Students respond to UQAM 'hypocrisy' with racy pics of their own after the school sued a student for explicit social media posts
MONTREAL -- A group of Universite de Quebec a Montreal (UQAM) students are calling hypocrisy after the university made moves to sue a student for posting suggestive photos of herself on social media with the school's logo.
PhD students Cato Fortin and Stephanie Roussel began a reaction campaign by posting pictures of themselves in lingerie with UQAM's logo and their degrees in the images along with the hashtag #papauqam in support of Helene Boudreau, the student being sued.
Boudreau operates an Onlyfans account, a website where users create adult content for subscribers. She is alleged to have used the UQAM imagery in the account.
Fortin and Roussel have received grants and been praised for their work on sex workers and were appalled to see the university respond to Boudreau's picture with a threat to sue.
"She does what we write about, and when someone does it, instead of studying it, it seems like there's a problem," said Fortin. "We get paid really good money to write this, and it seemed really hypocritical to us to get all this money and recognition while someone like Helene Boudreau does not get it."
"UQAM, this university that is supposedly inclusive and proud to be part of what is called 'social mobility,' is expensive, and you have to work to get in if you're not a doctor's kid," said Roussel on Instagram. "Sex work is a respectable job. Sex workers are also sometimes students and graduates of UQAM, perhaps future professors, writers, biologists, lawyers."
The #papauqam movement quickly caught on.
Alice Rivard posted a picture of herself in lingerie with her UQAM diploma and called the lawsuit unfair.
"UQAM’s lawsuit against Helene Boudreau is unfair, hypocritical, and damaging to sex workers," said Rivard. "Sex work is work. Some UQAM students were and are sex workers."
Rivard graduated with honours in both her undergraduate and graduate degrees and have received grants for her academic work.
She also worked as a professional dominatrix to help pay for her schooling.
"We are not undeserving of dignity because of the way we use our bodies," she said. "UQAM cannot use our successes for their own promotion and then initiate a lawsuit for a picture from a sex worker. Some teachers have been denounced as abusers and UQAM did not sue them or fire them."
Alice Rivard worked as a professional dominatrix while pursuing undergraduate and graduate degrees at UQAM, and is calling the university's lawsuit against a student violent, unfair and damaging to sex workers. SOURCE: Alice Rivard
Rivard added that she does not support everything Boudreau does mentioning her support on social media of some tattoo artists who were denounced as abusers during the #metoo movement.
"I, we, do not support these actions. We believe victims," said Rivard.
Fortin also acknowledged Boudreau's actions in relation to the tattoo artists and the hardship it caused to any victims of the alleged abuse.
Boudreau told CTV News that she did not have a comment on the lawsuit or the #papauqam response at the moment.
She worked as a tattoo artist before doing Onlyfans.
According to the UQAM lawsuit, it’s alleged that Boudreau gave an interview to the newspaper 24 Heures, in which she said she earns upwards of $20,000 per month from her content.
Regardless of how much she makes for her work, those supporting her feel UQAM is out of line in attacking her, particularly in the current climate.
"I found it really clumsy especially in this time where there's been eight women killed in the last eight weeks," said sexologist Amelie Bouchard, who took part in the campaign in support of Boudreau. "I really didn't understand why they were suing this girl."
Sexologist Amelie Bouchard considers herself an agent of change and as someone who works with sex workers and marginalized groups she feels she has "a responsibility as a professional to support them." SOURCE: Amelie Bouchard.
Quebec has seen a dramatic rise in violence against women during the pandemic, and Fortin pointed to several high-profile cases where a sex worker was abused or killed, such as Marylene Levesque, who was killed in 2020.
"For me, as well as showing support for sex workers — and women in general — it was a great opportunity to shed light on how hypocritical and incohesive that lawsuit is," said former UQAM literature student Stephanie Paquet. "It’s quite infuriating to see l’UQAM invest so much time, energy and money into such a small matter while they’ve been avoiding addressing some major issues that take part inside their walls regarding sexual harassment."
Several allegations have been made against school staff, including once in 2014, and again in 2017. Members of UQAM's faculty were also named in 2020 during a wave of sexual assault and harrassment allegations, something Paquet says she knows of firsthand.
The lawsuit, for Rivard, is "violent, unfair and damaging to sex workers."
Fortin said a fine arts student like Boudreau is accustomed to expressing herself should be allowed to have agency over how she reflects on her work or her body.
"It's reinforcing the virgin-whore dichotomy," said Fortin. "It seems you cannot be an intellectual, you cannot be a valued part of the UQAM community if you are also somewhat a sexual person."
Fortin called herself a boring mom, and did not want to pose in her underwear to make a point, but felt rewarded when sex workers reached out in support.
"I don't like to be in underwear on the Internet, it's my first time," she said. "I felt I had to do this. I'm doing this in solidarity... We're weaponizing our bodies to help them (sex workers). I'm happy about that."