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The real masters of sex at Nova Scotia's only sex research lab 

These PhD students want you to keep your vulva happy.

click to enlarge Kate Rancourt and Maria Glowacka are PhD students at Dalhousie University’s couples and sexual health research laboratory.
 - DYLAN CHEW
  • Kate Rancourt and Maria Glowacka are PhD students at Dalhousie University’s couples and sexual health research laboratory.

  • DYLAN CHEW


Kate Rancourt and Maria Glowacka are two of the six PhD students working with Dr. Natalie Rosen in her Dalhousie University research lab—the only one in Nova Scotia completely dedicated to sex and relationships. Rancourt and Glowacka spoke with The Coast about their upcoming talk, “Taking Care of Down There,” and Nova Scotia’s sexual health.

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The Coast: What got you interested in a career in sex research?
Glowacka: I actually started working for Dr. Rosen in the last year of my undergrad. She was doing a study involving couples where the woman suffered from pain during sex. When I met with couples, I found that a lot of women were saying they didn’t even know if they could have enjoyable sex. The relief they found in knowing that other people suffer from the same sexual problems got me really interested in this type of research.

Rancourt: In some ways I guess I have a similar story. As I started to work with [Dr. Rosen] I realized how much I value the sex research in her work. There’s not all that much awareness how distressing a sexual problem can be for an individual but also for a couple.

Does research in your lab focus mainly on heterosexual couples or do you cater to all sexualities?
G: A lot of the past research has focused on heterosexual couples and we actually really make a point in the lab to be inclusive. We have same sex couples and we also recognize the fact that everybody who has a vulva or vagina doesn’t identify as a woman. Since a lot of the measures we use were developed for heterosexual couples, we definitely welcome any feedback along the way when somebody tells us something wasn’t as inclusive as it should be. So I think that’s really a major goal for us.

What do you think about the state of sexual health in Nova Scotia?
R: I would definitely say there are a number of improvements we need to make in regards to sexual health in Nova Scotia. We have a lot of great resources right now. Halifax Sexual Health Centre, for example, Venus Envy—but there’s a shortage of people we can refer women and couples in our studies to. I know, too, with the women we work with who experience vulvaginia [pain during sex], it can be a bit complicated for them because the treatment resources that are available are really disparate. We have all these resources available but nothing that brings them together or really integrates them.

I think I have to ask you if you watch Masters of Sex? But I guess that’s a bit different from what you guys are doing...
R: I actually love the show. I think it’s great to see such a popular show focusing on the history of sex research. And I think it’s pretty important to recognize that it offers more than just a sex entertainment type of spin. It really allows viewers to understand a little bit about the incredibly important contributions that Masters and Johnson made in our understanding of sexuality and the human response.

You guys are doing a talk soon called “Taking Care of Down There.” Can you tell us a bit more about that?
G: We really want to have a talk about general vulva health. Because that’s another thing that in the media—there’s a lot of conversations about sex but for some reason “vulva” and “vagina” seem to be a bit more taboo. We want to provide some information for the community about general things they can know about their vulvar health. For that reason we wanted to have it from a multidisciplinary perspective. We have a gynaecologist, a physiotherapist and also have a sex educator from Venus Envy. [They’ll] talk a little bit about different things that women can do to keep their vulvas happy and make women more comfortable with their bodies.

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Taking Care of Down There
Tuesday, February 9, 7pm
Halifax Central Library, Lindsay Children’s Room, second floor
Spring Garden Road
natalieorosen.com

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