This semester, first-year students can get excited at the prospect of a new Sexual Diversity Studies course that will give them real hands-on contact with the city’s rich and boisterous sexual history.

Sex in the City, a full-credit seminar-style course beginning in September, will explore sexual politics and sexualized spaces. The University College initiative is a part of ‘UC One: Engaging Toronto,’ which follows on the heels of similar first-year programs at Victoria and Trinity College. The programs aim to couple the experience of large lectures with the benefits of small, interactive seminars.

Dr. Scott Rayter, who teaches the course, was enthusiastic after his first session with the students. “It was great. It’s a different kind of experience that most first-year students don’t get to have,” he said. “It also allows students to have exposure to some really great academics who don’t get a lot of undergraduate teaching,” he continued.

The course is one of four interdisciplinary streams that UC One students can choose from; each will look at how university-based research can stimulate “larger questions” about the city. The other streams are Canadian Studies, Drama and Health Studies.

Students will be marked based on critical reflection papers on weekly readings and lectures, participation and a final research paper. The course is limited to 25 students, and every week in the fall, students from each program stream will have a two-hour lecture by guest speakers and then break into four tutorial groups based on their stream. Guest speakers will include prominent business leaders, community activists, and political figures such as former Toronto Mayor David Miller and Ontario’s Minister of Research and Innovation, Glen Murray.

In the winter, students do the research seminar portion of the course with their instructor and go out in to the community. Students enrolled in Sex in the City will have the opportunity to tour some of Toronto’s most historic sexualized spaces including the Buddies in Bad Times Theatre and the Pink Triangle Press.

Among other assignments, students will organize their own sex-themed “Jane’s walks” or walking tours aimed at engaging people with their neighbourhood. Jane Farrow, founder and executive director of Jane’s Walks, will be a guest lecturer this fall, talking about queer history and queer space in Toronto. In the second semester, she will show the students how to design a ‘Jane’s walk.’

Rayter hopes that having students organize these tours will help them to critically engage with Toronto’s unique sexual identity. “It’s about getting to know your spaces and taking advantage of them,” he said.