 24-year-old volunteer moderator and recent Brock University graduate. Some simply feel more comfortable with asexuals, seeking refuge from an aggressively sexual world. John, who prefers cuddling and Crazy 8s to getting frisky, has gone to “third base, not all the way.”

“Asexual is an absolutist term, and like all absolutist terms, it’s flawed,” said John, who calls himself a Grey-A because he has experienced sexual attraction— for three people.

“I think that’s somewhat below average,” he deadpanned.

“I don’t really speak that language. I don’t send out signals, I don’t pick up signals.”

He gave an example of a date at Brock.

“In hindsight I could tell she was trying to get physical. She was trying to get physical and I was like, cuddle cuddle. I was completely oblivious.”

But lack of attraction to others doesn’t translate to an indifference to physical pleasure. “I enjoy physical contact,” said John. “It’s just easier by myself.”

“Almost all asexuals masturbate. They’d rather masturbate than get it on with another person. It’s easier, it’s cleaner, it’s simpler, and it’s just all around nicer.”

Nor does asexuality correspond with celibacy. Most AVEN members, according to a poll, prize romance. Only 15 per cent self-identified as aromantic.

“Romance and sexuality are entirely different things,” said John. “I have a good friend who is bisexual homo-romantic (he gets turned on by guys and girls but only wants that romantic relationship with guys).”

But how do asexuals manage to find love in a nympho world?

David said that asexualove. net, the most prominent dating site for asexuals, shut down due to lack of demand. “Numerically speaking, it’s hard for people to find dates, and that will change as the community grows,” he said. AVEN plans to launch a dating website within the next several months. Still, he said, members meet through the website, which boasts two marriages.

John met Carolyn, his girlfriend of a year and a half, through AVEN. Carolyn’s brother is asexual, but she isn’t. “My girlfriend is constantly trying to drag me to the bedroom, and I’m like, ‘Come on, you got to kill the ogre, roll the dice!’ I want to play cards and go for a nice walk in the park, and she’s like, ‘Bedroom! Bedroom! Bedroom!’”

“Things that I should be enjoying just feel like a chore,” he said, but added, “Every couple has to expect to work through some sort of sexual incompatibility. It’s part of a normal relationship process.”

Has David ever had a girlfriend? “I don’t like that label,” he replied, laughing. “Rather than think about a girlfriend or a boyfriend where I’m emotionally fulfilled, I think about a community where I’m emotionally fulfilled.”

“The person I’m closest to dating right now, I just bought flowers for her, we say ‘I love you’ to each other, we sleep in the same bed sometimes—she is a lesbian, and I’m helping her look for a girlfriend as a part of my relationship with her. There’s elements of friendship and romance that mingle together.”

“You don’t need sex to be happy.”

The medical and academic communities have no concensus on asexuality because little research has been done, according to Dr. Anthony Bogaert, a psychology professor at Brock University.

Bogaert found that around one per cent of the population reported themselves as asexual, similar to the rate of same-sex attraction found in the same survey. The paper, published in 2004 in the Journal of Sex Research, surveyed 18,000 Britons.

But, Bogaert noted, asexuality could be under-reported. “There’s a stigma associated with being asexual,” he said. “Certainly the media presents everyone as hypersexual—you have to be superbeautiful and supersexual all the time.”

Bogaert called asexuality a “unique sexual orientation,” a view shared by Dr. Lori Brotto, an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia and director of the UBC Sexual Health Laboratory.

Brotto was working in a sexual dysfunction clinic when she noticed a common occurrence: women and men who had no interest in sex. “It led us to wonder if this was more than just low desire, if this was a completely separate phenomenon. Was this really asexuality?” She surveyed 200 respondents through AVEN, interviewing 15 of them in-depth.

“There’s a distinction between loss of sexual desire and asexuality as an orientation, on the basis of our research.” she said. Her research, conducted from 2006 to 2007, has been submitted for publication.

Critics of asexuality, doctors and therapists among them, say it is a suppression of natural human desires.

Dr. Alex Alterescu, a North Yorkbased sex therapist, said he had mixed feelings on the subject. “If people decide not to be sexual, that’s their problem,” he said. “But from my point of view as a physician, as a therapist with a long experience, I feel that these people have some personal problem that led to that because remember, sexuality is a part of normal life.”

“Why do these people decide to be asexual, to go against something that is very natural for everybody, and most people enjoy?”

The assumption that sex is an indispensable part of life pressures many asexuals into providing sex or faking desire for their partners, said John.

“This is the form that relationships follow: In the beginning there’s sex, and it trails off quickly. Or only under duress. It’s horrible, it destroys relationships and it breaks hearts on both sides.”

With more research and awareness, he said, asexuals can be open in relationships and avoid stringing their partners along for months before “dropping the hammer.”

“We want people to understand and accept it as a concept.”

“Then when they’re confronted with the practice, they’ll be able to deal with it and put it into a category, a nice little box they have set aside.”

Ever been in love?

Clockwise from top-left

Katherine, 2nd year English

There are so many different types of love…I’ve felt passionately before but I have never been sure. I thought I was in love, but I don’t know anymore. I did fall in love with all three male lead characters in War and Peace as I was reading. It was amazing!

Sasha, 1st-year Semiotics:

You can point to it when it’s happening but it’s impossible to identify…unless you are Marvin Gaye.

Alireza, 4th-year Economics

I don’t know. I’ve never been in love. I hope it exists, but it doesn’t seem likely. I’m an optimist but look around you. I’m still not sure.

Julia, 4th-year Semiotics

I don’t know but screw Valentine’s day! Love is not something you can arrange and place on a calendar. ‘It’s love day?’ Fuck that.

‘It’s like we flew in museums’

With the South Asian and Middle East galleries opening Saturday, the Royal Ontario Museum inches closer to fully populating its new, massive—some would say monstrous—Michael Lee-Chin Crystal.

The galleries share a third-floor pocket in the Daniel Libeskind-designed crystal. The structure opened to mixed reviews last December as part of Renaissance ROM, the museum’s ambitious $270-million renovation project that is slated to finish in 2010.

“It’s like we flew in museums, but we just brought them up from the basement,” said William Thorsell, director and CEO of the ROM, at Tuesday’s media preview.

The new space is a chance for the ROM to display never-beforeseen collections, said Thorsell.

Christopher Ondaatje, twice a donor to the gallery that bears his name, expressed grander hopes.

“I have an enormous collection, one day I will give it to one of the museums. Hopefully here. But where will you put it?” he gestured, “You need a place to put it, we don’t have room right now to put all of the stuff.”

Ondaatje donated $1 million to the first Christopher Ondaatje South Asian Gallery, matched by the South Asia Request and Acquisition Fund and the ROM, which opened in 2000 and was torn down after two years. Ondaatje ponied up another million for the new gallery.

The writer and philanthropist enthused about the South Asian community’s donations. “All the various communities, with all the religious and racial differences and sometimes violent clashes all over the world, forgot their bigotry and differences and contributed to this single thing—a gallery.”

“I don’t believe that can be done in any other country in the world. That’s what Canada is all about.”

Unlike Ondaatje, Wirth said he was not approached specifically for his namesake gallery. “The Middle Eastern gallery was an orphan,” he said. “It hadn’t had help yet.”

Wirth said he gave to the ROM because he loved learning. “I take courses at U of T, but I don’t take them to write exams. And I have to take them several times because I can only make some classes.”

Hot Jocks 2008

Kristina Valjas – Volleyball

A love of sports runs in the family for this third-year linguistics student. Her brother is a cross-country skier and both her parents played volleyball for U of T. She’s fluent in Estonian and hopes to be a speech pathologist when she graduates. A sports fan through and through, this girl’s idea of a romantic date is going to a Leafs game.

Emily Patry – Hockey

She may look like your typical girl next door, but don’t be fooled: when it comes to hockey, the fifth-year right winger from Calgary is all business. An avid Flames fan, the English and film student enjoys creative writing, and lists Matthew Lombardi and Jarome Iginla among her secret sports crushes.

Mike Goncalves – Football

You’d never know it watching him pummel opposing linebackers, but the 6’0”, 255-pound defensive end is actually a really nice guy. The fifth-year religion and history major volunteers with GTHL hockey, St. Anthony’s Elementary, and the Huntington Society. He has a big heart when it comes to children and a surprising romantic side.

Marko Balan – Volleyball

Balan is a renaissance man. Already an accomplished volleyball player, he also excels in lacrosse and track. But he’s not your typical jock, the third-year phys. ed. student is a deep thinker; fluent Ukrainian speaker, and a talented guitar player. He hopes to spend Valentine’s Day star-gazing with that special someone.=

Michael DeGiorgio – Basketball

Few players are as smooth on the court as the Blues’ starting point guard. The fifth-year phys. ed. student says he’s just a normal, laid-back guy off the floor. He lists working with kids as one of his passions and hopes to go to teacher’s college after he graduates.

Natalia Lech – Tennis

A lot of people don’t know it, but this second-year tennis player is also an artist. Lech majors in economics with minors in German and political science, but also likes painting and fashion design. The Blues’ top player is looking forward to a lowkey Valentine’s Day— good food and a movie suit her just fine.

Editorial: Let’s get it on

Ah, Valentine’s Day. As if we needed another painful reminder that we’re getting less action than the cast members of High School Musical, here comes a holiday entirely devoted to love and the pursuit of making it.

University is a time when we’re supposed to be doin’ it—a lot. Gluts of films promote images of languid undergrads engaging in dorm room threesomes, alongside sexually-confused TAs, hot profs, and winsome roommates. Students apparently engage hourly in rough love against campus stairwells, library stacks, and chemistry labs, as previously bespeckled physics majors reveal pneumatic, perfectly shaped gazongas to their charmingly rakish RAs.

Nobody’s having more sex than university students, especially ones situated in one of the largest cities in North America. So why are so many of us complaining?

As someone who, until recently, previously held a level of expertise equated with the most submissive of 13-year-old girls, I’m here to tell you that sex can, in fact, happen to you. Maybe you’re nervous that your lack of know-how will single you out. Maybe you think that no one’s gonna love you, or that you’re incapable of letting someone into your life. But, to use a rather obvious analogy: once you learn how to ride a tricycle, hopping on a motorcycle is the next logical step in a long line of trips down lover’s lane.

One of my all-time favourite depictions of the “university experience” comes from Judd Apatow’s Undeclared, a college sitcom in which a group of friends who occupy a grubby co-ed dorm go through every coming of age subplot in a successive bound of sixteen hilarious and all-too truthful episodes. Nothing is more telling than the way the protagonist Steven loses his virginity to the girl next door (or should I say, across the hall), Lizzie, who still remains ensconced in a pitiful long-distance relationship with her psycho boyfriend Eric. Who we are when we begin our first year, and where we end up is never a fixed state. We grow exponentially and into ourselves.

Throughout these four years, yeah, we’re supposed to learn about Kantian imperatives and the teleogical aims of the fall of the Berlin Wall—but we’re also supposed to experience facets of our upcoming adulthood. This means experimenting with Jaegerbombs and hash pipes, art history minors and vegan diets. And this includes sex (and love) too.

While a “safety first!” maxim is always encouraged, in honor of this totally corporate/heterosexist holiday of hell, let’s take a pro- Obama stance and say, “Yes we can!” Yes we can have sex. And yes we will.

The Varsity wishes all our readers the happiest of Valentine’s Day, whether you celebrate it solo or with a friend. Treat your partners fairly, and love yourself. Oh, and don’t forget to play side one of The Very Best of Prince. Ohhhh, yeah.

Editorial: You think we said what!?

The Varsity, as a rule, doesn’t shy away from controversial subjects. We’ve been known to print provocative editorials that argue unpopular positions. You wouldn’t expect that we necessarily agree with all of them—how could we, considering the range of opinion expressed? Take for example last week’s side-byside pro- and anti-abortion columns, each written by a U of T student activist (see “Faceoff,” Feb. 4).

The same applies to the other sections of this and any good newspaper: While it’s true that nobody in the real world is perfectly unbiased, it’s not that hard to be impartial and give everyone a fair say. For our part, we don’t pick and choose articles. What appears in these pages isn’t there because of our personal beliefs or agendas, but for its relevance to the U of T community members who read this paper. Our job is only to watch events that affect U of T’s three campuses and report them directly, fairly, and as comprehensively as 16 or so pages will allow. That, and, unless we’re writing a commentary, to keep our opinions to ourselves.

We do that to ensure we stay a reliable source of open-minded reporting on any subject. That, in turn, gives us the freedom to report on anything of interest that happens on campus, without overstepping our boundaries or, hopefully, falling short of your expectations.

Recently, we’ve had a number of complaints about some advertisements printed in our issues. Most of these complaints assume that, by publishing the ad, The Varsity as a whole was endorsing its contents.

Before this boils over into questions of journalistic integrity, let me clear up a misconception: The Varsity’s ads don’t reflect our editors’ opinions. As editors, we don’t choose them, and, in fact, don’t even see them until they are on the page.

The majority of ads in The Varsity and most other university papers are sold by an independent marketing firm, and the rest are handled by two busy administrative staff. Ads pay most of the bills and we’re happy to have them. That doesn’t mean we tailor our coverage accordingly. What we print might affect advertisers’ decisions to take out ads with us, but their decisions don’t affect what we print.

The Varsity’s reporting ranges across the spectrum of political involvement on campus, from anti-tobacco protests to the pros and cons of globalization, high and low moments in student politics, campus clashes on everything from Middle-Eastern politics and Burmese democracy to fast food and sex ed, not to mention the commendable and questionable actions of this university.

Do we contradict ourselves if The Varsity prints, say, an ad for the Canadian army in the same issue as an anti-war editorial? No. Neither does running a McDonald’s ad mean we all like Big Macs (they’re only okay). Are we constrained to publish only the story an advertiser might prefer? Never.

So, with that in mind, please enjoy the rest of this independent newspaper, striving to keep you in touch with the goings on at U of T. After a word from our sponsors of course.

Keep our troops in Afghanistan

We Canadians like to think of ourselves as a helpful bunch when it comes to world affairs. We’re the global citizens, the humanitarians, the peace makers. Our country is a valuable ally and a reliable friend to nations the world over. And yet, this aggrandized self-image is severely compromised by our inadequate contributions to humanitarian operations conducted under the auspices of both the United Nations and NATO. The heated negotiations over our mission in Afghanistan between Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Liberal leader Stéphane Dion is a prime example of Canada’s lack of commitment to important humanitarian military operations.

Dion wants to end the mission in 2009, while Harper wants to extend it beyond that date, maintaining substantial troop numbers in the region until at least 2011. If Dion is committed to the high-minded ideals this country holds dear, then he will drop these demands altogether. For the sake of Canada’s reputation, and more importantly, for the sake of the Afghan people, Canada must continue until it has met the only acceptable benchmark for withdrawal: stability, security, and peace in a democratic Afghanistan.

Harper’s position is based on the Manley Report, a collection of findings authored by an independent, non-partisan government panel. John Manley, author of the report and a former Liberal cabinet minister, has made it clear that the present mission is indeed a humanitarian one. As he told the Ottawa Citizen, “Whenever we asked Afghans what they thought Canada or other NATO forces should do, there was never any hesitation: ‘We want you to stay; we need you to stay.’ Without the presence of the international security forces, they said, chaos would surely ensue.”

Canada is in Afghanistan by invitation of that country’s democratically elected leaders, a government that, for all its shortcomings, is far more legitimate than the brutal Taliban regime preceding it. Our troops are fighting a war alongside a multilateral NATO coalition against the remnants of a chauvinist, sexist, and misogynistic group of fundamentalists. As Manley asked, “If we are not willing to lend our military resources when asked to do so by the United Nations, for a mission co-ordinated by NATO, in a country whose democratically elected government wants us and whose citizens desperately need us, then we wonder where and when Canada would do so.”

It is evident from the Manley report that the mission is far from over. While NATO and Canada have made progress, Afghanistan still suffers. In fact, Manley has advised the Canadian government to send more troops, due to the fact that major combat operations have lacked the adequate strength to secure areas that have been cleared of Taliban militants.

With so much at stake, Dion is wrong to call for an artificial timeline for withdrawal. He is either astoundingly naive to think all that we seek to achieve can be attained by 2009, or given the war’s unpopularity, cynically unprincipled enough to not care about the mission or the Afghan people .

The fact that Canada’s leaders have such reservations when success is far from assured is worrying. It makes one question the commitment of Canada to our oft-espoused peace-keeping principles, at a time when Afghans need our help the most.