Sex but no solidarity

A response to “Sex and solitude vs. solidarity”

You feel like having some fun, so you go out to a sex club that you’ve been to a couple times. You have a drink before you go – you don’t want to get smashed, but it makes it a bit easier to socialize. It’s a slow night – just yourself, a friend, some people you’ve seen there before, and one couple. That’s fine. Maybe you’ll have sex later, or watch some people, or just hang out and have a few drinks.

Two strangers show up. They aren’t anyone’s guests, and no one recognizes them. If you’re new, it’s common to be introduced by people recognized as being members of the scene. They’re obviously drunk, five to ten years younger than anyone else, and they don’t introduce themselves. This makes several people uncomfortable and wary. One of the strangers wants to use one of the beds (presumably with their friend), but the other pulls them away to the bathroom. You begin to wonder why they came and if they might start trouble. Sex clubs have only been legal in Canada since 2005 (after R. v. Labaye, a case involving a private swinger’s club which had to be appealed to the Supreme Court), and patrons often feel like they’re at risk of arrest, if not conviction. If that happens, you can lose your job if you work with children or your kids if you’re in the middle of a divorce.

Emery Saur’s article, “Sex and solitude vs. solidarity” (Health & Ed, October 25, page 10) is striking in two ways. One is the complete lack of respect for the objects of their article. Saur expects us to share their disgust at the idea of middle-aged people having sex, their sensationalistic gawking at their surroundings, and their attitude that sex absent intimacy is lacking something essential. They expect us to be startled that they were treated with respect and weren’t solicited for sex, and to find polite conversation at a sex club to be somehow incongruous. Presumably people at sex clubs don’t chat when they aren’t fucking.

The other is the complete lack of curiosity with which they approach their subject. We aren’t told the name of the club, where it is, what subset of the community it serves (the presence of a bar woman suggests it wasn’t exclusively for men, at least), or when Saur went. All these things can change the social dynamics of a club or scene. Saur questions why someone might attend a sex club (“Is it the thrill? Is it some form of validation?”), comes to various conclusions (“Sex without intimacy is a lonely thing…”), and describes these conclusions in universal, rather than personal terms. At no point does Saur write the answers that the patrons of the club tried to give them. Instead, Saur only mentions their own perplexity and confusion with the seeming incongruity between these remarks and their own naive impressions of the venue.

In place of the information one might expect from a Health & Ed column, such as an overview of sex or fetish clubs in Montreal, the opinions and experiences of their patrons, or the issues and conflicts within the community, the author substitutes their own recollection and introspection of their drunken, spontaneous, slumming experience. The article reads like a blog update, rather than a sincere attempt to inform and educate, and it does not inspire confidence in future offerings on sex and sexuality in this column.

Benjamin Elgie and Amelia Mensch are executives at Sexuality and Kink Advocacy. They can be reached at