The Salon de L’Amour et de la Séduction aka The Everything to Do with Sex Show is Montreal’s annual sex show. The show is dedicated to being “the innovative force behind spreading openness and appreciation for all the different facets of romance, sexuality, and self-improvement.” The event is part trade show, is part performance show, and part lecture series.
The message is of the show is one of sex positivity. If you’re a self-professed prude and/or thinks that the free expression of consensual sexuality is evil, wrong, or shameful, stay away.
This show is not for you.
If you’re out to have some fun, get some sex toys or lingerie at discounted prices, and maybe see a show, the Salon is a must see. It features top burlesque acts and strippers and a kink corner where people are invited to explore and learn about alternate forms of sexuality.
The show is 18+, no exceptions, not even for babies, though given the loud noises and constant flurry of activity, the rule is understandable. The dress code is “Dress to Impress” and people are welcome to wear latex, leather, or lace. Though in Canada you are allowed to go topless, organizers ask that attendees keep their crotches covered.
In a curtained off corner of the space, there are seminars by sexperts such as Dr. Laurie Betito, a clinical psychologist specializing in sex therapy who has a radio show on CJAD about sex and relationships. She is also works with the Sexual Health Network of Quebec.
The Sexual Health Network of Quebec was one of the many sex positive nonprofit groups present at the show. The Network is an organization that believes that choices about sex are best made freely through education and provide free sex ed to youth in Montreal schools.
At the booth, they gave away condoms and sold T-shirts, bullet vibrators and flavored massage candles in support of their cause. When I spoke to one of their volunteers she told me that the election of Cheeto-Head in the US had not only increased donations to American nonprofits like Planned Parenthood, but also to groups like the Sexual Health Network, a public acknowledgment of their contribution to society’s sexual health.
Another non-profit at the show was the Alternate Lifestyles Community Center, an organization devoted to education, information, and support for alternative and marginalized sexual communities. As one of their volunteers put it, the organization acknowledges that we’re all fucked up and that it’s time to accept and work with it.
As the group was among many representing the kink community at the show, I asked the volunteer – Stephanie – what they thought of Fifty Shades of Grey. “It’s abuse,” she said.
On the one hand, she told me the books brought many people into the kink community who would not have explored that side of their sexuality. On the other hand the book gave these newbies an inaccurate notion of what kink is all about.
In the kink demonstrations held at the show, you saw the dominant constantly checking with the submissive, making sure she’s alright and is consenting to what’s being done to her. As Stephanie pointed out, in Fifty Shades of Grey the protagonist says No and uses her safe word but the dominant keeps going.
This is a violation of the rules of BDSM play which actually give the submissive control over what is happening. It is the dominant’s responsibility to take care of the sub and make sure they are ok with what is happening during a play session, also called a scene.
I asked the Stephanie whether BDSM contracts are necessary for play. The notion of having to have a contract for sex play sounds like a buzzkill and she agreed, partly due to the implications of calling it a contract. In their workshops on BDSM, the Center calls agreements about acceptable play negotiations, for calling it a contract suggests that violations would be enforceable in a court of law, which they usually aren’t.
Though many go to the Salon for information and to see a show, many go for the shopping. The Salon showcases vendors of sex toys, lingerie, and adult films, with business owners providing insights into their industries and the challenges they face.
Annick Samson and Jessica Filion are the proprietors of Vices & Caprices, a sex shop in Blainville that also sells online. Though their shop is new, they are already facing persecution from the City, which is claiming that their space in an 18+ tanning salon has not been zoned for their type of business.
There was also concern about exposing their products to children when neither their business nor the tanning salon permits underage customers. As it turns out, the complaint was not filed by parents or clergy, but by their competitor who is trying to force them out of business.
Another vendor at the show was Vid Vicious, an adult film director whose business card features the motto: “Keep Calm and Watch Porn!”
Vicious’ impressive resume includes films and Season 2 of Porn Star Academy, a French language reality TV show where competitors compete to become an adult film star.
I asked Vid about the status of the porn industry in Quebec and he said that it’s dying because Quebec consumers prefer American films over locally made ones. Vid also expressed frustrations about the illegal sharing of his films, saying that within a week of his movies coming out someone will have uploaded a copy onto a free site. When I asked how strictly copyright rules are enforced here, he spoke of the difficulties tracing the original uploader and how quickly people share the illegal uploads.
Montreal’s annual Salon is a weekend of fun, bringing warmth to an otherwise chilly city in the winter. It’s a place where nearly all are welcome, great for the shopping, shows, and lessons about sex that may prove handy someday. Check it out next year!
* Featured image by Jo Gorsky