Sasha: Bathhouse encounters and Zanzibar photos

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Dear Sasha,

I am accustomed to seeing people I know at the tubs and politely ignoring/acknowledging them, but nothing could prepare me for seeing my therapist in such a setting. It was awkward to say the least and made me question the etiquette around such an exchange, bathhouse and beyond. What do you do when you encounter a person in public with whom you have such an intimate yet structured relationship? How do you then continue this relationship comfortably and professionally?

Rub a Dub Doubt

I have what might be considered an irrational sense of boundaries with my mental health care providers. For example, I was relieved to see that my psychiatrist had her own private washroom. I lived in holy terror of running into her in the one outside her office prior to our session and having her think I was someone who assumed we had a relationship that required small talk. And what if I ever saw her on the streetcar? I couldn't even imagine her speaking to anyone else, much less making mundane arrangements for public transportation.

A male therapist offered this:

"The circumstances described are not uncommon to most therapists. The complicating factor is that the individual was in a bathhouse, which may have heightened the awkwardness.

"It isn't uncommon for therapists to discuss these possibilities beforehand in order to help prepare a client for the potential of such a meeting.

"If that has not been done, most therapists would have been trained to raise the topic at the next meeting to explore any relevant issues in order to help the client feel comfortable and to move the therapeutic relationship forward. If the therapist does not raise the issue, which would surprise me, then I would certainly encourage the client to raise it at the next meeting.

"As I read the letter," he continues, "my sense is that shame is somehow connected with sex, bathhouses, etc., which might be a complicating issue for the client. If the therapist is comfortable in bathhouses, I would assume he/she is comfortable with public sex venues and may be able to work with the client on reducing personal issues of shame.

"It's similar to running into a therapist at a movie theatre or the grocery store. It's unexpected and therefore a bit awkward, but essentially not much different. What makes it awkward is damaging social attitudes about sex, bodies and pleasure. The difficulty, then, is with outdated and hypocritical public morality issues rather than with a client encountering a therapist in a bathhouse."


Dear Sasha,

I'm really disappointed with Torontoist's unprofessionalism in publishing photos taken by Brian Cameron of the Zanzibar roof.

I hope legal action will be taken against Torontoist (though I fear the publicity would simply work in their favour), and I would be glad to contribute to a legal defence fund. Please let me know if you hear of any plans for one.

Model Release Required

The Zanzibar photos -- snapped non-consensually while strippers were taking a load off between stage shows and lap dances -- bring to mind a similar incident that occurred in Hamilton earlier this year when photographer Gary Santucci released a series of images of unsuspecting (and presumed) sex workers.

"Santucci's exhibit," writes Sarah Mann in Briarpatch Magazine, "was a slide show presented on several TV screens which displayed photos of several different women -- some whose faces could be identified -- standing alone on the corner near his Landsdale gallery and performance space, the Pearl Company.

"One photo showed a partially nude woman seeking privacy to urinate behind a building. The photos were taken from surveillance cameras mounted on the walls and roof of the gallery and from Santucci's personal camera, shot from the third-story window of the gallery." (Read more here...)

Hamilton is in the middle of quite the gentrification process and a lot of people who work and live on the streets are getting Starfucked hard.

Sex workers being photographed without their consent isn't unusual, Model. Even when permission is granted, a certain prurient view often pervades representations. In the case of Torontoist's turdy decision to publish those voyeuristic images, I ask: what would they have done had Cameron taken shots of unsuspecting civilian women chilling in their gaunch? I suspect the files would have been met with a concerned "We should call the cops." Or, if the Torontoist understands how the police often re-victimize women in situations like this, it could at least let the women know they were being photographed.

Voyeurism released for public consumption is often only deemed unacceptable when the subjects are deemed worthy of protection. I think Cameron would've thought twice about taking similar pictures of residential women.

I know of no legal defence fund but it's important to let the women involved take the wheel. The impulse to get righteous comes from a good place but sometimes we have to remember on whose behalf we're doing it. Maybe the women just want the whole thing to go away. Let's not get caught up rescuing them to showcase our ability to be skillful allies.

* * *

So, more holiday business? A couple of items to throw in stockings, perhaps?

I don't know about you but I haven't had much success with flavoured or scented lubes and oils. Though things have vastly improved in the past couple of decades (Pina Colada Chocolate Chip Bubblegum has been quietly shunted off in favour of Indian Chai Spice) companies seem unable to successfully create more muted or natural scents and flavours.

While I enjoyed the thickness of Good Clean Love's lube, the lavender rose fragrance was distracting. In fact, if I were to guess what they were going for, it would be the dipping stick in Lik-M-Aid candy.

And while I found the organic massage line from Good Vibrations sublime in quality, pomegranate mint was not my thing.

Scent being what it is -- highly subjective, capable of leaving jarringly unforgettable memories -- I would bypass purchasing scented intimate products or go for unscented options and jazz them up with essential oils.

This column was originally published in NOW Magazine. Ask Sasha: [email protected]

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