A look back at Taboo

Now that it's been a full two weeks since we finished up the Alberta Taboo shows, I have some time to reflect on the good, bad and ugly of them.

I have a love/hate relationship with the Taboo Sex Shows. They are an enormous amount of work fopr us and they occupy our mind space for a good fix to six weeks every year. On the other hand, they are a lot of fun. They are a chance to meet up with old friends and introduce ourselves to lots of new people. There is a lot of energy on the busy nights. That's contagious.

It's nice that we get to be a welcoming space that sells safe quality toys. We do a lot of educating at Taboo about toys, safety and health. Many of the people we get to talk to there have never heard of toxic toys.

I think that the shows are very important, particularly for Alberta because there really isn't any other public event that's focused just on sex and sexuality. This is the one chance that people who are not connected to other smaller or private groups have to go out and explore - and it may just be the opportunity they need to connect to those groups. I also like that we even have a large scale public sex-themed event. There are places where that would never happen. I'm so glad that we are not one of them.

Taboo gives people who love to dress up sexy or love to perform burlesque or love to beat or be beaten and explain that to people a place where it's okay to do those things. It's okay to be overtly sexual there. In so many other places, we get judged for doing that. I like that we have that kind of environment there.

This year, I was also pleased to see the entertainment get cranked up yet another notch. When the show started out, the only entertainment on the mainstage was fashion shows and a demonstarting of the bondage bed sheets. This year, there was an awesome MC who did intermittent drag performances. There was burlesque, pole dancing, a male exotic dance revue, belly dance, and performances by one of my favorite local groups, The Dirrty show. There really was something interesting to watch pretty much all the time. Both the Edmonton and Calgary show had much bigger name celebrity appearances than ever had before. While Ron Jeremy and Carmen Electra are not my cup of tea, they are names that most people recognize and would stop in to see and get a picture with. Jessica O'Reilly was also a great addition. I'm always a wee bit wary of 'sex experts' but Jess really knows what she's talking about. She's inclusive, sex-positive, and well informed. And she's a lot of fun to watch. Her seminars were great and they were always packed. They definitely need to invite Jess back next year.

So those things are all great - what's my problem? There are just a few things that I long for at Taboo. First, I really wish that the Taboo shows were getting bigger rather than smaller. Every year, a number of my friends come up to me and say 'Is it just me, or is it smaller this year?' And the answer is yes - it's smaller this year - every year. When the event becomes so small that it barely fills one hall, it feels like there's just not much to do there and people get bored.

I do have a problem with the heteronormative standpoint of a lot of the advertising, entertainment, and vendors. Many people tell me that they don't see a reflection of themselves and their interests there and that makes them somewhat uncomfortable. To our credit though, Edmontonians are awesomely comfortable with themselves and I see so many people there just letting their freak flag fly - whatever color that flag might be. However, a little more gayness, a little more queerness to the event would go such a long way.

I would love to see much bigger name entertainment. I would like to see Dita Von Teese or Pamela Anderson, Tristan Taormino or Jenna Jameson, Evan Stone or James Deen. A big big name would bring a lot of people out. These are all people who perform and speak all over North America. They would be great entertainment and a great draw.

I would also love to see the return of the beautiful decorations. Once upon a time, about 8 years ago, you would walk into Taboo through a narrow doorway through curtains. There was a sense of mystery as to what was on the other side. Once you entered, you would see red and black balloons everywhere, plush curtains, and big beautiful banners from sponsors. It wasn't all that much, it just made the big warehouse space feel cozier and more romantic. You felt like you were at an event. Now that is all gone. I'm told it's because sponsorship is down and sponsors brought in those things. They really need to bring that back. I loved feeling like I was in a special place where very cool things were likely to happen. It just doesn't feel like that anymore.

But, even with its drawbacks, Taboo still provides a lot of opportunities that we as retailers and people as attendees and customers would not get anywhere else. It's still worth checking out.