If your sultry summer fun includes a little nookie outside the bedroom, watch out. City cops and politicians are attacking sex on several fronts. And sex between men — whether indoors or outdoors — is clearly a target.
Police have charged 19 gay men with indecency in three separate raids on the Bijou cinema. Police have been harassing nudists at Toronto’s perfectly legal nude beach. Gay community bars and restaurants complain of increased hassles from cops.
Our mayor suggests that tax dollars are to be wasted on a crackdown on sex in parks. City council recently doled out $2 million for overtime policing during the summer. Mel Lastman told the National Post that the money is earmarked to get used condoms and needles out of parks. Unless the cops are on litter duty, they’ll likely be making sure the condoms don’t get used in the first place.
(If condoms in parks are a problem, might I suggest litter bins and clean-up crews?)
In the last decade or so, Toronto has flourished as a sexy city. Bathhouses have operated with few hassles, and sex shops and other sexy small businesses have popped up everywhere. Discreet sex in public places like parks and rest rooms has been largely uninterrupted by police, and criminal charges have been rare. Toronto was well on its way to becoming sexually civilized and sophisticated. As long as no one was disturbed or hurt without their consent, recreational sex did not merit police attention.
How quickly things change. We need to ensure that Toronto doesn’t become an awful city where adults are routinely humiliated by the authorities for minor or obscure legal infractions.
Technically, many kinds of sex can be construed as against the law. But we need our local politicians to set reasonable priorities for the police. The Criminal Code Of Canada is a crusty old tome, and stupid laws take eons to change. We expect — and we must demand — that our city show respect for our communities and assure us that police resources will not be used for frivolous sex charges.
Cracking down on sex in porn cinemas and parks — invisible to those who aren’t interested, and even to many who are — is nothing less than an attempt to destroy gay sex culture and humiliate gay people into submission.
Gay city councillor Kyle Rae is not providing the leadership we need on these matters. He has tried to underplay the significance of raids on the Bijou, comparing the criminal charges against patrons to traffic tickets and stating that we should not make a fuss about them. Rae has also gone on record against sex in parks – an unnecessary position. We need him to soothe hysteria about this benign activity, not fuel it.
Rae bills himself as a friend of small business and his record with the bathhouses is good. But the Bijou is now closed, and other businesses in his constituency are on alert. The health of sex businesses in the Church-Wellesley neighbourhood is integral to its overall health. The area is a sexual playground, and that’s why local gay people and tourists visit.
Most importantly, we need a city councillor who takes seriously — and ensures an end to — senseless harassment of gay people in the downtown ward. Kyle Rae’s phone number is (416) 392-7903. Please, call him and tell him we need him.
There will be a meeting of the Church-Wellesley Neighbourhood Police Advisory Committee at the 519 Church Street Community Centre at 6:30pm on Thu, Jul 22. Please, if you attend one meeting this summer, come out and advise the police on your expectations of them. See you there.
David Walberg is Publisher for Xtra.