Our wanking boys in blue

Personal motivations are inevitable when it comes to policing sex

I imagine the five plainclothes policemen adjusting their hard-ons in their pants as they prepared to crash a sex party for 300 women at the Club Toronto bathhouse in the early hours of Sep 15.

I imagine them thinking things like, Would the women inside be naked? Would there be sizzling lezzie action in the hallways? Would it be something out of the adult video All Girls section, or something out of the prison sexploitation film Caged Fury? Either way, it would be something to see, something to tell the boys about.

This inconvenient erection would be a less ambivalent sensation, I imagine, than the butterflies the cops might have felt in their stomachs when they went looking for gay male sex at The Bijou last year, the Barn and the Toolbox this summer and any number of parks Toronto’s policemen have a penchant for patrolling. Will I be repulsed? Will I be turned on? Will I hate myself for being turned on? What if some guy tries to touch my cock?

And that’s why I think cops passed up 364 days of opportunities to visit Club Toronto when it’s full of man-to-man sex, and jumped on that single day of the year when woman-to-woman sex filled its nooks and crannies. I believe they picked tried-and-true titillation over fascinated disgust, though either might do in a horned-up pinch.

Anybody can pay the admission price to enter a strip bar or hire a prostitute. Being the only men at a rare women-only event is an exotic thrill only cops can engage in.

It’s crude to apply pop psychological motivations to our boys in blue – for example, I’ve never met 52 Division’s ubiquitous plainclothes detective, David Wilson, who stood in the lobby during the inspection, and wouldn’t have any idea whether he’s gay, straight, sexually healthy or sexually tormented – but it’s inevitable. Police are exercising value judgments when they visit homo spots looking for illicit conduct, and value judgments about sex start right in the gonads. What gives me a thrill? Community policing or collecting the names of naked lesbians? The answer is easy when an officer puts his sexual feelings first.

Police officers are independent agents of the Crown. That means they can pick and choose what laws to enforce, and they often do just that. We don’t know how many illegally parked cars or cocaine deals Wilson and his colleagues passed by while their minds were racing ahead to a night full of frolicking lesbians. But we can be sure they didn’t pass through Mr Rogers’s neighbourhood to get to Club Toronto on Mutual at Carlton.

There were certainly many other places officers could have been checking out. Special occasion liquor permits are easy to get in Toronto; more than 20,000 are issued in the city each year. Weddings, bar mitzvahs, art gallery openings – I’ve been to dozens of special permit events, some overflowing onto the street and disturbing neighbours. But I’ve never seen a single routine liquor permit inspection at these events, and certainly not one where officers spent hours taking the names of guests and knocking on the doors of private spaces. But the guests at weddings aren’t in towels or watching porn.


With each invasion of a homo sex spot in the last 15 months, Division 52 Superintendent Aidan Maher has brought up the subject of liquor licences. Because, he says, it’s not about homosexuality. It’s about routine inspections of liquor permits. With The Bijou porn theatre, it was about booze, not blowjobs. With the Barn, it was about booze, not nudity. With the lesbian bathhouse it was about booze, too.

Anyone buying this line would believe beauty pageants are about personality. Toronto police are using liquor licences as a pretence to police sexual activity.

Hiding behind the “routine inspection” line, cops let their very presence throw cold water on a venue’s sexual activities. Liquor permit inspections are being used as scare tactics against the gay community and anyone who wants to have sex in a space outside their home.

Policing sex directly might mean court challenges, or at least public discussion. It might reveal that Canadians are more disgusted by police invading privacy on a whim than by adults having sex in bathhouses.

Instead, Maher and Toronto Police Chief Julian Fantino will cry, “Routine liquor inspection!” every time cops raid a homo sex spot, when what they really mean is “Perverts!”

Paul Gallant is Features Editor for Xtra.

Paul Gallant

Paul Gallant is a Toronto-based journalist whose work has appeared in The WalrusThe Globe and Mail, the Toronto StarTHIS magazine, CBC.ca, Readersdigest.ca and many other publications. His debut novel, Still More Stubborn Stars, was published by Acorn Press. He is the editor of Pink Ticket Travel and a former managing editor of Xtra. Photo by Tishan Baldeo.

Read More About:
Power, Toronto

Keep Reading

Elon Musk and Texas attorney general Ken Paxton are suing Media Matters. Here’s why queer and trans people should care

OPINION: When politicians and the rich leverage the power of the state to quell dissent, we all lose

The ‘trans debate’ isn’t just about wonky policy issues, it’s about families

OPINION: Anti-trans laws are tearing apart the families conservatives purport to want to protect

Ohio Republicans are trying to limit the power of ballot measures—and using transphobia to circumvent democracy

OPINION: Conservatives are courting voters using the little trick that they’ve always turned—demonizing a minority

Calgary Airport trials first gender-neutral security screenings in Canada

Trans Canadians celebrate potential update to binary body scanners, but say staff training is needed to ensure the benefits stick