Now that society is acknowledging the widespread problem of sexual harassment, assault, and abuse thanks to the #MeToo movement, it is more important than ever to discuss what healthy expressions of sexuality are. They are not the expressions of willful ignorance and internalized misogyny of morons like actress Catharine Deneuve, who cannot tell the difference between consensual and non-consensual sexual conduct. They ARE what you will see, explore, and learn about at Montreal’s annual Salon de l’Amour et de la Séduction.
Held every year at Place Bonaventure, the event hosts vendors of sex toys and lingerie while a stage at the back shows you the world’s best in erotic performance art and burlesque. A Fetish corner has members of Montreal’s alternative sexual community who will talk about BDSM and why it’s a far cry from the abusive behavior you see in Fifty Shades of Grey.
A lecture section hosts renowned experts like Dr. Laurie Betito and Dr. Jess who discuss everything from sex after 50 to the anatomy of the G spot and clitoris. Non-profit groups like the Sexual Health Network of Quebec will answer questions, hand out condoms, and tell you why teaching kids about consent and STI prevention and contraception is so important.
Porn stars and cosplayers are there for meets and greets and the floor is peppered with the occasional vendor of non-sexual wares. Innovators in sexual technology are there to sell and tell you why their products are different from what’s already on the market.
One such vendor is Chip, representing Boy Butter, an innovation in lubrication technology. His product is one of the few lubricants originally designed for men, though he told me many women enjoy it as well.
He explained that most sexual lubricants take for granted that women produce their own naturally – though anyone truly familiar with female anatomy knows that this is not always the case. As Chip demonstrated, his product is designed to stay slick without getting sticky and while the original Boy Butter isn’t condom safe, his other product, You’ll Never Believe It’s Not Boy Butter, is.
Dr. Laurie Betito is an author and the host of a radio show on CJAD 800. In addition to giving a lecture on sex after 50, she was there to answer questions about sex and sexuality. She provided this reporter with valuable insight on sex with disabilities and explained that after the age of 50, sexual problems are largely emotional in women, and primarily physical in men.
Dr. Laurie is also a member of the Sexual Health Network of Quebec, an organization devoted to teaching sex ed in public schools throughout Quebec. The Network had their own booth at the Salon, represented by volunteers led by Stephanie Mitelman, a certified sexuality educator.
Their work focuses primarily on the prevention of unwanted pregnancies and STIs, though they also cover consent and what constitutes healthy relationships. They are ready and willing to provide lessons even in schools with existing sex-ed curricula and whether or not schools welcome their help depends on how important said schools consider sex ed. They are currently in the midst of a huge fundraising drive so if you believe in the importance of teaching kids about healthy sexual behavior, the Sexual Health Network of Quebec is a group worth supporting.
If you go to the Salon to shop, do so carefully. Though most sex toys are on sale, the larger booths tend to overcharge for even basic model vibrators and dildos. A clever shopper can however find a deal at smaller booths that will sell you vibrating bullets and massage candle for as little as ten dollars. One vendor on the outskirts of the salon sells beautiful quality corsets in a variety of sizes for thirty-five dollars each.
If you want to see a show, you are definitely in the right place. Performances from burlesque artists Scarlett James and instructors from Montreal’s Arabesque Burlesque Academy are a dazzling display proving that you don’t need to be anorexically thin with balloon boobs to be sexy. It was however, one male performer at the Salon who for me stole the show.
Brent Ray Fraser is an erotic performance artist like no other. Classically trained in fine art, he got into stripping as a way to overcome his shyness and boy did he ever succeed.
Though he is a stunning specimen of man and a very talented painter, it is the way he paints that is particularly fascinating. An artist myself I am always interested in learning about new styles and mediums, but Fraser takes this to a whole new level by painting with his penis.
He is the only painter I’ve ever seen to seamlessly combine painting with stripping. Not only does he move effortlessly but the finished painting at the end of his performance is just as beautiful and expressive, though part of me wonders how he successfully washes the acrylic paint off his member without hurting himself scrubbing. If you get a chance to see his act, DO, you’ll be dazzled for days to come.
For those of you interested in exploring an alternative sexual lifestyle, the Salon de l’Amour is best place to do it. The fetish corner has dominants and submissives from Montreal’s fetish scene who will happily teach you about healthy BDSM and even demonstrate some tools used in play.
One representative of the community explained that the Fifty Shades of Grey books brought people to them, some of whom stayed, while others found that it wasn’t for them. The clubs welcome almost every fetish except scat and blood play which can pose hygiene risks.
If you’re interested in becoming a swinger, you can explore that too, but be wary of some of these groups. One organization I would not recommend is SDC.com, a dating site for swinger couples that is attempting to break into the Canadian market. Unfortunately, their attitude is not very Canadian and against the spirit of the Salon itself.
Though the Salon is wheelchair accessible and has a designated rest area for disabled attendees, the representative of SDC I spoke to was rude and elitist. The regional director I met said they refuse the disabled and insisted they have strict (aka snooty) criteria.
Whether this is his own prejudice or indicative of his company’s broader culture of bigotry is unclear. If it is the latter, it has no place at the Salon, which clearly prides itself on inclusion. I recommend that those interested in swinging look elsewhere.
If you’re a prude, a body shamer, or an LGBTQIphobe, stay away from the Salon. You are not welcome. If you’re over 18 and respectful, then check it out. You’re guaranteed great bargains and breathtaking performances.
* Photos by Kerry Ann Cannon