Replace flowers with dildos, chocolates with strap-ons, and romantic talk with a kink workshop and you’ve got a sexy way for Halifax ladies to celebrate Valentine’s Day.
SheDogs is a women’s bathhouse event in Halifax, and Maggie Haywood is one of six women who run the bi-annual gathering.
“We’re a group of about half a dozen people who really believe that Halifax should have a women’s and trans’ bathhouse,” says Haywood, who also owns Halifax’s Venus Envy sex shop.
Haywood attended the first Dyke Night at SeaDogs Sauna and Spa, Halifax’s men’s bathhouse. The event inspired her — she say it was “such a good idea, but such a low turnout.”
SheDogs started in 2004 when Doug Melanson, the owner of SeaDogs, wanted to provide something for women. He turned his north-end building over to some female volunteers from Venus Envy, but they didn’t make any changes to the regular men’s format.
A few ladies showed up, but when the night ended, organizers agreed that changes to the event were needed in order to attract more women.
“The lighting is really soft throughout the bathhouse and there are some very dark corners,” says Haywood. “There are open rooms throughout the bathhouse that can be used by anyone, as long as the door stays open. Private rooms are also available to rent if you’re not much of an exhibitionist.
“There are also more sensual experiences, like the reading room, massage room or hot tub. And then there’s the just plain silly, like strip Twister.”
SheDogs is one of only a few women’s bathhouses in Canada. The Toronto’s Women’s Bathhouse Committee organizes regular Pussy Palace events and Montreal has a new sex party for women and trans folk. By contrast, there are more than two dozen bathhouses for gay guys across Canada, most of which are open every night of the week.
“Everyone who comes in gets the rules of the bathhouse, which are all about respect,” says Haywood. “What happens at the bathhouse stays at the bathhouse, like Vegas. Halifax is a small city, and the queer and trans communities are sometimes pretty cozy. It’s poor etiquette to dish about who you saw doing what at the bathhouse.”
Like most bathhouses there is a hot tub, sauna, shower and lounge. The rest of the space is divided into small rooms, which SheDogs organizers use to hold activities, such as demos on dildo play and talking dirty. They turned one room into a make-out haven, where people can go for five minutes and smooch the make-out maven.
“She runs the make-out room, which is pretty much what it sounds like. You have a set amount of time to make-out, hands above the waist, which is just so grade-school hot.”
Last year, Melanson did a renovation that opened up a larger space downstairs. The venue now has more space to set up games like naked Twister, spin the bottle and strap-on ring toss.
“I think it’s a really safe space for women to explore their sexuality,” says Haywood. “It’s refreshing to women of all ages and body types.”
For their Valentine’s Day bathhouse, coming up on Feb 11, there will be valentines available so you — or the cute cupid who’ll be on hand — can deliver your romantic message or lude request to that special someone.
At the first bathhouse, back in 2004, 20 people showed up. At the last one during Pride week in July, over 60 women came.
“I don’t think we’ve had any negative reactions,” she says. “The most common seems to be just plain surprise that something like this is happening in Halifax. I think every city should have one.”
SheDogs organizers have alternated how often the event happens. They’ve gone from four times a year, which they found too much work for the amount of women showing up, down to once a year, at which point women complained they wanted more. They hope two times a year is the sweet spot, and they encourage woman of all shapes and sizes to come out and find theirs.
“It’s a really interesting social experiment. You might go because you want to hook up, or watch other people hook up. Or maybe you just like to be naked or be around other naked people. Or you like to show off, or you want to learn more about fisting, or you just like the company of other like-minded people.”
With files from Angelina Chapin.