The wording of a handmade porn-shop sign has tongues wagging on Bank St.
On Monday this week, a bylaw officer visited Wilde’s owner Robert Giacobbi to follow up on a complaint they received regarding the words he used on a storefront chalkboard sign: “Put a smile in your ass with our anal douches.”
The words, the officer said, were offensive to Bank St passersby.
Giacobbi was told to remove the sign. Instead of complying, Giacobbi made a bristol board sign saying, “Censored by City of Ottawa anal bylaw” and taped it over the “Put a smile in your ass with our anal douches” sign.
A light wind can lift the paper flap to reveal that the original sign remains intact.
Giacobbi says he’s fighting the bylaw officers because he insists “anal douche” is a technical term, and he should be allowed to use these words in his storefront to promote product. On his storefront window, he’s also posted Monday’s Ottawa Sun story and more than 60 reader comments, some against but mostly supportive of Wilde’s stance, with a large title “Ottawa Responds to Anal Douches.”
“I’m not backing down. I’m going to fight. I don’t care if they fine me,” says Giacobbi, adding a lot of people have come into his store and said they give him support.
The source of the bylaw complain is Centretown resident Richard Cormier. He says his complaint had nothing to do with a porn shop promoting anal douches. He says he only had a problem with the words “Put a smile in your ass.”
“Children don’t have to see that. I don’t care about stores promoting anal douches. My words in that story are being taken out of context,” says Cormier, referring to the Sun story. “And what other businesses in Ottawa make signs calling bylaw officers anal?”
Since the Sun story was printed and Giacobbi proudly put the reader comments on the front window, Cormier says people he knows from the neighbourhood have started to make fun of him as he walks down the street. He says it’s been an extremely stressful week.
“The last few days have been the most humiliating days of my life. Being abused as a child is the worst thing in the world. The second worst thing is having it used against you as an adult. This makes abused people look stupid and as if we’re scared of anal douches,” says Cormier.
When Cormier called in his complaint, he says the bylaw officer said the wording “Put a smile in your ass” was obscene. She transferred his call directly to the police.
“I don’t make the laws. The bylaw officer said it was obscene. The police said they’d take the report and they did. I didn’t. You can advertise anything you want. My complaint wasn’t about the product being promoted. It was about how the sign was worded,” says Cormier.
This isn’t the first time Wilde’s has had a racy sign in its storefront. During the 2009 bus strike, Giacobbi posted a sign: “Free lube to all OC bus drivers so you can go _ _ _ _ yourself”.
Porn shop owners in the Bank St Village have had a history of dealing with complaints from the community regarding material advertised in their storefronts. In June this year, bylaw officers visited One in Ten after they received a complaint about the material they had in their window. But after an employee did a little research, he found out they could display more erotic content than they thought.
“You have to be careful how you deal with bylaw officers. They are able to interpret laws most people can’t,” said Ramsey in a June interview with Xtra.
Around the same time bylaw officers visited One in Ten, they also approached Wicked Wanda’s owner Wanda Cotie to ask if she had her adult entertainment licence.