Spring often sparks a renewed interest in sex and Toronto’s queers are no exception. Cue Sugar Shack, a bathhouse event for women and trans people of colour at Central Spa on Fri, Apr 25.
“The bathhouse is for every person who attends to find their moment of ‘Wow, I’m hot,'” says organizer d-lishus, adding that Sugar Shack is a chance for people of colour to get naked without having to worry about being eroticized.
“People aren’t going to want to go to a space where they feel they’re being singled out or as though their nakedness is different from other people’s nakedness,” she says.
The event will be the first bathhouse event offered by the Toronto Women’s Bathhouse Committee since a “bathhouse lite” event in December; the next Pussy Palace is expected to be a pre-Pride edition in June.
This is the second coming of Sugar Shack — the first one took place in 2006. That same year the committee also offered up a BDSM-themed bathhouse event, Kinky Kitty. Carlyle Jansen, a founding member and owner of local sex shop Good for Her, says targeted events draw different crowds.
“I’d love to see a bathhouse that focuses on older women and something more trans focused,” she says.
Currently the committee has just seven members. Jansen says that at present the group is only able to offer the full-blown Pussy Palace event — which includes frills like lap dancers and other goodies — about twice a year.
“We have like 300 people at a regular bathhouse so it’s a really different kind of feel — a big party, a big celebration,” says Jansen.
She says that more volunteers — or better, staff — would translate into more events. “It would be great if we had one paid staff person. That would mean we could do events really regularly… we could offer a full bathhouse every three to four months.
“We don’t have [volunteers] breaking down our door,” Jansen admits, although she adds that finding volunteers to help on the night is less of a challenge.
“That’s partly because being a volunteer’s a great way to be involved, otherwise you arrive at the bathhouse and it’s like, ‘Now what do I do?’ But if you’ve got a job you’ve got something to do for a couple hours, you’re not just standing watching.”
She says the raid on a Pussy Palace party in 2000 scared off some while convincing others of the need to stake out a sexual space.
“A lot of people got a bit shy after that,” she says. “There were some people who were like, ‘Goddamn it, we’re gonna come no matter what,’ and others — in particular marginalized communities, people of colour, sex workers — weren’t coming as much.”
Through the nearly 10 years since the committee was founded it’s seen a lot of turnover; Jansen is the only remaining original member.
“There’s been people who come and go, which in a lot of ways is good because you get fresh ideas and fresh blood,” she says. “You’ve got people who’ve got the history and people with new ideas, and new energy.”
Jansen doesn’t think the establishment of venues like Goodhandy’s or Sexxus — venues that periodically offer women’s sex spaces — make Pussy Palace any less relevant.
“The more sex-positive stuff that’s out there the better,” she says. “I don’t think we’re competing, we’re enhancing each other.”