Despite the weather, hell didn’t freeze over
JAN 24, 2013 | BY SARAH BOIVIN
On Monday, January 21, students from all over the city got to party (mostly) naked at Oasis Aqualounge, a sex club in the downtown core. Hosted by the University of Toronto’s Sexual Education Centre, the event gained notoriety after the website Reddit dubbed it -- somewhat erroneously -- an “orgy.” The description alone evoked a spectrum of reactions ranging from conservative Christian outrage to anticipatory hormonal excitement.
However, the earth neither opened up and swallowed the sinning heathens nor turned out to be the illicit orgy of the ages. What occurred unsurprisingly met the primordial expectations: a sex positive space for students to party. More surprisingly, the event also involved encouragingly open discussion between the young party-goers and their Christian brethren.
The party drew more people than anticipated: 450 enthusiastic students came out to explore what was going on. The club reached capacity at 6:30 pm, and by 9 o’clock, there were at least 100 students overflowing the Mutual St. sidewalks in line.
Instead of the usual Torontonian grumbling over how freezing it was -- very, thanks -- the lineup was vivaciously excited, with smiles, whoops, and laughs rising over the crowd. There was a cop car parked near the entrance, with policemen trying to keep people off the road. This was paired with roaring evangelists across the way spitting into their microphones and raising their banner portraying most notably silhouettes of naked women and one word: LUST.
The street was alive with energy. It was rad. More importantly, it was positive.
Inside, attendee Rhiannon White described the atmosphere, saying “[It was] like a big house party, people chatting, drinks in the pool and squeezing past each other in hallways, with the exception that everyone was pretty well naked.”
Event organizer Dylan Tower remarked that during the day things were calm and relaxed with activities ranging from playing Magic the Gathering to ordering pizza, and generally “getting comfortable with the environment.”
Later events included a demonstration on consent and safe, healthy kink practices from a “Dungeon Master,” bringing the night’s focus on safety and learning to the foreground. Tower said that he spent most of his time at the event answering questions. Although the rules of the club themselves answered the most frequently asked questions, volunteers were clear to let students’ questions and openness guide learning at the event. Rather than strictly defining what makes sex positive, the event allowed for individual exploration in a positive space.
White commented further, “anyone who went would agree that it was an amazing night and after seeing everyone so comfortable in their own bare butts, felt a little more confident with themselves by the end of the night.”
On one level, this event will have an institutional effect. Oasis will honour student nights with student prices ($5) for the next three Mondays. SEC leaders are hoping the success could lead to increases in funding for the centre. Additionally, the event has been studied in U of T classes including sociology, journalism, and sexual diversity studies.
Power to Change (formerly named Campus Crusade for Christ), notably, distinguished itself from traditionally conservative Christian organizations by handing out hot chocolate to students outside the club in support of the event. Even the evangelicals with the microphone and the lusty banner were open to discussion. Smoking on the sidewalk in the January freeze, excited students engaged in a conversation with protesters about faith, agency, and personal rights. Even if persuasion from one line to the other was futile, at least for a while the microphone was silenced in favour of open discussion.
The social ramifications of this success are pervasive. The event has shown that students are eager and responsive to open, positive venues for sexual exploration and that there is a demand for open discussion of sexuality and sexual values. This party stood for a de-stigmatization of sexuality, and students responded multitudinously. It became a chance to explore one’s body and oneself in an environment that didn’t need require people to be anything other than their authentic selves.
Oasis Aqualounge is located at 231 Mutual St.Toronto, ON ,M5B 2B4. (416) 599-7665. It is open from 11am-2am Thursday-Saturday. 19+
- Subtitle: U of T sex party a safe success