—Percentage of respondents to a Department of Justice online survey who answered “no” when asked whether selling sexual services should be a criminal offense in Canada, according to CTV News. Oddly, 56 per cent of respondents thought buying sex should be illegal.
It’s safe to say that very few members of the public have ever wanted to sit down with Stephen Harper for a heart-to-heart about sex, but now, with the future of Canada’s prostitution laws in the balance, it may be time for some ordinary citizens to spill their thoughts on the subject.
Following a December Supreme Court decision that struck down Canada’s existing prostitution laws, the federal government was given a year to draw up new, fairer ways of regulating the sex trade. Now, Ottawa is seeking public input. Whatever feedback it receives could help shape the future of sex work in this country.
Credit where credit’s due: the Department of Justice’s approach to the task of gathering public feedback is, in this case, reasonably good. People can write emails and send letters, as usual, but there’s also a handy website where interested parties can submit their thoughts using a web form. These opportunities for reform only come along once in a generation or so. The website is right here.
“I TOLD YOU SO, I TOLD YOU SO, I TOLD YOU SO, I TOLD YOU SO…I guess I’m not that crazy after all.”
-Councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, reacting to today’s landmark victory for the human rights of sex workers with a torrent of all-caps self congratulation. This was the actual headline of a press release issued by his office earlier today. The reason Mammo is so excited is that he has spent the past two years occasionally advocating for the conversion of the Toronto Islands—currently home to a childrens’ amusement park, a zoo and some quaint family homes—into a red-light district, where prostitution could happen away from the general populace. The gist of the rest of the press release is that city council missed the boat (ferry?) by failing to endorse the plan prior to the Supreme Court ruling. As interesting as it would be if Toronto had its very own sex archipelago, we imagine the city will get by without one.
Yup, that’s right. The Supreme Court of Canada issued its long-awaited ruling on the constitutionality of Canada’s prostitution laws this morning, and the news is that those laws have been struck down. Prostitution is now, in a sense, completely legal in Canada—but don’t get excited/angry/titillated just yet. The ruling is suspended for a year, meaning the federal government has 12 months to pass new laws before all of the illegal rub-and-tugs that already operate semi-openly in Toronto can start listing themselves in the Yellow Pages under “Brothels.”
Mesdames, meet Vincent. For a mere $300, the part-time Toronto resident and full-time “Straight Male Escort and Ladies’ Companion” could be all yours—for an hour. Then again, you could just spend that hour reading his ridiculously amazing website. Under headings like Notes to the Ladies, I Lead Two Lives, and Glamour and Allure, Vincent sets out everything you’d want to consider before committing to a sexy interlude with an elderly stranger: job history (former military officer, current adult entertainment entrepreneur); notable physical attributes (“strong arms, inviting lips and a few sexy scars”); and, of course, any sexual limitations or taboos (none). For ladies who need more convincing, the partially blurred-out glamour shots really speak for themselves. [www.vincentwilliam.com]
Olivia dates rich older men in exchange for gifts and money. She doesn’t consider it prostitution. In her mind, and in the minds of tens of thousands of other young Toronto women who have struck up similar for-profit relationships, it’s much more than a commercial exchange.
As a teen, Olivia didn’t get along with her mother, and, after dropping out of her Halifax high school, she moved out on her own and went on welfare. She discovered that her looks—bright blue eyes, perfect breasts, prairie-flat stomach—were her ticket to modelling gigs and bit parts in TV shows, but the work was sporadic and paid poorly. Two years ago, she moved to Toronto, looking for more opportunities. Now 25, she’s earning enough to pay her rent but not enough to support the lifestyle she imagined for herself.
Last year, a friend of Olivia’s told her she was seeing a man she’d met on SeekingArrangement.com, a match-making site designed to facilitate the pairing of wealthy older men with attractive young women. Over the past decade, many such websites have launched, helping women negotiate gifts, allowance, tuition, mentorship or simply a night out, in exchange for their companionship and, often, for sex. Olivia’s friend usually got a nice dinner, bottles of champagne and cash. She referred to her date as her sugar daddy and to herself as his sugar baby.
Olivia liked the idea of a rich man helping her with her career, telling her the secrets of how he became so successful, and pushing her life in the same direction. Plus, she wanted to have fun. She put her profile up on SeekingArrangement.com and, later, on WhatsYourPrice.com. The first few men she met weren’t perfect. One wouldn’t hold the door for her. Another was married. Many just wanted to pay for sex, but she eventually met a wealthy, recently divorced doctor in his early 40s who kept a small roster of sugar babies. Read the rest of this entry »
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Ivy glows like a 1930s starlet. She’s 27, with high, round cheekbones, rosebud lips and luminescent skin. She has worked at three erotic massage parlours, or so-called rub ’n’ tugs, in the GTA, where female attendants offer men “sensual release,” code for a session ending in a hand job. She agreed to tell me her story on the condition that I not reveal her true identity. For her customers, Ivy puts on a breathy Marilyn Monroe voice and wears retro baby doll nighties and stilettos. She mimics her high-pitched greeting for me: “How are you? I can’t wait to get started.” Her act appeals to her clients—typically white professionals who came of age when women like Ivy appeared in every car and scotch ad. Walk-ins can choose from the half-dozen women on shift, though many men pre-book Ivy based on her photo on the spa’s website.
I 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.” Read the rest of this entry »
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Dear Urban Diplomat, Read the rest of this entry »
I’m sick and tired of my neighbours using the back alley like it’s an extension of their property. Their kids sell lemonade and play ball hockey back there, and one family recently hosted a wedding reception in their backyard that spilled out into the alley. I think it’s dangerous and irritating. Alleyways should be used for access, and that’s it. What can I do to stop them?
—Neighbourly Naysayer, Greenwood-Coxwell
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—Outspoken and often idiotic councillor Giorgio Mammoliti, airing his grievances with the Toronto Police Service’s recent decision to put a hold on john sweeps. The cop shop is putting a temporary stop to the long-standing sting operations in light of the court ruling in March that declared Canada’s prostitution laws unconstitutional. Police spokesperson Mark Pugash says the force is against using resources to arrest johns when there’s so much uncertainty surrounding prostitution laws. Mammoliti, on the other hand, says the laws should be enforced as long as they still exist—if only to save people from sloppy seconds. [Toronto Sun]
All the talk about where to put brothels in the city (and how to make money off them) may have been a tad premature—the federal government has made the not-very-surprising decision to appeal the Ontario court ruling to decriminalize bawdy houses, which was supposed to take effect 11 months from now. The Harper government is also appealing the decriminalization of living “off the avails of prostitution” in non-exploitative situations, which was set to take effect within days. If the the Supreme Court of Canada agrees to hear the appeal, the face off between the Harper government and the lawyers acting for the sex workers pushing to soften the province’s laws regulating prostitution likely won’t happen until late this year, or early 2013. Though some say the government’s chances of overturning the Ontario ruling are slim, we wouldn’t open a Bunny Ranch bordello VIP account just yet. [Globe and Mail]
Giorgio Mammoliti (who seems to be everywhere this week) has a few more thoughts about Toronto-area brothels—specifically, how the city could profit from them. In a letter to Cesar Palacio, who heads the licensing and standards committee, and Peter Milczyn, who oversees planning and growth management, Mammoliti argued the city should levy fees from now-legal bawdy houses like the Bunny Ranch brothel (coming soon to a neighbourhood near you!). He thinks a $15,000 annual licensing fee for each bordello worker would do the trick. Those fees, Mammo told the Toronto Sun, could help keep criminals, pimps and sex traffickers out. Also, Toronto needs to act fast to take control of the brave new world of legalized brothels, since currently there aren’t many zoning or licensing regulations in place (or, as he told the paper, “Toronto has got caught with its pants down”). The councillor also took the opportunity to make it clear that he no longer wants to turn the Toronto Islands into a red-light district. Funnily enough, he realized that wasn’t one of his better ideas. [Toronto Sun]
One of the side effects of the Ontario Court of Appeal’s decision to legalize bawdy-houses: awkward newspaper columns (and even more awkward homepage images). In the Toronto Sun today, columnist and self-described libertarian Mike Strobel gets pretty… excited about the possibility of Toronto getting a Bunny Ranch brothel. Dennis Hof, who owns the famous brothel chain in Nevada, spoke to Strobel over the phone—while surrounded by “a whole bunch of beautiful half-naked women”—and said he plans to visit Toronto this June to scout sites that could accommodate 15 to 20 rooms for conducting business, a dorm for the ladies and a five-star restaurant. In addition to the permissive legal climate, Hof says he’s drawn to Toronto because it’s a “classy European kind of city with flair and style.” Though, if Toronto signs up for both an MGM mega-casino and a Bunny Ranch brothel, the city will have more in common with Las Vegas than Europe. Read the entire story [The Toronto Sun] »
There have been brothels in practically every condo and apartment building in Toronto. People have no idea they exist, we are so discreet.
—Valerie Scott of Sex Professionals of Canada, a 53-year-old former prostitute, explaining to the Toronto Star that, really, local residents shouldn’t be worried about brothels springing up all over the city now that houses of bawdy are set to be legal. (No need to fret about mega-brothels with people fornicating on the lawn either, she says.) Why? Because brothels are already everywhere! And, as far as we know, lawn sex is totally minimal. [Toronto Star]
The province’s Court of Appeal legalized brothels in Ontario yesterday, sparking celebration, awkward headlines and some political opportunism from one Giorgio Mammoliti. Surprised? Neither are we. The landmark ruling is gives the go-ahead for brothels, though communicating for the purposes of prostitution will remain illegal. Read the rest of this entry »
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