Oregon's sex business

Oregon's sex business

Article Index

0913 TheSexBusiness 05
Like restaurants and bars, strip clubs and sex shops now attract detailed online reviews and an avid social media following.
// Photo by Joseph Eastburn

A University of Pittsburgh-led study recently found Good Clean Love among a small handful of “safest” lubricants. But while this recognition of her work to make lubricants greener and safer to use is gratifying, Strgar isn’t quite satisfied with how the sex industry is developing. Her concerns spotlight another stage in the evolution of Oregon, and the nation’s, pleasure sector. We are inundated with products, Strgar says, many of which are mainstream enough to be sold at Fred Meyer or Walmart. However, much of the imagery used to sell the products is without context, or with a “sex anytime with anyone” ideal that she doesn’t think necessarily leads to healthy relationships.

That is the conundrum with the culture of sex in the U.S. and, by extension, the sex industry: We seem to ping-pong between an idealized “sex should equal love” philosophy on the one hand, and what Oregon author Sallie Tisdale would call catering to “cultural adolescents” on the other. Tisdale, who delved into our sexual appetites back in 1994 with her book Talk Dirty to Me, will soon issue a 20th-anniversary issue.

“When I say Americans are cultural adolescents in terms of sex, I mean we hold the dissonance of desire and shame at the same time,” Tisdale says. “Presenting images without context is one way to avoid that dissonance, but it also fuels it.”

While it may fall short, Club Sesso in downtown Portland is a uniquely Oregon-inspired attempt to have both a healthy business and a new model for sexual exchange and connection. Entrepreneur Paul Smith opened Sesso in 2009 in the midst of the economic recession, yet he says the club has always been profitable because he’s taken an old concept, sexual “swinging,” and updated it for a new audience.

Sesso’s business model is completely different than that of a strip club, where half of revenues come from the selling of dances, onstage or in a patron’s lap. At Sesso, it is membership fees, entrance fees and drink sales supporting the business. Everything else that happens, whether on the club’s dance floor, in its “couple’s room” or in its warren of glass-doored or glass-windowed bedrooms, happens between consenting adults.

Kim L., a recent transplant to Portland from a large Midwestern city, had her first visit to Sesso in the last six months. “It was similar to my first Grateful Dead concert,” she says. “It’s both glorious and a little grotesque. I think it’s a great thing that it exists, a semipublic space where I felt safe enough to have a [first bondage] experience.” Kim says in her exploration of her own boundaries, Sesso feels both welcoming and even homey.

Smith says from Sesso’s start he was determined to chase a younger demographic. Sesso patrons have a median age of 33, he says. Single females pay the lowest entrance fees to Sesso events, single males the highest and couples somewhere in between. There are parties and specialty events for bisexual and bondage-interested Sesso members, and it is one haven for Portland’s “sex-positive” community, which combines an open policy to different types of sexuality with consent and safety as high ideals.



Comments   

 
Guest
-5 #1 General Political ActivistGuest 2013-08-19 22:52:31
We know that there are both advantages, and disadvantages, towards unionization of strip club employees, and that contemporary forms of legitimate pornography, must ensure that women are not simply degraded subjects, or objectified in violent 'rape fantasy' scenarios that is still far too common. In addition, those venues (adult bookstores, sex toy shops, strip clubs, adult based theaters, and other sex-related businesses) that cater towards the industry, must take into account the fact, that it is still a growing market for women, persons of color, older people, and most especially for disabled communities (most brick-and-morta r establishments, still need to do a better job at legal compliance with ADA - Americans with Disabilities federal protections).
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Guest
+4 #2 Lee FosterGuest 2013-08-20 18:51:57
Quote:
"women are an untapped resource"
I just threw up in my mouth a little. No wonder I see very young girls getting pimped along 82nd Avenue where these rape rooms, er, businesses are located, because Portland pimps have been "tapping" that resource for years.
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Guest
+1 #3 RE: Oregon's sex businessGuest 2013-08-20 19:01:25
Also, just because the writer (a woman, always with these pieces, you've been used April) chose to ignore the Portland strip club called "PITIFUL PRINCESSES" in favor of draping the rosiest glasses possible over Portland prostitution industry doesn't mean PITIFUL PRINCESSES isn't exactly where the future of strip clubs is headed.

Like how porn went from mildly interesting in the 70s to "OMG make it stop and call the cops" in 2013, when the sexiness of paid-for sexual intimacy wears off men fall back on the reliable blood rush of misogyny.
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Guest
+1 #4 "sustainably minded"???Guest 2013-08-20 20:35:31
Did the author really mean to write this? Or did h/she mean "suitably-minde d"?
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Guest
+1 #5 noGuest 2013-08-21 18:41:50
women's bodies are not a "resource" to be exploited for men's temporary pleasure.
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Guest
-1 #6 ughGuest 2013-08-22 17:10:54
Women are people, not products. Objectification has become so commonplace it is invisible. Or simply accepted as ok. In reality, it is the reason why there is a pandemic of violence (and sexual violence) against women. This is very sad to see. We need more radical feminists. This liberal version of feminism is making any progress on these issues impossible. And since they have big business on their side, they get the largest platform and the loudest microphone.
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Guest
-1 #7 Really?????!!!Guest 2013-08-23 01:45:10
Are you kidding me?? This is the most disturbing article I have seen in eons - is this really a business magazine - what a joke. I am sorry, exploiting women is not ok. This "industry" does not need your free marketing and advertising support. Do you also enjoy and find the sex trafficking "industry" a business sector worthy of your positive coverage? I will never read your magazine again. I have already requested being taken off your mailing list.
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Guest
+5 #8 EditorGuest 2013-08-23 17:26:27
Commenters #2 and #5 take the “untapped resource” quote out of context. Professor Wosick is saying women are an untapped resource as CONSUMERS of sex products. Indeed, the entire article is about industry trends that move away from the exploitation of women toward female control of sex products and services. In this new landscape, women are hardly passive objects of exploitation. On the contrary, female entrepreneurs (such as She Bop co-owner Evy Cowan) and female consumers (such as the growing number of women who frequent strip clubs) are actively reshaping the direction of an industry that has historically catered to men.

Is the traditional (legal) sex business rife with misogyny and other gender problems? Sure, and the article acknowledges those problems. But that’s not the thrust of our story. Instead, we provide an in-depth look at how legal sex businesses are diversifying to accommodate growing demand from female consumers, along with eco-minded consumers and other alternative market segments.
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Guest
-3 #9 RE: Oregon's sex businessGuest 2013-08-23 18:26:32
The cover of this month’s magazine is shocking and the article is totally inappropriate in a business magazine, given that companies is always being sued for sexual harassment, give me a break! Do you realize how much money and time is spent with diversity/sensi tivity training in the business community? Are you so desperate for readers, that you’re using … "sex sells" and have stooped to this new low? I'm completely disgusted and furthermore, it cheapens our communities.
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Guest
-2 #10 UnacceptableGuest 2013-08-23 23:50:30
I'm embarrassed to put the September 2013 issue of this magazine on display in our lobby. Colorful condoms on the cover and an article that glamorizes an industry that is so controversial are not what I want to read nor share with others. Whoever found this newsworthy does not have their finger on the pulse of today's mainstream business population. Sex might sell but it also brings down property values and exploits women.
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Guest
+2 #11 CommentsGuest 2013-08-23 23:59:37
These comments are absurd. Glad you all found something to get on your high horse about today. I liked the article. I agree.. and have always thought products/porn should be more targeted to a female audience. We like that stuff too. And it has been changing recently, better products, more intimate porn. Thanks for listening and catering to females sex industry.. I for one, appreciate it. I also appreciate all the amazing ladies that work at Devils Point. Stripperoake is amazing!!!
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Guest
-1 #12 Relationships - not sexGuest 2013-08-30 19:27:47
This article has a weird mix of ideas. For one thing, Good Clean Love is not a "sex "business. They are more like a personal care company and their messaging is all about relationships and healthy ingredients.
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Guest
+3 #13 DWalesGuest 2013-09-03 05:10:46
These women choose to use there bodies to make a life for themselves not ALL of them are being exploted for a fantasy at all. And by the way when I a FEMALE goes to see Brodie one of my favorite entertainers I may have a fantasy about her but it is only in my head and I am pretty darn sure that everyone acting higher and mightier than these legal business owners has had a fantasy about someone else but that doesn't mean they are being used or exploited. For all you know the person sitting next to you at work,or maybe even your nurse at the Drs. office, or maybe that really nice looking guy or gal at your church may actually enjoy entertaining MEN AND WOMEN by taking their clothes off or filming a movie or maybe inviting a friend to join them and their partner tonight. It is not always bad to explore or enjoy sex. Think of strippers as actually exploiting the cutomers! They may be naked but they they are the ones walking home with the cash, and not leaving with an empty pocket and a very nice fantasy like their customers do! Quoting Guest:
women's bodies are not a "resource" to be exploited for men's temporary pleasure.
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Guest
+2 #14 Ignoring It Does Not Make It Go AwayGuest 2013-09-03 22:28:15
You don't have to agree with any of this, but assuming that women are being exploited against their will is crazy talk. If you people that are so "offended" and really wanted to be mad at an issue, you would be mad at the fact that maybe there are not that many jobs that pay as well taking their clothes off. Supply and demand. It is simple economics.
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Guest
0 #15 OMG the sky is fallingGuest 2013-09-29 02:04:47
First, objectification is rife across advertising and marketing of many products and services - including of MEN. If this were the moral issue at hand there's a ton more examples of men being abused this way. Where's the moralistic complaining about objectification of men from the anti sex business lobby?!
Second, stereotyping of people is all around us. Artificial images abound, we are bombarded daily with them in the process of selling us fantasies associated with buying myriad products and services. Are we so prurient that we cannot stand images which relate to basic human drives and functions??? And for those of you who are, what gives you the right to impose that on others???
Third, I agree with the comment about the men going to strip clubs as being the exploited ones. The women working there are experts at extracting as much cash for as little time, work and effort, perhaps more than anyone in any field anywhere. The men who generously shell out the most are the most exploited.
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