Stampede has arrived in Calgary and with it the full tilt-a-whirl of activities from midway rides to chuck wagon races, rodeos to tent parties. Calgarians and an estimated additional 400,000 visitors alike will flock to take part in the excitement that engulfs our city for the next ten days.

As we celebrate our inner cowboys and cowgirls, Pam Krause, our President and CEO, notes that this time of year we are given “permission to play” – boot-knocking innuendo implied. While Calgary parties hardy in celebration of its frontier western roots, Stampeders may enjoy relaxed work timelines, corporate parties and an abundance of alcohol: Sex is just as much a part of the Stampede discourse as pancake breakfasts. This past week Pam weighed in on CBC and in Metro about the increase of STIs around Stampede time, as well as the negative consequences of risky behavior. Other recent media has focused on the sexualization of the Stampede, and how vulnerable women can be affected.

Pam is quick to point out that at Calgary Sexual Health, we want to equip people attending Stampede with the right tools to make good decisions while still having a great time. “We aren’t telling people not to go out, don’t have sex; we’re telling people to make good decisions, to communicate to potential sexual partners, and that consent doesn’t take a holiday.”

It comes as no surprise that excessive alcohol consumption can be a factor in sexual encounters (there are literally country songs written about this), but it’s important that people have the right education and decision-making tools to play safely.

“Our concern always is that people that normally have agency and confidence will drink excessively and be unable to make thoughtful decisions,” says Pam. “For example, people who normally use condoms may end up having unprotected sex because they are being socially encouraged to be part of the ‘fun’.”

Head, Heart, Body is one decision-making tool you can use as a barometer, to check in with yourself prior to a sexual encounter: Are your head, your heart and your body in agreement when it comes to sex? And protection is the sexual keyword of Stampede. The popular campaign, “Put a Condom on Your Cowboy,” was created in conjunction with community partners (CCHA) as a way to remind people to practice safe sex. In support of the campaign, some bars in Calgary will hand out condoms during Stampede week.

In past years, an increase in unplanned pregnancies, pregnancy test distribution and waiting rooms lineups occur about six weeks after the world’s largest rodeo extravaganza. Counselors at Calgary Sexual Health see that a little prevention can go a long way.

“The mistaken impression is that Stampede is a free-for-all around everything,” says Pam. “We’re telling people the health consequences can be serious. We want people to do no harm to others, and to themselves. We want to help people make sure their heads, hearts and bodies are aligned, that they’re not having sex because they feel pressure, and that they’re not letting the body rule the show.”

Have a happy and safe Stampede!

country couple