The room is dark but alive with activity. On the main stage strippers – male and female – burlesque artists and fetish performers do their thing, some with volunteers from the audience, some without. Some audience members caress their partners while others scream and cheer. On the main floor merchants peddle everything from vibrators and butt plugs to lingerie and scented candles.
Valentine’s Day is approaching and the Salon de l’Amour et de la Seduction is in full swing.
The Salon de L’Amour et de La Seduction is Montreal’s annual sex show. Every year in one of Montreal’s many exhibition halls – usually Place Bonaventure or the Palais de Congres – merchants, educators, and performers gather together to celebrate sex in all its forms.
There are a lot of myths about sex-related events: that they’re full of freaks, that people behave inappropriately, or that the patrons are old and disgusting or perfectly beautiful in a way that would cow the average Joe into staying away.
Montreal’s Everything-To-Do-With-Sex Show disproves them all.
The crowd is a varied but behaved one; there are people of all races, sexual identities, disability levels, and ages. Some go for the shopping, others go for the performances, while still others go to attend lectures in the seminar room of the exhibition hall.
People think that events like these are full of weirdoes.
You want to meet REAL weirdoes?
Go to a house of worship, or an office, or a political fundraiser. In those places people dress “normally”; they smile when you greet them and are almost irritatingly polite, but what some of them are not telling you about is their deep seated hatred of women and LGBTI people. They won’t tell you that they think sex is disgusting and evil and shouldn’t be enjoyed. They won’t say out loud that they think it should only occur in circumstances that bigoted leaders and outdated books dictate. They won’t tell you this, but they’ll vote for such leaders; they’ll be snarky and cruel behind closed doors, and dole out hatred in a way that falls under the radar of liberal lawmakers.
You want to meet people who are truly normal? You want to meet people who are open-minded and interested in what you say and won’t judge you for your body or your sexual identity or preferences, provided what you do is safe and consensual?
You’ll find them at the Salon de L’Amour et de la Seduction.
Though scores of patrons are elaborately made up and corseted in leather and latex, there is no real dress code and everyone is made to feel welcome. Sex educators offer free advice on everything from safe practices for people with disabilities, to how to find your G-spot or give the perfect blow job or cunnilingus. Are you over 50? No problem! They also have lectures on sex after 50.
Need a new vibe? Sex shops, some online, some with store front, offer a variety of sex toys at discounted prices, and like in a sex shop, the sellers always have batteries on hand so you can test the strength of a vibrator on your hand before you buy it.
But the merchants aren’t all about sex.
There are peddlers for kitchen ware, flat irons for hair, and even heating pads. Corsets can go upwards of 200 bucks if you buy them online or in stores, but you can get a decent one for as little as 35 bucks at the Salon. Newer businesses like Cam4.com and Vanish My Waist use the Salon to get their name out, the former this year offering a free pair of winter gloves with their logo on it.
Despite the glamour and air of welcome, the exhibit is far from perfect. Sitting space for the tired or disabled who need to take a breather are sparse, and the room is hot, a combination of body heat from the scores of patrons and to keep workers and performers – many of whom are scantily clad – comfortable.
If you want to survive at this show, you either have to check your winter coat at the door, or bring a bottle of water. Bottled water at the show sells at an inflated price of about three bucks. Some vendors at the show are unnecessarily aggressive and you have to be comfortable saying no in order to get by them without buying something you’ll never use.
If you like adult films but are uncomfortable buying them online or in a sex shop, you’re shit out of luck. While in previous years a variety of adult films with were available for sale, now only a few Canadian vendors sell them, and these are clearly suck and fuck productions with no story, style, or substance.
I was informed last year by a representative of Good For Her, a female friendly sex shop in Toronto who unfortunately did not have a booth at this year’s exhibition, that the lack of quality porno movies for sale at the show was due to the widespread availability of material online.
It should also be noted that tickets are pricey. A one day pass is about $17.50 plus tax, but for an extra five bucks you can get a weekend pass that will allow you unlimited re-entry for all three days of the show.
Despite its shortcomings, the Salon is worth a visit. Every year I learn something new from the scores of sex educators at the show, and the performances seem to get better every time. Though I usually only go for a day, next year I’m springing for a weekend pass for despite a day surrounded by open-minded leather and latex clad performers and experts, there was still so much to see that I missed out on.
Because of the nature of the show, advertising is limited, so you’ll have to search online next January for the dates of next year’s show.
Check it out.
18+ only, no exceptions, no babies
* Featured image from the 2011 edition of the Salon de L’Amour et de la Séduction by Chris Zacchia