Haligonians got a jolt of sex-positive buzz this past weekend, as the historic port town joined the ranks of Montreal, Toronto, London and hosted the inaugural Everything To Do With Sex Show.
Thursday night kicked off the opening festivities at Bubbles Mansion. Unfortunately the shopping-cart slums of the Trailer Park Boys’ watering hole seemed exclusive rather than inclusive. Save for my roommate and I, there didn’t seem to be another queer in sight. It was merely a half an hour or so into the party when the leering eyes from beer-glutton men threatened and we called it a night.
As a virgin sex-trade show attendant I had high hopes upon arriving at the Cunard Centre on Saturday afternoon. I’m not quite sure what I expected, but it certainly didn’t feel like a lesbian, gay or trans utopia. Posters of half-starved, Caucasian, bleached-blonde women and oil-slathered beefcake men don’t put me in the mood. In some ways it felt down right — dare I say it — vanilla.
Sure, one could find a range of sex toys, DVDs, lingerie and more. But there were some puzzling booths. A company running an erotic photo business advertised with a display of kids and puppy dogs — I think they misjudged the trade show’s audience. Either way it all seemed a touch too syrupy to translate to sexy.
Naturally for all things queer, local haven Venus Envy, owned by Maggie Haywood, brought out all shades of the proverbial rainbow. The tax-free sale had vibrators, dildos, butt toys and harnesses flying off the shelves. Venus Envy’s Shannon Pringle presented two seminars — a guide to talking dirty for women and a workshop on orgasms for women.
“I make a concerted effort to make the language of each workshop as inclusive as possible in terms of sex, gender, and sexual orientation,” says Pringle. “Many of the erotic words used to describe female bodies are distinctly feminine which is often disconcerting to a person born female who experiences their body in a masculine or androgynous way.
“I am always on the look out for erotic gender-free words so people of all sexes, genders and sexual orientations can find some representation of their experience in our erotic language.”
Erotic workshops and Venus Envy’s selection of products are all aspects of queer Halifax I’ve come to know and love. I’m well-acquainted with their highly respected sex-positive and healthy ways of life. But somehow I thought a massive trade show hailing from Toronto might teach me a few tricks, broaden my sexual horizons and be more representative of all aspects of sexuality.
If it wasn’t for a performance by Halifax’s Cadence Macmichael (also known as Miss C), Pink Velvet Burlesque troupe leader and owner of Pretty Things Boutique, the theatrical and stylish elements of the trade show would have been lost.
“Pretty Things Boutique is an openly queer-positive store,” says Macmichael. “We welcome everyone from the queer community to enjoy shopping with us. We love getting involved with as many queer-positive events as we can whether it be through selling tickets, sponsorship, prize donation or whatever helps I needed that we can provide.”
On the racks were stunning retro-rockabilly inspired lingerie, pasties and rockabilly swag. But it was Miss C’s burlesque performance that ignited sparks.
Clad in red, from the tips of her heels to the fingertips of her gloves, Miss C sported a barely-there bra and undies. An oversized red flower in her bleached-blonde, loosely curled hair merely hinted at the enormous feathers she coyly incorporated into her burlesque performance. Under the bright lights she seemed like a doll-sized reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe, slightly more brazen.
“The event brought together groups of people who would never usually mix in real life,” says Macmichael on the final Sunday of the trade show. “There was such a great diversity of people from every race, sexual orientation and age group.
“It opened up so many conversations, put things out in the open and had people talking honestly and without shame about sexuality.”