Winnipeg’s local queer magazine OutWords has caused a stir by publicly launching a policy that it will not run “sex ads,” specifically targeting Cruiseline and Squirt, both regular advertisers that have run ads in OutWords for years.
Pink Triangle Press, which publishes Xtra, also operates the online cruising website Squirt and until recently operated Cruiseline.
In an editorial in the latest issue of OutWords, editor Rachel Morgan explains the decision.
“Cruiseline and Squirt are legal businesses but the reality is they are selling sex. Because of that we are getting a lot of pushback from businesses and advertisers who are uncomfortable with the Cruiseline and Squirt ads. We are also getting pushback from queer families who say they don’t like having the magazine in their homes where their children might see the ads,” she writes.
The magazine has a circulation of about 4,500 copies, mostly in coffeeshops and bars in Winnipeg. Morgan hopes to expand that circulation to clinics, schools and more upscale establishments. She says that refusing the ads is crucial to reaching these markets.
“There are so many gay-straight alliances in schools and gay people are using so many health clinics, not just in the gay community,” she says. “We’re tailoring our magazine and our ad package to meet that. It’s not a condemnation of a particular lifestyle.”
Morgan says that the Cruiseline and Squirt ads represented one seventh of OutWords ad revenue but that in the short term, the ads have been replaced by new advertising from Red River College.
OutWords continues to run ads for the Adonis bathhouse. The Adonis ad in the current issue has a line that reads, “Tuesday Night Is Cruiseline Pass Night at Adonis Spa,” and includes the Cruiseline logo and phone number. The ad features a man’s bare torso and the words, “The Nooner: Monday-Friday” along with times and rates for lockers and regular rooms.
Morgan says she doesn’t consider the Adonis ad to be “selling sex” in the same way that Cruiseline or Squirt do.
“Well, Adonis doesn’t run ads that suggest they are selling sex,” she says. “The bottom line is that our guidelines will prohibit ads that sell sex.”
Morgan tells Xtra that she will ask Adonis management to remove the references to Cruiseline in future ads.
Jeffrey Freeman, web marketing manager for Squirt, says he’s disappointed that OutWords is refusing to take Squirt’s business.
“We’ve been committed to using Canadian gay media to build our membership,” he says. “We have ads placed in Canadian publications from Vancouver to Halifax.”
”Squirt is not a ‘site that sells sex,’” he says. “It’s a site that serves a community of men who seek men. We don’t wish to take sex out of sexuality, however. This makes some squeamish, but again our mission is not to gloss over the behaviours of our members.”
Freeman says opportunities for advertising gay cruising services in print have shrunk in the past few years as the recession swallowed regional gay newspapers across North America. Some other gay magazines, including Out and The Advocate, are operated by companies that also operate hookup sites, so they won’t take ads from Squirt, he says. It’s a similar situation with Canadian publications InToronto and Outlooks, which are owned by a company that operates the relationship service Preferred Partners. They won’t take ads from their competition either, Freeman says.