Toronto Sun (second review)

October 26, 2003

Sexy Canadians?

Since when?

Despite being a sex and relationships columnist in Canada and perhaps privy to many of the nation's sexual secrets, I get the impression most Canadians prefer sports to sex -- or beer to sex -- or chocolate to sex - or whatever.

In fact the world in general has always had that view of us. Polite, yes, conservative, yes - often sexually uptight and prudish, definitely. We're looked upon as a nation uncomfortable, some might even say, squeamish about sexuality.

But sexy? Nah. Not us, surely?

But, hey, we're going through a collective change of life, so to speak. It seems the Canadian hormones are finally surging through the national system and in the past few years, Canadians are not only far more open and accepting of sexuality in all its forms, but, in some areas, (brace yourself!) we lead the world in sexual activity.

This has been borne out by the results of a recent survey of 23 countries by Durex, the condom company.

Canadians ranked seventh in the category of "best lover" (the highest Canada has ever reached in the annual survey); we have far more sexual partners (11.1) than the world average (8.2); make love more frequently and longer than most on the list and start having sex at a younger age (15) than most countries.

What's more, we're ahead of many other nations when it comes to such matters as legislation on same sex relationships and marriages, tolerance of the proliferation of television porn, internet porn, (a Media Matrix study reports Canadians rank first in the world when it comes to the amount of time spent downloading porn on the Internet,) going topless on the street and our celebration of the new Canadian pioneering in such areas as as The Naked News. Progress indeed.

So much for being the Frozen North, it appears we've become the Flaming North.

It's a sizeable shift in attitudes that hasn't gone unnoticed. In fact, there appears to be an unprecedented amount of attention being paid to Canadians and their sexuality these days. Not just from condom companies but from authors.

For Chris Gudgeon, author of The Naked Truth, The Untold Story Of Sex In Canada, (Greystone Books), it was a virgin step into the unknown history of sexuality in Canada.

Now many might raise an eyebrow and ask if there is indeed a sexual history here (and no, Mike Harris' penchant for dating blondes is not part of it), but Gudgeon, a cheerful and humourous author of 13 books, was convinced there was and purposefully set out to discover it.

His sexual odyssey took him to explore the sexy side of Canada at nude beaches, swing clubs, gay bars, strip clubs, and porn theatres. He rounded it out by talking to sexperts, police officers, sociologists and futurists and with his own often very funny thoughts and views.

And, yes, I helped in his exploration. He talked to me about "cougars" (older women who date younger men), a name that was coined in western Canada, and is featured in his book.

What he found, he says, was that we actually do have a fascinating and colourful sexual history that's worth relating. This even includes some past government sexual hanky panky (only one major incident was worth of attention though), and that sexuality in all its forms is bursting at the seams in Canada. In fact, in some places, Gudgeon feels experimentation and tolerance and acceptance of other people's sexuality and behaviour is at an unprecedented level.

In conclusion he says he's found Canadians are indeed open, sexy and sexual.

John Ince strongly disagrees.

He's a Vancouver lawyer, sexual crusader and the author of The Politics of Lust, Pivotal Press.

He says "North Americans are sexual wimps" and, contrary to the view that our society is sexually sophisticated and sexually hedonistic, it's all "mere bravado."

He states categorically in his newly released book that negative attitudes are still strongly prevalent in Canada towards nudity, masturbation, honest sexual dialogue, sex education, sex toys, erotic art, homosexuality, anal sex and other issues.

We're also "lousy lovers and uncomfortable with anything new and experimental in the erotic domain."

The Canadian news media comes under fire as well with Ince saying not one daily newspaper has a journalist covering sex and sexuality. I pointed out to him via e-mail that he hadn't done his homework as I've been on The Toronto Sun "sex beat" for seven years now.

To no avail. I don't count, he said, as I also do advice.

Ince is convinced anyway that the media provides a distorted idea of what really goes on, or does not go on, in the bedrooms of the nation and far from embracing sex and sexuality, Canadians "fear sex".

So which is it? Are we hot to trot in our leather thongs forging into untried sexual territory ? Or still repressed and suffering from outdated sexual malaise?

I suspect as a nation we're somewhere in between.

Which sounds very Canadian, doesn't it?