By Lucy Scholey, News Editor
Some might have said it was unexpected in a city like Halifax, but the Everything to Do with Sex Show returned for a second year with even more local businesses.
“It’s funny, you know, because Maritimers are known for being conservative,” says Rachel Dodds, owner of Sexy Girl. “They’re not really as conservative as we make them out to be.”
Her business was one of many from the city and across Canada that was showcased at the event during the weekend of Jan. 30. Haligonians strolled through, checking out the cock rings, pussy shavers, butt plugs and pleasure wands while women strutted around in lacy underwear.
Show Manager Mikey Singer says there were about 40 per cent more businesses involved this year. About half of the newbies were Halifax businesses.
“The people of Halifax enjoy it because it’s something different and it’s something that doesn’t necessarily come into their spirit of living,” he says, adding that the sex market is under-serviced, with only a few sex stores in a city of 360,000 people.
With a bylaw limiting sex shops downtown and a reputation for being hard on its sex workers, Halifax doesn’t come across as the most ”open” city.
“I didn’t quite expect, last year, for this to last,” says Rhea Gallant from Dartmouth, who owns a franchise in the Ontario-based Passion Parties. “We’re becoming more open, a little more liberal.”
Maggie Haywood, manager of Venus Envy, says business has been steady since the store that sells erotic books and sex toys opened 12 years ago.
“It stays good even through years when there might be an economic downturn or a recession,” she says of her store.
Dodds says she’s even seen an increase in business since she opened shop seven years ago. She says it’s partly because more people are becoming informed about sex toys and demanding better quality in these products.
“There is no industry regulation,” she says. “But (businesses) really had to sort of create their own standards because consumers are becoming more educated, more involved and more interested in making these purchases”
“The visibility of adult products is much more mainstream than it used to be,” adds Haywood.
The industry is also expanding in other ways. Karen DeWolfe and her business partner Tracey Estey started a pole dancing business called Pole Catz when they noticed a demand for the service. DeWolfe says their business offers a different way for women to work out.
“(There are) a lot of women trying something that’s fun and different other than your same old treadmill or crunches,” she says.
A local fetish group has also joined the mix. The Society of Bastet holds kinky parties and fetish education sessions. It just started last July, but it’s not new to the city.
“There has been certainly a history of loose communities around the city and having private events at houses and other private venues,” says Jeff Warnica, communications director for the Society of Bastet.
There are about 52 members, but more people have shown interest.
“At the sex show there were thousands who came through … interested and curious and asking questions,” he says.
But for Dodds, the burgeoning interest in adult toys and sex shops should not be a surprise.
“I think Maritimers are a lot more open, a lot more fun than we make them out to be.”