3 min

Fuelling erotophobia

Canada Post censors sex

Canada Post executives have a sexual disease. Not the physical kind passed via body fluids.

Theirs is a mental malady called erotophobia-a generalized and often unconscious fear of harmless sexual words or images.

I discovered Canada Post’s sexual disease in business dealings spanning the last five months. As co-owner of The Art of Loving, an erotic art gallery, bookstore and sex shop in Kitsilano, I approached the national postal service to deliver our monthly newsletter to residences in our neighbourhood.

We had carefully designed the newsletter’s content to reflect the sex-positive atmosphere of our operation. We avoided sexual slang or anything remotely pornographic, and included tasteful art photos and sidebars describing interesting sexual facts (such as the fact that sperm exits the penis traveling at 28 mph). We also displayed our seminar schedule and discussed our best selling products.

While we can use private services to deliver our newsletter to houses, Canada Post has exclusive access to apartment mailboxes. Our business is near many apartments. We sent our flyer to 25,000 houses and received not a single complaint. So I figured Canada Post would be happy to do business with us.

Canada Post rejected our newsletter. You won’t find it in any apartment mailbox.

When I asked postal executives to explain their prohibition, they provided only trite generalized statements, like this one from an Ottawa postal exec: “We found the text and graphics of your flyer included materials of sexual nature-this is deemed to be inappropriate for delivery to the general public.”

I asked them to identify exactly what of a sexual nature they believed to be inappropriate. They refused to provide any details.

Appealing the issue up the postal hierarchy, I got to the head of the admail department in Ottawa. After much prodding, the bureaucrat gave me specifics: “Unaddressed Admail is a product that reaches the general public on an unsolicited basis. As a result, it must accord with community standards expected by the public in connection of media distributed on a generalized basis. Words such as ‘penis,’ ‘clitoris’ and ‘ejaculate’ do not accord with such standards.”

So normal words describing sexual biology are taboo because they would offend the community.

I asked for evidence supporting such a claim. I never got any.

I’ve asked over and over for data, but the executives remain silent. Had they any real backing for their position, they would have provided it.

In fact, the data is all to the contrary. The fact that not one person complained after 25,000 deliveries shows that our material is not offensive. Making a major policy decision without any supporting evidence violates modern management principles. Yet it is normal practice in Canada Post when sex is in issue. Why?

Canada Post officials are gripped with erotophobia. If Canada Post were to refuse to deliver a flyer because it contained gay material, Jewish material or African-Canadian material, everyone would quickly recognize the intolerance. Their attack on sexual information reveals an analogous prejudice against sex.

But postal executives cannot own their primitive sexual fears. So they pretend the community is offended even when nothing shows that to be true. Psychologists call this rationalizing. Homophobes do it all the time.

How people acquire erotophobia, and why this fear is generally stronger in senior decision-makers than in average folks, is a complex story. A fascinating but toxic social system is at work here-a system similar to that which generates homophobia.

One of the key elements of the erotophobia system is sexual censorship. Prohibiting sexual discourse expresses a powerful negative message; it says that sex and communication about it are dangerous and worthy of stigma.

Canada Post officials express precisely such a toxic message when they censor our newsletter. They help fuel the erotophobia system and help spread the condition beyond their own minds.

No Crown corporation should be causing such harm. Vancouver sex therapist Pega Ren agrees: Sexual education is not the culprit… ignorance is.

* John Ince is author of The Politics of Lust and co-owner of The Art of Loving.


To protest the Canada Post policy.