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Editor’s Letter (February 2013): public sex, massage parlours and bawdy houses

Sarah FulfordI myself have never had sex in public. As it turns out, I’m in the minority. An astonishing 65 per cent of Torontonians claim to have done it in public, according to our first ever survey of who’s doing what to whom. Where? Everywhere, apparently: the Casa Loma parking lot, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies at U of T, and the Hockey Hall of Fame, to name just a few spots. In this special issue about sex, we reveal how, behind our buttoned-down exterior, we are exuberant sexual adventurers.

In the last decade or so, Toronto has seriously loosened up. Where sex is concerned, this city is remarkably open-minded, especially compared with many cities in the religious, moralistic U.S. Pleasure seekers have access to an ever-expanding array of options, thanks to legions of clever entrepreneurs who are capitalizing on our desires. We can instantly and secretly connect with illicit lovers online, or fulfill a fantasy in one of the countless massage parlours across the city, or spice up a relationship at a sex club like Wicked or Oasis Aqualounge. Our sex-focused shopping and entertainment guide on features several above-board ways to get it on, including a regular pop-up dance party with the irresistible name “No Pants, No Problem.”

Here’s another example of how the sexual landscape has changed: back in the fall, the last of the seedy motels along the Lake Shore in Etobicoke was torn down. That’s where prostitutes used to take their johns, and the area had become a magnet for drugs and violence. But the seedy motel is now redundant. Police believe there are working prostitutes, or in some cases full-fledged brothels, in just about every condo building in town. They will likely become more visible if the Supreme Court upholds Ontario’s recent decision to legalize bawdy houses, which I suspect will happen. We tend to involve government in our vices, which we rely on to fund government programs. Ontario would have a hard time functioning without the revenue from booze and gambling. City hall pulls in some $800,000 a year in licensing fees for body-rubs and “holistic spas”—often code for rub ’n’ tugs. Toronto’s newly liberal sexual ethos is characterized by a laissez-faire wantonness behind closed doors, with an attachment to order and regulation on
the outside.

Perhaps the best illustration of the Toronto attitude toward sex is among a vocal crew of so-called polyamorists, described by Courtney Shea in her piece “Sex Without Borders” (page 36). Instead of being anti-establishment, as free love advocates were in the 1970s, polyamorists want mainstream society to accept their multi-partner lifestyle. They belong to what they call “the poly community” and participate in poly clubs. The dream, I suppose, would be a government form on which you could define your relationship with a choice of boxes: married/common law, single or poly. Some would take it a step further: they consider their desire for multiple partners to be part of their identity, an innate sexual orientation, like being gay.

And really, why not? When it comes to sex in Toronto, we don’t care how our neighbours do it, or whom they do it with, as long as no one is getting hurt—and everyone is paying their taxes. It’s sexual liberation, run by the Swiss.

(Image: Christopher Wahl)