SWAV Trips to T.O.
September 23 - 28, 1999

Toronto skyline

I was first asked for feedback on the research project, "Canadian Public Policy and the Health and Well-Being of Sex Workers," early December, 1998 by Fran Shaver from Concordia University, Montreal. On January 15, 1999, Fran asked if the Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver and myself would be interested in becoming partners in this project which would be applying for funding under the new Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada theme dealing with "Society, Culture and the Health of Canadians." SWAV was the first community group to be asked to be a partner. At that time, I liked the sound of the proposed research on workplace health and safety and sex work, and by March I was welcomed aboard as a partner. The principal investigator was Jacqueline Lewis, from the Sociology and Anthropology Department, University of Windsor. "Community Partners" eventually included Stella, Exotic Dancers' Alliance, as well as SWAV.

Deadlines kept moving, and the group, investigators, students and community partners, were brought together for the first time for a meeting in Toronto, September 23, 1999. At this meeting, we discussed the goals for the research, the budget, as well as the rationale for which groups of sex workers, in which cities, and which public policies would be researched. We also discussed the decision-making process, the budget as well as the communication and dissemination of the research project's findings.

It was very clear at that meeting that the community partners were key in ensuring that workplace health and safety guidelines resulting from the study would get into the hands of people working in the various areas of the sex industry. Many of SWAV's educational materials, particularly Trials of the Sex Trade: A Survival Guide to Canada's Legal Jungle were used as examples. As requested I provided a Letter of Commitment for this research project on behalf of SWAV.

It was also clear at this meeting that the SWAV-sponsored Commercial Sex Information Service website would also be an important tool in distributing this information. In fact, Jacqueline Lewis gave us anecdotes about how important information available on CSIS, including sections of Trials of the Sex Trade, had been for informing recently-arrested escorts and escort service managers in Windsor of their legal status regarding municipal escort licencing and the Criminal Code of Canada. Minutes were taken at this meeting, but they were never circulated or approved by the group.

While in Toronto, I took some time in investigate my old haunts, and see how the old sex trade looked from the street.

Yonge St. seems to have changed a little. I don't remember such obvious signs advertising peep show booths, including one shop with "15 Live Angels." There is a new sex shop at Yonge called Seduction. Their logo looks conspicuously like the LoveCraft logo (apple with a bite out of it) that is one of Toronto's oldest sex shops.

Adult Videos, Exotica Lingerie, Live Girls, Private Rooms, 484B Yonge St.
Adult Videos - Exotica Lingerie, Live Girls, Private Rooms
484B Yonge Street

Live Girls

Exotic Lingerie

Video X, 582 Yonge St. Novelties, Sex Toys, Adult Videos, Magazines, Private Booths, Cinema
Video X - Novelties, Sex Toys, Adult Videos,
Magazines, Private Booths, Cinema
582 Yonge Street

Video X, 582 Yonge St., Novelties, Sex Toys, Adult Videos, Magazines, Private Booths, Cinema

Seduction Love Boutique
Seduction Love Boutique
Yonge Street

Barbwire - XXX Gay Cinema and Private Booths, 543 Yonge St.
Barbwire – XXX Gay Cinema and Private Booths
543 Yonge Street

Barbwire, XXX Gay Cinema and Private Booths, 543 Yonge St.

Reg Hartt private screening: Wakefield Poole's Boys in the Sand, starring Casey Donovan

Thankfully, some things seem to never change. It was nice to see Toronto streets still plastered with posters promoting Reg Hartt's film screenings. Hart has been screening films in his livingroom as long as I can remember, with such themes as such as Bugs Bunny in drag and sex and violence cartoons. Reg Hartt's "Queer Film Festival" featured Wakefield Poole's Boys in the Sand, (Hartt has one of the only two copies in existence) starring Casey Donovan — a classic experimental gay porno that screened in film theatres in New York in the 1971. Other films in the program included:

  • Salome (1922), directed by Charles Bryant and starring the legendary Alla Nazimova. This silent film of Oscar Wilde's notorious play with a queer cast was a tribute to Wilde.
  • Lot in Sodom (1931), by James Watson and Melville Webber, explicit homosex with "Legions of young male students … recruited for the orgy."
  • A Bigger Splash (1974) by David Hockney. A good, hard look at Hockney's private life.
  • Bijou (1972), Wakefield Poole's second film following a straight construction worker's initiation into a world of queer sex.

I also took the opportunity to visit some of our old friends. Deb Waddington threw a little party, with more than an dozen of our mutual friends from both the sex industry and Ontario College of Art, at her's and John Scott's studio on Richmond Street. Anastasia Kuzyk, spokesperson for Sex Workers Alliance of Toronto, had a big part in putting together the guest list. Friends who couldn't make it phoned with their greetings. It was a warm and wonderful event.


[Rights Groups]

Created: September 28, 1999
Last modified: April 9, 2001
SWAV Sex Workers Alliance of Vancouver
Box 3075, Vancouver, BC V6B 3X6
Tel: +1 (604) 488-0710
Email: swav@walnet.org